Thursday, 26 November 2015

Osborne: A slick snake oil salesman

Credit to the Telegraph
Sometimes, you just have to admire George Osborne. Not for his ruthlessly pursuing an ideological shrinking of the state. Or his push for welfare reform. What is to be admired about Osborne is his political nous.

Yesterday was yet another example. The Telegraph claimed that the autumn budget was the "End of austerity" and one of its online articles compared Osborne to Blair. The Daily Mail claimed Osborne was increasing spending. The Financial Times said that Osborne was moving towards "The center."
Yet, this is a chancellor that has just proposed to cut government spending by 50% over 5 years. He is slashing local government into irrelevance and winding up the department of business. His shrinking of the state is ideological and has been derided by various economists. Despite all of this, there is not one mention of this in the newspapers.

This isn't necessarily because the press is predominantly supportive of the Conservatives-They are, but they have highlighted cuts made by the chancellor in the past, such as during the omnishambles budget in 2012 when the press were incredibly hostile to the budget. The real reason is the genius of George Osborne.

Osborne is very good at media presentation. This is why he is such a massive asset to the Tory Party in the same way as Blair was for many years for Labour. Yesterday, Osborne announced some sweeteners alongside the cuts that got the press raving, for example cheaper deposits for people who want to buy their own homes, or an announcement that the government would now start to provide postgraduate loans. These announcements were accompanied by brutal cuts, but the press focused on the former rather than the latter, as naturally that is what their readers want to hear, and what will sell the papers.

Yet, looking at the policies themselves, they don't seem particularly noteworthy. The housing policy itself only builds on another policy that was introduced in 2014, and so far that does not seem to be leading to better results when it comes to home ownership and housing prices. The postgraduate announcement was first made in 2011 and then was not implemented. Yet again, Osborne shows his genius through the clever use of spin that seems to have brought a focus on policies that are actually not particularly radical.

The Labour Party, meanwhile, had a P.R disaster when shadow chancellor John Mcdonnell quoted Mao Zedong, a dictator who was responsible for the deaths of 40-70 million people. The joke that he made was sound in itself, but it was just the fact that he gave the newspapers and press ammunition to avoid the uncomfortable subject of cuts and focus on Mcdonnell and his supposed Mao apologism.

Chairman John?
Unless Labour vastly improve their media presentation skills, they risk being swept away. It now seems inevitable that George Osborne will be the next leader of the Conservative Party, and, as we saw during the last parliament with the so-called "Edstone" that was widely mocked, and Miliband failing to eat a bacon sandwhich, how you act and present yourself in public has a massive effect on how the electorate views you and deems your party to be suitable for elected office. Labour must learn the Osbornian way fast, otherwise it risks repeating the mistakes of the 2010-2015 parliament.