David Blackburn

Clarke and Osborne are working well

Clarke and Osborne are working well
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The Daily Politics featured a telling exchange between Stephen Timms and Ken Clarke. Their arguments were unclear and their hypotheticals relentless - they were debating deficit reduction. A football phone-in DJ had been invited onto the programme to adjudicate. After 7 minutes he broke his befuddled silence and declared, understandably, that Clarke and Timms were a turn-off to ordinary voters. Immediately, Clarke responded clearly and directly, making a case for reducing the deficit with reference to the chillingly close reality of Greece’s collapse. He avoided patronising, homespun economics; and simply delivered bald analysis and a statement of intent with his characteristic gusto. By contrast, Timms remained silent.

Clarke is the Tories’ prize-fighter. Experienced, forthright and unassumingly articulate, voters like him, almost regardless of what he actually says. George Osborne is a different animal. Both Pete and I were impressed (and for different reasons) with his FT article yesterday; but it was largely esoteric. That was the intention, but Osborne has always lacked Clarke’s popular appeal. However, they are beginning to forge a successful partnership.

Details of Tory policy remain imprecise, and will remain so unless they get their hands on the books. But the broad messages, about Brown’s stewardship, the deficit and the need to cut upfront, have regained direction. It is surely more than coincidence that growing clarity on economic issues is accompanied by a poll that places the lead back at 9 percent.