George Osborne, Conservative Shadow Chancellor, has popped his head above the parapet again today and, well, it wasn’t great. Ok, so it’s February 2nd and we all know that means it’s Groundhog Day in North America. But that’s a pretty poor reason for the Boy George to keep on repeating the same mistakes over again. Today, it was all about a big set-piece speech in which Osborne planned to launch a “New Economic Model”. Great stuff, eh? Relaunch and clarify the Tory economic policies after a frankly disastrous weekend of U-turns, get a boost in public approval to lift those flagging polls, and hopefully take control of the news cycle for a while. So he tells the waiting media, rabid for a good story,that he wants to talk about the future while standing in the British Museum in front of a smattering of fogeyish fellow MPs, which doesn’t really do him any visual favours.
Never mind, presentation isn’t everyone’s strong point. The content should be fascinating. A New Economic Model, with capital letters you can hear. This is going to be in-depth economic theory with specific financial figures, you might think. Fresh ideas and a new direction, you might think. Information that deserves Capital Letters, you might think. You’d be sadly mistaken if that really is what you thought. What Osborne offered were eight “benchmarks” for Britain. Vague statements with no metrics or firm numbers. Nice sentiments and soundbites, but no meat on the bones. Just a request that we measure his performance against these “benchmarks”. No groundbreaking policy to trumpet, no clarification on previous policy. So, this speech is a bit thin on content too as it turns out.
Still, it could all be saved with some heavyweight support. And George pulls support out of the bag. Oh yes indeed! First, he refers to Lord Stern, economics professor and World Bank veteran. Then he introduces 7 chief executives of FTSE-100 companies, no less. Including, by the way, easyjet supremo Stelios Haji-Ioannou. I can hear the sigh of relief from here as Osborne pulls this one back from the brink of failure. Except…. Lord Stern confirms that as well as advising the Tories, he also talks to the Labour party. No Conservative coup there. As for the magnificent seven, well, the FTSE-100 is an index of the 100 most capitalised companies in the UK. So the chief executives are pretty big cheeses. Good stuff to have them supporting your economic policy. Trouble is, there’s 100 of them. And George has 7 of them giving support. That’s 7% of FTSE chief executives supporting the policy. I don’t know about you, but from that I assume that 93% of FTSE chief executives don’t support the policy. And I’m pretty sure a lot of other people will infer that too, consciously or subconsciously.
In this anti-barnstormer of a speech, George Osborne asked us to hold him to account. I think the recent polls show we already are.