You only omnishambles twice
Is hubris George Osborne’s biggest nemesis? Judging by this morning’s news, the Chancellor has run into the sand for the second time with one of his budgets. Tory MPs are echoing their Labour counterparts in criticising proposed cuts to disability benefits, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies has attacked the Government’s claims on tax and spending. Osborne was also subject to widespread derision after TV footage showed him interacting awkwardly with children on a school visit.
To heap further misery on No 11, a new poll last night put Labour ahead for the first time under Jeremy Corbyn. The detail of the YouGov survey showed a notable plurality viewing the budget as unfair, and even bigger numbers lacking confidence in Osborne and the Government’s handling of the economy. These figures have not come from nowhere – both Osborne and the Conservatives have been trending downwards on these metrics since the start of the year – but the Government’s post-election honeymoon is clearly over.
All this comes at a dangerous moment for the Conservative leadership, with its future on the line in the forthcoming EU referendum. David Cameron and George Osborne’s decision to campaign so vigorously for Remain appears to be motoring discontent on their backbenches and among Conservative supporters in general. It has also left voters viewing the Tories as divided as their fractious Labour opponents. The British public may still ultimately balk at the costs of leaving the EU come June, but even if they do the PM and the Chancellor will have a lot of fences to mend. They cannot afford too many more hiccups in the months ahead.
Photograph: Rt Hon George Osborne MP