It was extremely generous of the New Statesman to let George Osborne off so lightly (Ascent of the Submarine,11/09/15). Jason Cowley`s article offered little challenge to the Chancellor`s statements and policies, with, for example, only mild-mannered mention of the railway problems in the Northern Powerhouse project, and no probing about whether the whole idea was "anything more than election rhetoric", as Richard Leese says. A post-May coalition would surely have prevented it remaining on the government`s agenda. One question begging to be asked was how would devolving power to northern mayors help local economies, when Osborne`s government department is slashing local government budgets!
The policies of a Chancellor, who confesses he only relatively recently realised that "not everything in the country happens inside the Circle Line", and thinks there are "Albert Docks in Liverpool", deserves much closer scrutiny.
Fawning from the obsequious Danny Alexander is to be expected, but his comment about his former boss being "deeply learned" about British history went unchallenged by Cowley, despite Osborne`s praise for the early 19th century Tories and their dubious responsibility for the Factory Acts. Didn`t Disraeli pass the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act which extended trade union rights, begging a question about current anti-union legislation? Even worse was the failure to question his policy towards tax avoidance, something he regards as "morally repugnant", but which he seems to think will be reduced by cutting staff at HMRC! Nothing, either, about the current Tory nonsense claiming to be the party of the workers, with the so-called "national living wage" being well below the actual "living wage", especially when tax credits are withdrawn, or about the government`s new definition of child poverty.
Osborne`s remarks on Labour`s leadership contest, with his preference for the Tory-lite Liz Kendall, were obvious, but unnecessary. A question, on the other hand, about whether he fears, in reality, a more left-wing party under Corbyn, which would provide real opposition to the Tories` state-shrinking, in comparison with the timidity of Labour in recent years, was needed. But why would the author probe in this way when his Blairite opinions lead him to write about Labour stumbling "ever further to the left" in his conclusion?