Osborne to blame for yet another Tory gaffe
The Mole: Shadow chancellor claims Lord Stern as a Tory adviser - but he denies it
Conscious of their naivete in government - only Ken Clarke has any real experience - the Tories have been approaching all sorts of eminences grises, especially in military affairs and economics, to advise them on policy should they win the general election. The trouble is, they have been doing it a little too publicly and getting it horribly wrong.
First there was the very public snafu with Gen Sir Richard Dannatt. Now we have an equally public cock-up in the case of the climate change economist, Lord Stern.
In the first case, it was David Cameron who fouled up. He boasted last October that he had invited Dannatt, the former Chief of the General Staff, to be a military adviser to the Tories in return for a peerage.
But Dannatt has had to turn the offer down after being humiliated by military chiefs who threatened to prosecute him under the Army Act for accepting a political post while he was still technically a serving officer. (He quit as the country's senior general in August but remained on the payroll until the end of November.)
This week it was George Osborne's turn to put his foot in it by announcing that Lord Stern was to be a Tory adviser. Osborne told an audience at the British Museum yesterday: "I am delighted that Lord Stern has agreed to advise us on the creation of this green investment bank."
Oh no I'm not, responded Lord Stern today. "I would be willing to speak to the Conservatives' advisory group about their ideas for a green investment bank, just as I am continuing to contribute to discussions with the Labour government about policies on climate change," he said in a statement. "I should stress that I am not, and have no plans to be, an adviser to any political party."
Not surprisingly, Labour ministers have jumped on the gaffe with delight.
Ed Miliband, climate change secretary, claimed Osborne wanted Stern to "lend himself some credibility on climate change... Having opposed green investment, in confusion about his spending plans, and believing that the small state is the answer to Britain's problems, George Osborne has no credibility on growth or climate change."
Liam Byrne, chief secretary to the Treasury, picked on Osborne's lack of clarity on the economy - especially when it comes to dealing with Britain's £178bn deficit. "Confidence is draining fast from the shadow chancellor," said Byrne. "Their economic policy now lies in tatters as they simply lurch from one sound-bite to another."
With May 6 still the favoured date for the general election, the parties have exactly three months to prepare for polling day. The fact is, the Tories - especially Osborne - have much more to do than they should at this stage and there remain many - as the Mole has written before - who wish Cameron would give the Treasury to Ken Clarke before it's too late. Ken may not have been to Eton - sorry, St Paul's - but he can at least tie his shoelaces and do his sums without falling flat on his face. ·
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