By Tim Montgomerie
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There's been a lot of speculation that David Cameron might move George Osborne in the September reshuffle. In an unusual move Cameron has acted to kill that speculation today. Talking to Sky News the Prime Minister said that "George Osborne is doing an excellent job in very difficult circumstances and he has my full support in going on doing that job."
Cameron then went further. Asked if Mr Osborne would still be in place in 2015, the scheduled time of the next General Election, Mr Cameron replied "He's not going anywhere… yes."
Sensing an opportunity Sky's Kay Burley then asked whether Jeremy Hunt was also safe in his job. Cameron made it clear that he wasn't, in his words, going to play "reshuffle bingo". Hunt had "self-evidently done a very good job" but got no Osborne-style job guarantee.
It's unusual for a Prime Minister to limit appointment options but this move is thoroughly unsurprising. Osborne's economic strategy is Cameron's. Cameron without Osborne at his side would almost be unthinkable – such is the First Lord of the Treasury's reliance on his Chancellor and chief political brain.
I've argued that moving Osborne would (a) send wrong signals to intl markets about deficit credibility; (b) not remove the real Coalition-related roadblocks to a more ambitious growth policy; (c) neutralise an ally of key conservative causes; and (d) introduce uncertainty to No10/11 relations where currently there is only stability and trust.
I am very slightly surprised, however, at Cameron's willingness to commit to keeping his Chancellor until 2015. The PM can always change his mind, of course, but there was wisdom in this report from Iain Martin, last Sunday:
"“Cameron firing Osborne now is for the birds,” said a Tory backbencher. “But it becomes perfectly possible if there is a major economic disaster, such as if Britain loses its AAA credit rating or the euro comes apart and we don’t react well.”"