Malcolm has been a fan of Paul Waugh since he restored credible objectivity to the Evening Standard‘s political commentary. No, that’s not Waugh (as right) — we’ll come to that one later. For the moment, let it be wished that Paul Waugh is receiving ample earthly reward for his day-job as PoliticsHome editor, that outhouse of “Lord” Ashcroft of Bel-Sleaze.
Today Waugh has a typical piece which picks at the current cock-up, brought to us (and, more painfully in the short term, to the Tory Whips) courtesy of Gids Osborne.
The putative 18th baronet Osborne of Ballintaylor and Ballylemon had a cunning plan: he convinced his backbenchers that Britain would not, repeat not be joining the Greek bail-out. One up to Gids. However, behind the scenes it was intended that Britain would subscribe heavily to the IMF, and IMF money would be drip-fed to Greece.
Warren Street, Northern Line (a Malcolmian aside)
Yesterday Malcolm had arranged to meet the Lady in his Life at a West End pub. It wasn’t a particularly delightful pub, so it’ll remain unnamed and unacknowledged in this pub-friendly blog.
Running a bit late, around 12.30 pm Malcolm was strap-hanging down to Goodge Street, when — lo-and-behold — he found himself in close proximity to another Norfolk boy, now the Morley (and Outwood) Mauler.
A passing congratulation and incoherent greeting were passed. Malcolm passes a regrettable remark: “Don’t let the bastards get too modest “, which went understandably uninterpreted — Malcolm has this belief that the public school mentality (as evidenced in our Beloved Leaders) becomes more o’erweening and boastful the more it is pushed. Hence Cameron’s claim to be capable of conquering unemployment year-on-year. Aw, shucks!
Malcolm has always enjoyed his politics as a blood sport: that remark that he was the “Vinnie Jones of our Borough’s politics” he took as his greatest compliment. And Ed Balls is a street-fighter of the first rank. The Lady in Balls’s Life, Yvette Cooper, is no minor practitioner of the art herself.
As this parliament progresses, these two will be making increasing and deeper depredations into ConDem morale. Heh, heh!
Back to the Oborne IMF “fix”
“Basher” Balls had that one aright, and did the almost-unthinkable — he had Labour vote against a Statutory Instrument (SIs are like written answers to parliamentary questions — they tend to slide under the radar quite neatly). Only by a nasty bit of timetabling did the government managers see off a defeat — even so, the SI staggered through with the government majority halved.
That left a fair bit of bad feeling, most of it among the Tory Right.
So, Balls keeps the thermostat high. In practice he is challenging the 81 Tory rebels on the Euro-referendum vote to put up or shut up.
Read Waugh for the references.
In the course of his piece, Waugh has a neat phrase: a rare alliance between Tory Eurosceptics and Balls’ Eurorealists.
Eurorealist: Malcolm likes the term; and happily applies it to his own views.
Enter Hipponensis, stage right
Waugh also cites an anecdote, recycled from Fraser Nelson. Here is the original from today’s Telegraph, in an extraordinarily cogent and well-written column:
I’m told that the Chancellor has been feeling glum recently, and has started to talk about the future with the proviso “if I am still here next year”. For all his superficial confidence, which his critics portray as arrogance, he is all too mindful of his vulnerability. A chancellor who is seen to have failed cannot stay, no matter how strong his friendship with the prime minister.
There are a whole sequence of bon mots in Nelson’s J’Accuse. It is well worth the trip, as they say in the Michelin Guides. The true venom, since Nelson is coming from the Right, is in the series of comparisons with the out-going Labour administration, as in:
The good news for Osborne is that Conservative remedies for the economy can hardly be said to have failed, given that they have scarcely been applied. He has adopted Conservative language, talking about the dangers of deficits; Mr Cameron rightly said during Prime Minister’s Questions this week that a country cannot borrow its way out of a debt crisis. This is, however, precisely what the Government is trying to do. The national debt is due to rise by 51 per cent over this parliament – not as bad as the 60 per cent in Labour’s published pre-election plans, but not a whole lot better.
What Nelson would want for the UK economy — the hairiest of hair-shirts — is unthinkable misery for most. Were it to come about, St Paul’s would be invested by an army of thousands, not the few hundred. Still, there is more than a morsel of truth in Nelson’s neat comment:
Britain has tried a St Augustine approach to deficit reduction: give me austerity, oh Lord, but not yet.
That goes on:
Every month, the Coalition sets new records for state spending. Unemployment has resumed a menacing rise, and may hit three million next year. The idea that slow-mo cuts would help is proving incorrect.
In those three terse sentences, Nelson has nailed all that is wrong with the Cameron-Osborne approach. It amounts to
Half-a-loaf, half-a-loaf, half a loaf downward,
Into the hungry Thirties dives the economy, well-stall’d.
Nelson’s is a realist’s approach, €-ish or not.