by Kevin Meagher
He would bristle at the comparison, but George Osborne’s raid on Labour’s turf – promising to support an above inflation rise in the minimum wage – is straight out of the Gordon Brown book of political tradecraft.
The two most political bean-counters British politics has ever produced are both fans of ‘weaponising’ policy to suit their ends; laying clever traps for their enemies to fall into and using the Treasury’s tanks to churn up the opposition’s lawn.
“I want to make sure we are all in it together” said Osborne yesterday, to a chorus of generally disbelieving gasps. The minimum wage should increase “because the British economy can now afford that.”
The Tories used to be “on the wrong side of the argument” about the merits of the minimum wage, but that was all a misunderstanding. Now it’s a shiny, happy, modern party “in touch with the country,” he added.
ITV’s Chris Ship said the Lib Dems were “spitting tacks” as Osborne had veered over the coalition’s central reservation, cutting them out of the equation on a major good news story.
“He’s effectively endorsing the advice I gave to the Low Pay Commission” said Vince Cable on Newsnight last night, trying to sound nonchalant at the very effrontery of it all. Labour people too were miffed at Osborne’s naked opportunism. How dare a Tory Chancellor say anything positive about the minimum wage!
In a funny sort of way, Ed Miliband should take all this as a compliment. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. That Osborne felt compelled to try and spike today’s big speech on the economy and banking reform shows the Tories are irked about headlines proclaiming “I can save the middle class”.
So in the best traditions of “you send one of my guys to the hospital, I’ll send one of yours to the morgue” Osborne’s instinct is to wield his home-made shiv. It’s not pretty, but it is effective.
Gordon would approve.
Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut