11.15am update: The Evening Standard is reporting that George Osborne is to cut back his workload on strategy and election co-ordination to concentrate his efforts on being shadow chancellor.
There’s a lot of speculation about George Osborne at the moment. Some of it ill-founded. The London Evening Standard reported yesterday that the backbench 1922 Committee was unhappy with the Shadow Chancellor. I understand that that is simply untrue.
But it would be wrong to say there aren’t many MPs who share the anxieties of the grassroots. At Lord Ashcroft’s book launch party on Tuesday evening – in the space of just thirty minutes – I spoke to four MPs who were all wanting a more robust economic policy from the frontbench.
Iain Martin, Comment Editor of The Telegraph, has broken cover this morning and called for George Osborne to be moved:
"With the economy entering a deep recession, GDP expected to shrink by 2 per cent next year according to the Bank of England and unemployment heading beyond 2 million, the response of the Tories is inadequate. Proposals to reduce the tax burden on employers were heavily trailed this week and after all the roaring the Tory leadership produced not a lion, but a mouse… Osborne should be moved, by early next year, to a prominent position that suits his talents. He is tactically astute, with a first-rate organisational brain, is a good analyst of politics and on his day can be an impressive media performer. In the post of party chairman and election campaign supremo, he would be perfectly placed to be the focal point of a currently confused CCHQ operation and even take on and beat his enemy, the Dark Lord, Baron Mandelson of Foy, in the biggest arena of all: a general election."
In substance Iain Martin is right. George Osborne would be better at CCHQ and ConHome recommended just such a move over a year ago. I worried about the lack of clear structure at CCHQ and thought a more experienced figure should be Shadow Chancellor. Unfortunately that advice was rejected. Last Christmas David Cameron said that George Osborne would be his Chancellor and we gave up our campaign.
Last year was the right time to move George Osborne. Now it’s much, much trickier. As Ben Brogan blogged yesterday, any move now would be a big scalp for Labour. That’s just one reason why Cameron won’t make the change although Paul Waugh responds that Labour’s ideal scenario is actually for Osborne to continue; "wounded" and "limping". Labour would fear Hague or particularly Ken Clarke as replacement. But as Iain Dale said yesterday: "It. Ain’t. Gonna. Happen."