FT: Tories to ditch Osborne in favour of Hague?

by Stephen Tall on November 12, 2008

A month ago Lib Dem Voice’s Alix Mortimer suggested it was high-time the Tories considered ditching their under-whelming shadow chancellor, George Osborne:

My guess is that Cameron is wincing his way through the current crisis, burying his head in a cushion every time George goes on TV, and he’s planning the reshuffle. He hasn’t spent all this time and effort decontaminating the Tory brand to have his plans trashed by some oily twerp who hides his weekly treasury briefings down the back of the sofa, old mate or not. He can’t afford to go into a General Election side-by-side with a man whose claim to competence is that he “talks to people about the economy a lot”. George Osborne, you are the weakest link. And you read it here first. Goodbye.

A week ago LDV’s Mark Pack noted Mr Osborne’s plunging popularity among the public and Tory grassroots.

Now the Financial Times is joining the refrain:

The scale and substance of the criticisms has reached a point where MPs are openly discussing possible replacements for one of David Cameron’s closest allies. One reshuffle scenario doing the rounds would put William Hague, the former leader, in the Treasury job, with Mr Osborne moved to an enhanced party chairman role that would wrap in his other roles as election co-ordinator and strategist.

… the perception [is] that Mr Osborne, and by extension the Conservative party, has suffered a bad run-up to the recession. His decision to outflank Labour by matching the government’s spending plans and refusing to pledge unfunded tax cuts worked when the economy was in good shape. But the Tories now find themselves in the exposed position of advocating less radical action on tax and spending than their political rivals.

“George was a good chancellor for the good times – now he’s lost credibility,” said one MP.

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The Tories must be thoroughly fed up with the excellent Vince Cable being the only serious harpoon in town when it comes to hitting Labour’s economic policy. Hague would clearly have been a much better bet than the boy Osbourne.

However, what needs to be remembered is that even if Hague had been in the post, the Tories would still have called all the main decisions of the last year wrong! Northern Rock, cutting taxes for the poor not the rich, etc, these would all have been the same under Hague.

by Mark Wright on November 12, 2008 at 12:47 pm. Reply #

I think there are sections of the Tory Party that definatly want Osborne removed but will Cameron actually bite the bullet and do it?? Only time will tell…

by Darrell on November 12, 2008 at 1:07 pm. Reply #

Oh yes, David, please, please, please put the egregious Osbourne in total charge of your election strategy…

by Martin Land on November 12, 2008 at 1:13 pm. Reply #

I’ve always thought that David Cameron must have secretly resented Michael Howard’s decision to put Osborne in as Shadow Chancellor after the 2005 general election but before Cameron’s own election as party leader, effectively taking the decision out of his hands. Having assumed the Tory leadership, he couldn’t very well sack his own closest political ally from such a senior position, but I very much doubt that he would have made the decision to promote him to that role in the first place, had he been given the choice.

To do it now might be seen as weakness, but it would make a fair bit of political sense for the Tories. Osborne isn’t suited to his present role and would probably be more useful in a role of, say, party chairman, where Caroline Spelman has been doing rather poorly. The bigger problem is the lack of a credible replacement for Osborne; Hague is a throwback and his only relevant experience comes from having been a member of John Major’s Cabinet pre-1997 – hardly something to shout about!

For sheer comedy value all round, I have to hope that John Redwood gets the job! 🙂

by Rob Knight on November 12, 2008 at 1:30 pm. Reply #

“The bigger problem is the lack of a credible replacement for Osborne”

Why not Kenneth Clarke?

by Clegg's Candid Friend on November 12, 2008 at 1:32 pm. Reply #

Good point. Turning the clock back 15 years might be the best option that the Tories have!

by Rob Knight on November 12, 2008 at 1:37 pm. Reply #

Clarke would be an excellent choice, very popular in the country, but the Tory grassroots would never accept it.

by Mark Wright on November 12, 2008 at 1:40 pm. Reply #

A ConHome survey a while back had a plurality in favour of Ken Clarke returning to the front bench.

by Pat on November 12, 2008 at 2:05 pm. Reply #

This once again throws up the delicious fact that the Tories are amazingly light on talent. If Labour climbs back to an opinion poll lead, where do the Blues go then?

Jon Culshaw must have everything crossed that Little Billy Hague is given the job.

by wit and wisdom on November 12, 2008 at 2:28 pm. Reply #

Ah ha and who was the first to suggest Hague as his likely replacement in the comments to Alix’s blog???

The Tories have a BIG problem. Cameron is desperate to erase any association with the Tory Party of the Thatcher era and going back to the old guard would invite derision. Yet former ministers are his only source of credible spokespeople.

The current bunch of spotty ex-public school boys just do not look like they would be able to deal with the collapse of global capitalism in any way other than quaffing another glass of port while the ship sinks…

The alternative is to sack chinless non-entities like Grayling and Grieve and the Uber-meister of dullness, Andrew Lansley, and promote a whole new bunch who are hungrier and more media savvy (Justine Greening and Mark Harper for example). But that is probably too big a risk to take.

by Ed on November 12, 2008 at 5:15 pm. Reply #

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