by David Talbot
“To bring all these decisions for many benefits over many years together,” Osborne told the House of Commons last Wednesday, “we will introduce into parliament primary legislation – the welfare uprating bill. I hope it commands support from both sides of the House of Commons”.
At that moment a thin smile seemed to escape the chancellor’s lips. Or if it didn’t, it should have done. For it represented the Damascene conversion of George Osborne to the scriptures of a once imperious Gordon Brown. And it was a moment of horribly low cunning that was eerily familiar for the Labour benches.
The announcement managed the near politically impossible. It will raise money, it will be popular and it will trap the opposition. It is vintage Gordon Brown, from the days when he was still known as the iron chancellor rather than the flailing prime minister of more recent memory. Yes, it’s easy to forget, but at one time, Brown was the political master of all he surveyed.
The guttural roar that greeted Osborne’s announcement from the Tory backbenches signified wholehearted approval of their chancellor’s ruse. Budgets are meant to be about economics. But for the two most political chancellors of the modern era, everything is politics. The statistics, forecasts, tax and public spending changes are immaterial for the political battleground with their hated opposition.