That is not abnormal: statisticians are a law unto themselves. But, as the saying goes, it doesn’t look good. The OBR’s figures supported the government and the story is beginning to emit of a whiff of mendacity. Once more, George Osborne is in a mess of his own making. His political instincts veer from brilliance to catastrophe with an unpredictable regularity. Osborne’s refusal to concede patronage over the OBR was a miscalculation: it politicises the OBR, reinforcing the opposition’s case. Alistair Darling is right: a good idea has been marred.
To rescue the situation, Osborne must appoint someone who is absolutely beyond reproach. Robert Chote is that man. Independence is Chote’s raison d’être, and he is immune to the worldly temptations of politics – there is something of the monk about him. The government should grant his demands and make an appointment that will restore confidence.