September 10, 2010


The secret of Osborne’s popularity (Samuel Brittan, September 9 2010, Financial Times)

According to the pollsters Ipsos Mori, George Osborne is the most popular Conservative chancellor since its records began in 1976. The knee-jerk media reaction is to say: “You wait until the public spending cuts bite.” But I want to dig a little deeper.

The obvious reason is that the Con-Lib coalition is still popular and some of this popularity rubs off on Mr Osborne. The British public has long had the sentimental desire to see politicians forget their petty squabbles and get together for the good of the country. I would guess that a grand coalition involving Labour too would be even more popular. Unfortunately, the public fails to see the analogy between political and commercial competition, and why the former can make for good government even if the parties are not always miles apart.

But I would suggest that there is something more specific to the chancellor’s popularity. Many people have got it into their heads that the government is spending £4 for every £3 it is receiving in revenue – or some such ratio. They think that if they were in such a situation they would be heading straight for bankruptcy. Such simple arguments strike a chord in the way that earlier Budget presentations in terms of inflationary or deflationary pressure, or even the balance of payments, never did.

Mitch Daniels ought to actually wear a green eyeshade to the debates.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at September 10, 2010 6:26 AM
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