Friday, April 21, 2006

A Tory Reshuffle?

ConservativeHome is being briefed by anonymous sources that George Osborne may be replaced by William Hague as Shadow Chancellor. I think that if this happens it could well prove to be an unfortunate mistake. When Osborne spoke to the LSE Conservatives he was reassuringly confident and his grasp of economic policy impressed all those present. Despite him being in a room with many well trained non-Tory economists he left little doubt of his command of the fiscal options available to the Treasury. By comparison Hague's past form is to be incredibly impressive in minor roles and then fail to control a larger brief (the leadership).

Whoever the anonymous contact was didn't help his case by describing how campaigning on immigration and law and order was necessary to do well in the local elections. As David Davis is currently the Shadow Home Secretary it seems unlikely that this is due to not having right wingers in the right places. Cameron has maintained a tough stance on crime and the lack of material on these issues is a result of the long policy formation schedule as much as anything.

The main rationale appears to be that by appointing a right winger as Shadow Chancellor Cameron can assuage the fears of the right wing of the Conservative Party on the central issue of taxation. I am sceptical of the foundations of this fear as it is based on the statement that tax cuts would not be prioritised ahead of economic stability. This is an ultra Conservative statement (Herbert Hoover among others would be proud) if you read it literally as a statement that if the public finances make cutting taxes an imprudent risk you will not countenance them (Keynes criticised Hoover for prioritising a balanced budget over fiscal stimulus). An awful lot of unfounded speculation is required to take it as suggesting that Osborne is a Keynesian.

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