George Osborne: Man of the People


Who’d have thought it? Rather than imposing draconian austerity on a scale we could only dare imagine, Mr Osborne’s first ever Conservative majority Budget delivered massive economic and social boosts to people of all walks of life, in a package of measures which must surely make up the most progressive Red Box of his chancellorship.

While it did include some traditionally Tory policies designed to appease the right of his party – such as cuts to inheritance tax and a commitment to spending 2% of GDP on defence – it also contained many more commitments which will help those who most would think of as inherently anti-Tory. By putting into law a national living wage of over £9 an hour and increasing the money available for the poorest university students, it seems Mr Osborne is well on his way to shedding his posh bogeyman stereotype and transforming himself into a progressive icon, capable of bringing his party levels of popularity it has not seen since the 1980s.

If only this new willingness to combine party ideology with common sense reform could be seen on both sides of the Speaker’s Chair. In contrast to the Conservative’s approach of adopting what some would see as traditionally left wing polices in an attempt to reach out to and engage with broader constituencies, the Labour party is still clinging to the remains of Ed Miliband’s platform of irrelevant populism and failed economics.

Many in the opposition see proportional representation, Lord’s reform and votes for 16 year olds as priorities, oblivious to the issues that really matter. Of these, first and foremost is protecting the wallets of ordinary working Britons. Fulfilling highbrow ideological dreams which will have no discernible effect on people’s everyday lives simply can’t compete with careful economic stewardship. As long as the left continues to reject the electorate’s desire for down to Earth pragmatism and ideological fluidity, it is unclear how Labour can retake the mantle of the movement representing the working people of Britain, especially with the added challenge of UKIP and the SNP.

At its heart, last week’s budget serves to prove that the silent majority of voters who backed Mr Osborne over Mr Balls didn’t vote for ‘the nasty party’ of the Thatcher years. 13 years in opposition and 5 years in coalition have transformed the Conservatives from a tired and grey party of reactionaries into a modern political force, passionate about actions such as lifting millions out of income tax and welfare, not gimmicks like the ill thought out mansion tax. In order to get into government, they astutely realised that votes are won not by appealing to the loud cries of their activists and backbenchers, but the narrative of apolitical common sense.

All of this brings us to the fast approaching Labour leadership election, in which their party faces a big decision: take back the progressive economic and domestic policies which the Tories have so cleverly requisitioned from Labour’s most successful politician, Tony Blair, or retreat to a further 10 or 15 years of crushing opposition, watching in horror from the wilderness as their working class voters desert them for the action and passion of the new man of the people. George Osborne.


Final year History student, Chair of Romsey and Southampton North CF and former President of the Southampton Debating Union. Follow me on Twitter @realBradBell

Discussion8 Comments

  1. avatar

    Do you honestly believe that Labour becoming Tory-lite is the way that they’ll win the next election? That’s what your closing paragraph suggests and is absolutely nonsensical if I’m honest, as why would Tory-lite get more votes than the Tories? Another maths problem I think that’s been glazed over here is that raising the “living wage”, not the minimum, by 2020 whilst removing tax credits will not help the poorest in society in any way. And that’s if the maths is done now. By 2020 £9 will not be the value it is now which will hit people even harder AND those under 25 don’t even get this wage raise whilst still taking that tax credit hit- increasing income disparity between the young and the old even more.
    George Osbourne is no doubt the man of the old and cynical who simply seek to self-serve but to say that he is a proponent for the young and poor is ignorant and disrespectful for the irreconcilable damage that Tory policies have caused to those who need benefits to EXIST.
    /rant over/

  2. avatar

    it is genuinely troubling how you could believe this, I’ve done some research for you and there is a psychiatric hospital, the Knowle hospital in Hampshire! But seriously I’m a Tory have been all my life, I love seeing the common people kept in their place by Greedy George, but even I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest that he is a man of the people. the living wage(copied from Labour) does not have any provision to increase with inflation meaning by 2020 people won’t feel any reasonable increase. I agree with you that he is defending the pockets of ordinary people, if by ordinary you mean those who earn a million pounds a year.
    Now I’m gonna go watch my Twilight box set to cheer me up after reading this frankly naive article. Kirk OUT.

  3. avatar

    Brad Bell I don’t think you fully understood the budget speech. I’m not going to get into a huge debate but simply give you an example. The living wage, whilst not only is it 50p short of the national living wage, still doesn’t help anyone. The people who actually earn this kind of money are having their tax credits cut more than their wages are going up. Everyone’s worse off.

    This is what the Conservatives do. The living wage isn’t a useful policy but it convinces all of us cushy middle class that hey, actually they’re not such a bad party and you’re not a dickhead if you vote for them. The reforms were much harsher than the Thatcher years but this is right out of that playbook.

    Frankly terrible journalism and shows a poor understanding of the issues at hand. Would expect this from the Tab.

  4. avatar

    The living wage isn’t coming in until 2020 but all the cuts to tax credits and benefits have come in already. Young people have been attacked by this budget. Removing the grants from the poorest university students shows how little the Tories care about investing in those from ‘lesser’ backgrounds and simply adds to the huge debts we will all come out of university with. At the same time the living wage doesn’t apply to new graduates as most of them are not 25! Johnathon Kirk points out how it also ignores inflation so by the time the living wage actually comes into practice it will no longer be the living wage.

    Whilst it is fair that people are taught to be responsible when having children removing tax credit from those who have more than 2 children simply makes it unacceptable for the poor to have large families. Does George Osborne really have the right to decide who can and can’t have children?

    The Economist puts it very nicely; “cutting benefits to the very poor while reducing inheritance tax for the wealthy is indefensible”.

    Good luck to all the poor, students, NHS staff, elderly and disabled people out there. As for everyone else you really have a man of the people…

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