Chris Moncrieff: Sun shines on Osborne as the likely successor

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HER Majesty’s Opposition has a right – indeed, probably, a duty – to take George Osborne’s Budget to pieces and to analyse and probe every detail of it with a critical and hostile eye.

But what cannot be denied, irrespective of the merits or demerits of the Budget’s contents, is that the Chancellor’s presentation of it was a masterclass of Parliamentary theatre.

Osborne has politically grown up leaps and bounds since those first halting days as Chancellor. Last week he was brimming over with confidence. His optimism and freshness cast a warm glow over those who heard or saw it.

Britain “the come-back country” is “walking tall”. “The sun is starting to shine and we are hitting the road.” No wonder Tory MPs were waving their order papers enthusiastically when he sat down after 59 minutes.

Maybe Labour was right in castigating it as the Budget no one believes and the Chancellor as someone nobody trusts. But they cannot deny that his performance was brilliant. He deserved an Oscar for that.

Meanwhile, that must make Osborne firm favourite to succeed if David Cameron falls by the wayside. I would put my money on him rather than Boris Johnson or Theresa May, the other names mentioned by the PM when he said that he would not seek a third term if re-elected on May 7.

THE greed of some of Britain’s politicians knows no bounds. Members of the Scottish Parliament voted to give their First Minister Nicola Sturgeon a pay rise which would mean she would take home more than the Prime Minister.

That would have put her salary up to £144,687 a year compared with David Cameron’s £142,500.

Just look at the figures. Sturgeon is responsible for a population of 5.3 million, while Cameron’s responsibility is for 64.1 million. In addition, Sturgeon has no control over defence, or foreign affairs and only limited say on issues like tax and benefits.

Ultimately wiser heads prevailed. Ms Sturgeon’s pay packets will now contain “only” £135,000, as they realised that the higher sum would create a public relations calamity.

Even so, many English MPs 
are angry that it’s England which, in their opinion, is the goose laying the golden egg, yet it is Scotland which is scoffing 
much of it.

I CANNOT for the life of me think what came over the Thirsk, Malton and Filey Conservative Party in voting to “deselect” their sitting MP Anne McIntosh, one of the most hard-working and talented back-benchers at Westminster.

Indeed had it not been for the unfortunate fact that one of her opponents died during the 2010 election campaign, and thus the voting in the constituency was delayed for several weeks, Ms McIntosh would almost certainly have become a member of the Government.

It seems to me that she was ousted after an unpleasant smear campaign. But, amazingly, Ms McIntosh bears no ill-will. There was a suggestion that she might stand as an Independent, but she eschewed that, saying it would probably split the Conservative vote.

She wrote: “Many have asked me to stand locally in some capacity. I am honoured but my place is within the Party and I would never put personal ambition ahead of the best interests of the country which can only be served by another government led by David Cameron.

“I am deeply grateful to all my supporters, and bear no ill-will to those who engaged in a democratic process to change their parliamentary candidate.”

Ms McIntosh has done an immense amount of good as an MP and committee chairman. Her successor is going to have a mammoth job to achieve even half as much as she did. Local Tories may well rue the day they disowned her.

KARL Turner, shadow solicitor-general and Hull MP, seems to be a king-size plonker. His reaction to outgoing Labour MP Austin Mitchell’s jokes about Ed Miliband’s two kitchens was enough to reduce the nation to gales of laughter with its pomposity.

For years left-winger Mitchell, MP for Grimsby, has been making fun of his own party leadership, but there was never the slightest hint of malice in his comments. However Mr Turner was not amused. He winged a finger-wagging missive to Mitchell saying: “If you can’t say anything supportive just keep your opinion to yourself. We need to retain Grimsby – you’ve done little to help with that.

“You’re a joke, Austin. You think it is clever to attack us. It is not clever, and you have had plenty out of the party.”

He then descends to fourth-form standards by adding, grotesquely: “I doubt you’ve ever had a kitchen in Grimsby.” It is about time Mr Turner lightened up – and grew up.

Chris Moncrieff is a former political editor of the Press Association.