George Osborne is a part-time chancellor, says Telegraph man
Osborne should be worrying about the economy not the Tories' election prospects, says Peter Oborne
IS GEORGE OSBORNE failing the nation in these precarious financial times by not devoting his full energies to being Chancellor of the Exchequer? That is the charge levelled at him this morning by The Daily Telegraph's straight-talking chief political commentator Peter Oborne in an article titled 'George Osborne should be looking after the purse-strings, not the politics'.
Oborne, who goes into precise detail about Osborne's working practices, notes that "it is not properly appreciated, except among Treasury officials and the Downing Street inner circle, that George Osborne is only a part-time chancellor".
He describes how Osborne makes only three fleeting visits to his notional office - the Treasury - during the average day and instead spends most of his time ensconced in No 10 with David Cameron and his political team, having important Treasury business brought over to him by officials from 1 Horse Guards Road.
Osborne attends strategy meetings in Downing Street, coaches Cameron for a full hour ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions every Wednesday, drops in to the press office to "discuss media handling problems" and acts as if his major responsibilities were political, not economic.
While conceding that "there are advantages to the arrangement" that sees the chancellor acting as "chief strategist, the finance director, and the personal coach to the chief executive", Oborne expresses a fear that "the chancellor is devoting perhaps half his time to sorting out problems which have nothing to do with the national finances".
He goes on: "Treasury officials worry that they can’t get face time with their boss. Many people will find it very shocking that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, faced with economic calamity, is not working flat out on his job."
Osborne faces a conflict of interest between safeguarding the national economy and the Conservatives’ electoral future. Cameron must decide soon, Oborne warns, whether he wants to have his close personal friend as "chancellor or as political strategist. He can no longer be both".