George Osborne's 'Madchester' hair steals speech spotlight

Oct 1, 2013

Chancellor was expected to crow about economic recovery, but address far from 'sure-footed'

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GEORGE OSBORNE was expected to indulge in some triumphalism at the Tory conference yesterday, given his assertion that the UK economy has turned a corner. Instead, the delegates assembled in Manchester got a "low-key Osborne on what is normally a high-octane occasion," says an editorial in The Guardian. Speaking in the wake of Ed Miliband's acclaimed speech to the Labour conference, Osborne seemed "not as sure-footed as usual, not as taunting. It felt like the speech of a chancellor who is worried". Here's what five of the key commentators are saying about the speech today: 

Fraser Nelson in the Spectator: Nelson is unimpressed by the chancellor's promise to get the economy in the black by 2020. "That's seven bloody years away, the crash was in 2008, even Greece has managed a primary budget surplus," he writes. "And we can't even balance the books until the end of the decade?" The reality, writes Fraser, is that state spending is being reduced at a measly rate of just 0.5 per cent a year. "Like a child pulling off a plaster slowly, to minimise the pain, this government really is stretching out over several years what even a Labour government did with one man-sized tug."

Dan Hodges in the Daily Telegraph: Yesterday was supposed to be a good day for Osborne, writes Hodges. It was the day he got to stand in front of the Tory faithful and announce the success of his economic strategy as well as "indulge one of his secret pleasures – being nasty to poor people". He did both things, writes Hodges, but none of it mattered because "we were all staring at the top of George Osborne's head". The chancellor's hair was drawn forward as if by a magnet. One wag suggested the new tonsorial style was a "'Madchester' haircut". Was Osborne trying to make himself look like Liam Gallagher, perhaps?

Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail: If you listened closely enough, there were hints of "Prime Ministerial ambition" in Osborne's speech, writes Letts. It was there in the references to cabinet colleagues which "gives an impression of ownership". It could also be detected in the description of his parents' struggles to make their business a success, which was a bit "Osborne: My life story". But mostly the address was about "sticking to the economic plan, ignoring naysayers, staying centre-ground and being ‘grown-up'".

Kevin Maguire in the Daily Mirror: Osborne's claim to have nurtured an economic revival got short shrift from Maguire who describes him as a "fantasist". "I don't know what they smoke his end of Whitehall but it's left him delusional. History's slowest recovery a sensational achievement?"

Larry Elliott in The Guardian: The chancellor's speech was both a "statement of the obvious and a piece of political positioning," writes Elliott. The obvious part is that it has taken far longer than expected to return the economy to growth. The political part is that many voters still blame Labour for the financial crisis and Osborne's "subtext" was that they should "think twice before putting Ed Miliband and Ed Balls in charge".

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