by Jonathan Todd
Chairman Mao lives in 48 PLP members, including 19 elected under Ed Miliband: “We should support whatever the enemy oppose and oppose whatever the enemy supports”.
When the Conservatives cut tax credits in a way that is unnecessary, will increase poverty and reduce work incentives, it is sorely tempting to oppose them.
But George Osborne prefers Sun Tzu to Mao. The Art of War stresses the importance of positioning in military strategy. By delivering his summer budget, setting a trap for Labour and watching much of the opposition walk into it, Osborne will feel that he has secured his desired positioning.
There is a third way. Between Chairman Mao and Sun Tzu. Labour should seek whatever positioning does most harm to the Conservatives and vacate whatever positioning does most harm to ourselves.
Osborne follows the inverse path. He seeks whatever positioning does most harm to Labour and vacates whatever positioning does most harm to the Conservatives – or, at least, him and his prime ministerial ambitions, which become ever more naked.
Janan Ganesh, Osborne’s biographer, recently summarised the core ideas behind the chancellor’s politics in the Financial Times. Ganesh then conceded to John Rentoul, biographer of Tony Blair, that the “Tao of George is also the Tao of Tony”.
In the decade since the last of his three general election victories, Blair has become ever more toxic within Labour, while Osborne has prospered by applying the tenants that Labour discarded in our abandonment of all things Tony. This doesn’t make Osborne a Blairite. The core precepts that they both follow are neither Blairite nor Osbornomics, not left or right. They are more essential than that. Whether we lean left or right, the political world is flat.