Cast your mind back to the heady days when politics was more predictable. Remind yourself of the phrases recycled and regurgitated time and time again. Amongst the most used on the Tory benches was the often painful crowbarring of Osborne’s ‘long-term economic plan’ into every sentence uttered from the Government despatch box.
This was the bedrock of the Tory manifesto and the Conservative pitch to the electorate at the last general election: Ed Miliband couldn’t be trusted with the economy and only the Tories had a long term economic plan. You remember that right? Well, a year on the Tories have dumped their economic plan and have come clean that the Treasury had done zero preparation for a British exit from the EU. Hardly the act of a party in control of the economic fortunes of the nation some might say.
Osborne’s economic predictions of doom during the referendum were labelled ‘Project Fear’ by the Leave campaign but look increasingly like sage predictions of the economic uncertainty we are now experiencing. Far from introducing the revenge budget of higher taxes and more cuts the Chancellor has taken the radical step of ditching his surplus target and with it, his strategy on deficit reduction.
How much of this is Osborne cushioning his fall from power and trying to hang on to power under May or Leadsom is the talk of Westminster scamps. Of course, the burning of Osborne’s economic rules could be regarded as a victory for the Labour opposition. Scrapping the arbitrary surplus target was one of John McDonnell’s key economic attacks on the Chancellor. But with Labour paralysed by its own civil war they were unable to land any punches on Osborne.
Abandoning the much hyped ‘long term economic plan’ and confirming the Government had no plan for Brexit would, in normal times, might be enough to topple a Government and certainly to claim a scalp in a forced resignation. But no more. We live in unprecedented times.