Making the most of a bad hand

George Osborne will probably not go down in history as a great Chancellor, this has little to do with his abilities or commitment (both significant) but a great deal to do with timing.

George Osborne delivers Autumn Statement

He finds himself in the least favourable circumstances that any post-war chancellor has had to face.  People get plaudits for winning the yacht race not for preventing their yacht from sinking.

As a nation we have huge debts and our income is still less than out spending, our ability to sort ourselves out is significantly dependant on other nations and circumstances beyond our control.  What the Autumn statement said was that we are still very much in the mess that we inherited from Labour.

The sight of Ed Balls washing his hands of economic car crash that he was instrumental in is quite sickening.  His attacks on the deficit reduction plans and failure to condemn today’s strike action is telling, it’s like setting fire to your house and then criticising the fire brigade from making your carpet wet when they put it out.

As unfair and opportunistic Labour’s attacks are they will chime with the public and damage George’s reputation because most people cannot imagine that things could be worse.  The situations in Greece and Italy look too remote to be relevant.  The BBC describing today as the “biggest walkout in a generation” reinforces the idea that our situation is as bad as it can get but ask a Greek public sector worker if they’d swap places with a Brit and watch them bite your hand off.

There is no point in pretending that times are anything but very tough.  The actions that George Osborne has already taken prevented a bad situation become catastrophic and the measures laid out in yesterday’s statement will eventually dig us out of this hole.  Just don’t expect many people to thank him for it.

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