Nick Robinson has big shoes to fill. His immediate predecessors in the role of BBC Chief Political Correspondent – John Cole, John Sergeant, even the New Labourish Andrew Marr – all had a certain gravity and authority that repetitious phrasing (“If only, if only” and “Can he? Can he?”) haven’t quite matched as yet. Still, he had it partly right on his Newsblog when he wrote:
So much for "No Punch and Judy!" Coming face-to-face with Gordon Brown for the first time, David Cameron leant across across the Despatch Box, shouted rather than spoke and pointed his finger.
This is rather true. Cameron evidently had almost nothing to say, and said it only for a very short period of time. The suspicion remains that it is not clear that his years advising Norman Lamont resulted in any detailed knowledge of either finance or economics, or whether his subsequent career as an ITV spin doctor and political adviser have ever trained him to master a detailed brief. Generously, Robinson went on to say:
There were lots of high quality Oxford Union-style gags at Gordon Brown's expense - "In a carbon conscious world we have a fossil fuel Chancellor" and "He's an anologue politician in a digital world".
Perhaps it is beside the point, but I have actually heard far funnier gags in the Oxford Union than the ones above. High quality these were not. In fact, they look really rather childish and not terribly effective playground jibes. A fossil fuel chancellor? Please! Analogue not digital? I can think of two digits response to that. If Gordon Brown had pigtails, David Cameron would have pulled them. But isn’t the real point here that this isn’t the Oxford Union? One is left with the feeling that Cameron is playing at politics, as if a mere game.
But the real joker yesterday was the hopelessly out of his depth George Osborne. On Newsnight last night (watch it here for the next few hours) he was asked by Paxman which bits of the budget he didn’t like. Lamely, Osborne explained that nothing new had really been said in the budget so he couldn’t think of any. Paxman, sensing blood, pushed on. As it turns out Osborne couldn’t actually name anything in the budget that he disagreed with, and seemed to be oblivious to the fact that Brown’s budget speech is a rather different thing to the Red Book which details the budget – this year’s is three hundred and four pages long. Surely George disagreed with some of the content? Well, I daresay he might – had he read some of it - but as he couldn’t articulate any criticisms at all he should seriously question why people should think him competent to run the British economy. It is perhaps worthwhile pointing out once again that George Osborne is a man who has no formal economic training and has never worked in either the public or the private sectors.
On this evidence, as long as Cameron and Osborne are at the Conservative helm there is no chance of the Conservatives regaining a reputation for competent financial and economic management – and on that basis alone, they are not going to win the next General Election with Big Gordie on the other side of the bench.
[posted by Simon]