Monday, September 29, 2008

George Osborne: Then and Now

For those who seek to compare two conference performances by the Shadow Chancellor, it will be a very difficult job. The task for George Osborne in 07 and 08 are very, very different and those who say his more recent effort didn't match up to the previous one are missing a key point.

In 2007 Osborne and Cameron were desperate to avoid an election which, subsequently, even Cameron admits the Tories may well have lost. He needed to be bold, eye catching and - above all - economically innovative. The inheritance tax did it for Osborne and made his reputation both within the party and amongst the public.

This year is different; the economic situation has changed. This year I feel he was measured and mature in his speech. He spoke extremely well and managed to clearly set out the national Tory view on the current situation (because, believe me, that needed doing). His stark message to bankers and his fierce attacks on Brown showed that the Tories can have a coherent line on this and he will have broken the Labour lie about the laissez-faire attitude of the opposition.

And for the bold there was the council tax announcement. It will chime with all voters and most people now strongly believe tax freezes can be achieved through cuts in government waste. The Osborne plan rewards councils who are willing to cut their own cloth and councils who fail to achieve this will be punished at the ballot box. Although the delivery wasn't as knock-about as last year, I believe when the dust settles the new Tory focus on waste will be as effective as that on inheritance tax.

So, two years and two very different jobs. Both of which Osborne has nailed. Cameron also faces a different task this year - rather than his passionate walk-a-bout speech I am expecting something more focused, sober and premier-in-waiting from him.

Osborne did it, now the party awaits Cameron.

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