Spot The Bad Guy – Treasury Edition

There was a sense among Labour supporters, in the immediate aftermath of the change of Government, that all hell was going to break loose. The Tories would set about destroying our country. They would undo all the good work of Labour in their first few hours. Well, they’ve had more than a few hours now and don’t seem to have done a lot of anything.

Of course, that’s because once they got to their new departments, the brand new Secretaries-of-State had to unglue their desk drawers, remove drawing pins from their seats, hunt out the prawns stitched into the curtain hems, order stationary, get new business cards printed, rearrange the furniture, learn the way to the toilets and canteen. All the usual really. Inevitably they’ve not done a lot of  country-running.

Gideon George Osborne at the Bullingdon Club

So people haven’t been taking a lot of notice of them. Labour and the media have watched the Brothers Miliband kick off the race to be the next Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Other people have taken a closer look at the House of Lords where there’s a plan to pack it with new Peers. Both interesting in themselves. I’ll be writing more about the Labour leadership soon. However, they’re mere distractions from the real politicking in Westminster over the last week or so.

While other departments have been relatively silent, David Cameron et al have done some fairly impressive political manoeuvring over the Treasury. Firstly,  they had Chancellor Osborne announce an “emergency” budget. There’s no emergency, but that’s what Osborne called it. Creating an image of crisis, when in fact there isn’t one. A budget outside of the normal timescale should be called an extraordinary budget. I know it’s only semantics. But the picture created in peoples’ minds is very different and crisis is the order of the day. Osborne followed this up in an interview with the Financial Times by saying

We are finding all sorts of skeletons in various cupboards and all sorts of decisions taken at the last minute. By the end the previous government was totally irresponsible…

Once again going out of his way to make sure the public ‘understands’ how

David Laws, Chief Bad Guy to the Treasury

bad things are. All of this of course paves the way for cuts which Osborne can blame on the previous Government. That’s not too bad for beginners, but the impressive bit isn’t that. The impressive bit is that the Tory George Osborne isn’t the one who’s going to be seen wielding the axe. That task has been delegated to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury. That means that it’s the Lib Dems who get painted as the bad guys here. It’s something I suspect we will see more of in coming months. David Laws has already been sent out to tour the media studios to argue why he can make cuts despite arguing against them during the election campaign. David Laws is everywhere. George Osborne is invisible. The Tories get very little negative coverage. The Liberal Democrats get shafted.


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