James Forsyth

The great office of state

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Fraser and Tim Montgomerie report this morning that David Cameron and George Osborne are considering working together from a joint office in government much as they do now in Norman Shaw South. Undoubtedly some will worry about such an arrangement, they'll argue that given the state of the public finances Osborne should be solely concerned with Treasury business. But it strikes me as a sensible idea. First, by having their staffs work in the same place they will prevent the emergence of the rival power bases that have crippled Labour for much of its time in office. Second, with the PM and the Chancellor working together their will be no distance between the two for spending ministers to exploit, This will vastly strengthen Phil Hammond's hand as he negotiates with them.

Finally, Project Cameron tends to be at its best when Osborne is at his strongest. It is no coincidence that the ropey periods for it have occurred at times when Osborne's own influence has been low. To be sure, Osborne can be criticiced for sticking to Labour spending plans for too long. But when the party has needed to move, it has been Osborne who has led. He might not be as naturally talented a politician as Cameron or have as appealing a public persona, but he is an extremely able strategist.    

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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