UK Chancellor George Osborne has had his worst week in office. While he has made many highly publicised flippant responses to his “omni-catastrophic” week, we caught a moment in which Mr Osborne seemed to realise his political ambitions had disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Mr Osborne was accused of going into hiding after the shock resignation of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who laid the blame for his departure chiefly at the door of the Chancellor. In a statement made all the more damning by it’s source, Mr Duncan Smith wrote:
I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest.
The BBC’s political correspondent Alan Soady said of IDS’ resignation and subsequent interview:
“This was not just about his objections to one change in disability benefit, he was questioning the fundamental principles underpinning the government.”
Shortly after, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for the resignation of the “incompetent” Chancellor, a rare move in UK politics.
Again, the Chancellor made no comment. But the Prime Minister was forced to make a statement of “full confidence” in Mr Osborne.
By the time of the budget debate on Wednesday, Mr Osborne’s plans were in tatters. He was forced into a full u-turn on his central plan – the cuts to disability benefit which were required to enable his tax cuts and welfare cap. The Chancellor who has raised more debt in six years than the previous three Labour governments put together, who (by the end of this parliament) will have sold off more public assets than any Chancellor in UK history – was stopped in his tracks.
What made this all the more remarkable, is that Osborne could not get these cuts past his own party, a sign that while he may have the full confidence of the Prime Minister, he has no such backing from Conservative MPs.
Rather than showing contrition, Mr Osborne laughed openly during Wednesday’s budget debate, when confronted with the links between his austerity policies and nearly 600 deaths by suicide.
He also spent much of shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s speech laughing about something on Justice Secretary Michael Gove’s mobile phone.
But when rewatching the footage of the debate, amid all the bluster, we found a moment in which the Chancellor is faced with John McDonnell’s cool, calm call for his resignation. McDonnell says:
The behaviour of the Chancellor over the last 11 days, calls into question his fitness for the office he now holds.
The camera briefly returns to catch the reaction of George Osborne, and we see perhaps the precise moment the Chancellor realises his dreams of becoming Prime Minister are over. Not only that, but he may do well to hold onto his seat as Chancellor if opposition parties, the public and critical media continue the pressure.
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