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News, gossip and insight from PoliticsHome Editor Paul Waugh

Osbo on Opportunism

The morning after the Fright Night before, George Osborne did his best to steady the ship today with his Today programme interview.

He rightly pointed up Labour's record in Government of actually supporting increased Brussels spending. But in attacking Ed Miliband's opportunism, the Chancellor also had a side-swipe at William Hague's leadership of the Tories.

Here's the full quote:

"I thought Labour actually took a step further away from government last night because they took such an opportunistic position and it reminded me - people have been reminiscing about the 1990s - it actually reminded me of the early part of the Conservative party's period in opposition where we took opportunistic positions and unprincipled positions in Parliament that actually pushed us further away from being an alternative government.”

Now, I wonder to what exactly was Osborne referring* here?

Surely not the party's tough line on immigration from 1997-2001? Surely not its 'save the pound' campaign (many MPs think has been since vindicated in spades)? Surely not the Hague decision to support the fuel protests (Blair was furious), particularly with today's need to win over motorists facing fuel duty rises? So what could he have meant?

More importantly, wasn't one G Osborne the speechwriter and political secretary to the then Leader of the Opposition? Wasn't he the one at Hague's side in all those PMQs prep meetings, playing the role play of Tony Blair?

Of course, there are those in the Conservative Party (not least ConHome's Tim Montgomerie) who may argue that the worst Opposition opportunism was when Osborne adopted Labour's spending targets at a time when Brown was turning on the taps.

 

*FOOTNOTE: Osborne referred to 'the early part' of the Tory opposition and also to the 1990s so I think it's safe to assume he meant the Hague years. But even if he was referring to the IDS years, he will still be asked at some point to explain what he meant.

 

UPDATE: I'm told that the Chancellor was referring mainly to the party's opposition to Foundation Trusts for the NHS, school reform and tuition fees. The same analysis of those errors is set out in Janan Ganesh's semi-authorised biog.

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