Wednesday, 13 September 2017

George Osborne's Feeble Revenge




















Hell hath no fury for a Tory scorned. At least George Osborne is acting as if that is the case, given his reported remarks. Yes, saying you won't rest until bits of Theresa May are quivering in multiple bags shut away in the freezer is such a hoot that my sides have hardly stopped aching since lunch time. As chancellor Osborne would have been all over them had something similarly crass been uttered by a leading Labour politician. Still, the only consistency the right has is the pursuit of power and the protection of privilege. Principles are momentary conveniences for momentary circumstances, nothing more.

What then is Osborne playing at? In the TL;DR pen portrait in Esquire, it observes how the passage for an Osborne comeback appears closed. With but a gaggle of Cameroons to rely on, his support base is, ooooh, approximately the same size as May's band of true believers. There's also the small matter of him being widely despised in the parliamentary party, as well as the yellowing (greying?) grassroots. Like Dave he was tolerated for as long as they comprised a winning team. Their Notting Hill liberalism rankled, and their half-arsed approach to winging everything - the Scottish referendum, gambling Britain's EU membership (and losing) - annoyed and antagonised plenty of old school Tories. History will record the removal of Osborne from Number 11 and dumping him on the backbenches as among the meagre few actions of May's premiership to merit universal approval.

Osborne's not coming back, at least via the Tory party. He was supposedly interested in the centre party wheeze, but as Sam Coates notes for Esquire "George Osborne likes power. And power is executed in a number of forms." His editorship of the Evening Standard is right up his street: a circulation of a million copies in the seat of government and a boss who's a billionaire mate, he's happy. At the Standard's helm Osborne can imagine himself as a real power in the land. As editorial after editorial marks his position against Corbynism (obvs) and unreconstructed rightwingery, the opportunity to define centre politics anew as, well, the politics of George Osborne is there for the taking. This is the centre not as a reheated third way, but warmed over class war Toryism plus EU membership. Inspiring stuff.

As the most petty-minded of Tories to have held high office for some years, Osborne obviously enjoys needling the hapless May. But what must annoy is despite her staggering from disaster to disaster, pausing to take in a few crises along the way, is how she ignores him. Following Tory leaders past, the only papers that matter are the Murdoch titles, The Telegraphy and the Daily Mail. They are taken to express the authentic voice of Tory Britain, and so must be pandered to, fed exclusives and receive carefully calibrated leaks. The Standard however is amorphous. As a free sheet it enjoys a huge circulation, but to determine its influence is another matter. Yes, it is a more interesting paper thanks to Osborne's vendetta - at least for sad political people who follow such things - but its celebrity pages have more of a sway over its readers than the cranky, obsessed editorials. To get noticed and to force his antagonist to respond, Osborne has no recourse other than to play with the misogynistic imagery of serial murderers. For as long as May stays in Number 10 and pays Osborne no mind, the more outrageous and unhinged his behaviour as a "journalist" is set to become. Embarrassing for the Tories, ultimately ruinous for Osborne, it's pop corn fodder for the rest of us.

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