“Workers of the world, unite?”
I hear one disgruntled Conservative activist repeat George Osborne’s conference speech rallying cry to a circle of chums. “Oh dear,” another mutters, crestfallen. “Sharing the debt?” someone else interjects, hope filling his eyes.
But they needn’t have worried, because this was the warcry for one advance in the same direction that Osborne announced today, among a number of other reassurances – but not many policy or strategy developments – that the Conservative Party will be pushing on with cutting the deficit via spending cuts, welfare caps and other traditionally Tory methods that will result in Nick Clegg’s autotuned howls of despair.
For Osborne spoke the language of radicalism and transformation, but used this to cover a steadfast commitment to the path his party has doggedly set upon in their often criticised attempt to fix the economy.
“Let us all here be proud that we are contributing to the most radical and reforming period of government this country has seen for a generation.”
And what he wanted Britain’s toiling proletariat to unite over was a “radical change in employment law” for employees to own shares of their companies and have 0% capital gains tax on any profit they make.
There was also “radical” change to the welfare system with his colleague Iain Duncan Smith, who he is rumoured to have clashed with over this area of policy, with Universal Credit proposals on the horizon.
Osborne wants to paint himself as a maverick chancellor, embarking on epoch-defining pathways towards a wholesale transformation of the UK’s economy. But in reality, throughout his speech, he could not break away from his most immediate challenge, particularly in coalition ahead of 2015 – striving on a day to day basis to rescue the economy from its failings. Financial fire-fighting.
He spoke repeatedly about cutting the deficit by 25%, a fact that is almost a tribal chant for his party nowadays so often is it cited to indicate a successful track record. He also pointed out how Ed Miliband in his conference address last week didn’t mention the word “deficit” once. Labour will be interested to note that the chancellor in turn didn’t utter the word “growth” at any point during his 36 minute speech.
It seems while Labour is staging a dramatic rebrand, it’s business as usual for Comrade Osborne.