How does George Osborne get away with it? The Chancellor was asked this on the Today programme this morning, with John Humphrys needling him on the economic targets on debt and deficit that he set himself and asking whether if he could miss two out of three of those targets and potentially be on course to miss a third, ‘what’s a bloke got to do in your job to get the sack?’
Osborne repeatedly argued that there was more to do, saying ‘by our own measurements and the tests we have set ourselves.. we have got more to do’. The picture he painted was of the government making progress towards meeting its targets. ‘I make these very public commitments to what the government is trying to achieve and then in the space of four or five months, things have got materially worse in the global economy,’ he said.
But aside from whether he was right to even set these targets - to get debt falling as a proportion of national income, to cap welfare spending and to run a budget surplus in 2019/20 - how does Osborne manage to bounce along without losing much political capital when he has to admit to MPs in the Chamber that he’s not going to meet his targets? The answer is that until the Labour party is able to mount a truly credible opposition to the Conservatives, Osborne need feel no heat at all. Which means that he might be able to merrily set targets for many years to come.