East meets Westminster: Can bank shares save Osborne?
- Credit: PA
Tory loose cannon Nadine Dorries thinks anyone who believes David Cameron can win the next election is “setting themselves up to look like idiots”.
East meets Westminster called a second term for Mr Cameron as early as last autumn and only time will tell if there will be hands held aloft and red faces in the East Anglian Daily Times newsroom come 2015.
But what is undeniable is the recent calm around Westminster and Downing Street. The mood along the corridors of power appears to be fairly content.
The slurry (check) continues to hurtle towards Number 11 and George Osborne but Mr Cameron remains in decent fettle (check). He came through the local elections reasonably well with the focus firmly on the whats and whys and ifs if the UKIP vote and failure of Labour to make any real ground on the Government.
Since then he just about rescued the Euro referendum spate and appears to have got the majority of his backbenchers – if only tentatively – onside. For now at least.
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He also gained plaudits for the way he handled and responded to the vile attack on soldier Lee Rigby outside his barracks in Woolwich. The PM will happily go into the summer recess from this position.
Of course there will always be the odd one shouting from the rafters for change. Cheerleader for Boris Johnson (whether the mayor of London likes it or ) Ms Dorries told Total Politics magazine: “I understand it’s important to put out the message that we’re going to have a Conservative majority with Cameron... (but) the people who say that are foolhardy and setting themselves up to look like idiots. There’s an element of political naivety and delusion; it shows disconnect from the general public.”
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She believes Mr Johnson has the steel to once again cover the party in glory: ““He will be a leader of the Tory Party, there’s no doubt. He’s won two major elections, and nobody else in the party matches that at the moment. We would be idiots not to have Boris. He’d take the party back to the highlands again pretty easily.”
She may be right. But not yet.
Talking to this column one source close to Downing Street said although it had been a tricky year, with the recess on the horizon the whole operation was becoming happier. “There have been comings and goings in some departments which could have upset things but actually there has been something of an even keel,” he said.
“We think the PM is doing well – and we are confident that as the election approaches people are going to be more and more clear about what they do and do not want from their next Government. Nick Clegg has been more harmed by coalition than the Prime Minister and the more time Ed Miliband spends in charge of Labour the weaker they apparently become.”
But what about the poor old Chancellor? “It was always going to be a tough job.” Hardly a ringing endorsement.
Mr Osborne really does have the toughest job in politics. The general public cannot fathom why he is making such deep cuts - and they are really feeling the pain now - and yet much of his own party are gasping for more.
The reformers - namely Iain Duncan Smith, Eric Pickles and Michael Gove - are the the ones the stalwart Tories are enthused by. They want more free market thinking and, if necessary, more pain in order to shift the country starkly in the direction they want it to be travelling in.
But there is some good news on the horizon - and in a bizarre twist it is thanks to the banking crisis.
Re-privatising the banks offers Mr Osborne some hope - just don’t tell Sid - that come the weeks and months before the 2015 election the Treasury will have some good news to drip into Britain’s pockets.
Just like the 1980s British Gas sell-off RBS and Lloyds returning to private hands offers the chance for Britons to become shareholders en masse.
Now for the many this will in the great scheme of things mean a couple of hundred pounds worth of shares and some dusty old deeds left in a drawer somewhere. But it will feel empowering and it will be sold as capitalism for the many and not just the few - an exact repeat of Margaret Thatcher’s plan.
But how would it work? Well some are whispering that this really is Mr Osborne’s chance to be radical and win the public - and his party - over.
What if ever, single tax payer in Britain got some shares. Everyone, overnight has a share portfolio, A modest one sure but one nonetheless.
Then when the shares are sold or moved a fixed fee is attached the transfer and this pays back the taxpayer. Maybe a bit too radical, but the Tories could never again be accused of not wanting to spread the wealth.
There is one concern though - what if waiting a few more years to re-privatise would secure a better price? Should the Chancellor risk the same taunts Gordon Brown gets for cashing in our gold?
He won’t wait. Those shares might be worth their weight in electroal gold and take the Tories over the line - but will Mr Osborne get any credit?