Tom Richmond: George Osborne is the weakest link for Remainers

Chancellor George Osborne (right) and former Chancellor Alistair Darling at a pro-Remain event at the Hitachi Rail Europe plant in Ashford, Kent.
Chancellor George Osborne (right) and former Chancellor Alistair Darling at a pro-Remain event at the Hitachi Rail Europe plant in Ashford, Kent.
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IF George Osborne thought the EU referendum would be his salvation after a morally indefensible Budget that was a cruel attack on the disabled, he was mistaken.

For, if the Government loses Thursday’s referendum, it will be because the Chancellor failed to convince the country about the economic benefits of the European Union.

After all, Britain was the sick man of Europe when it joined the then EEC in the 1970s and is now one of the great economies of the world. Europe can’t have been that bad, can it?

Yet what it is proving so costly for the Remain campaign is Mr Osborne’s perceived lack of trustworthiness.

Like Gordon Brown, Mr Osborne has form for dodging questions and not fulfilling his Parliamentary duties. On at least four occasions this year, he has sent David Gauke, the loyal Exchequer Secretary, to the Commons in his place.

When he produced a Treasury dossier purporting to claim that 820,000 jobs could be lost following a Brexit vote, the announcement came alongside David Cameron at B&Q’s headquarters rather than in Parliament.

And when he persuaded his Labour predecessor Alistair Darling to endorse the assertion that there would need to be £30bn of additional spending cuts, and an emergency Budget, if Britain leaves the EU, it was made at a Hitachi rail plant rather than in Parliament.

When Mr Osborne did deign to do one interview, he could not have been more unconvincing – little wonder that he has ducked the TV debates and hidden behind the likes of Energy Secretary Amber Rudd and Ruth Davidson, leader of the Tories in Scotland.

Why does this matter? It did not need former Tory leaders Michael Howard and Iain Duncan Smith, plus two ex-Chancellors in Norman Lamont and Nigel Lawson, to say Mr Osborne was guilty of “ludicrous scaremongering born of desperation” and “peddling phoney forecasts”.

The electorate, the unsung heroes of this dispiriting campaign, already knew this to be the case because they know any attempt by Mr Osborne to force through £30bn of cuts will be voted down by Tory and Opposition MPs and therefore bring down the Government.

Even if Britain votes to stay in the EU, George Osborne is so damaged – politically and economically – that his days at the Treasury are surely numbered.

GIVEN how Boris Johnson has put the issue of Parliamentary sovereignty at the heart of his Brexit crusade, perhaps he’d like to explain why – according to Hansard – he has not made a single contribution on the floor of the House of Commons since February 22 when David Cameron set out the terms of his re-negotiation?

It’s hardly the action of a statesman fond of comparing himself to Winston Churchill at every opportunity.

CHATTING to an acquaintance in France, they remain of the view that the French would prefer Britain to back Brexit. The logic? They, too, believe the EU is too big for its own good and the repercussions would be so far-reaching that the institution would have to reform – or other countries would follow suit.

The problem is that it will be virtually impossible for Britain to leave the EU – and then rejoin at a later date. As the Archbishop of York wrote in this newspaper last week, promises have to be honoured. It’s all the more reason to regret the Prime Minister’s timid reform demands.

ONE way to democratise the European Union would be for each member state’s commissioner to be elected by their home country.

Previously this role has been at the gift of prime ministers, hence why politicians like Neil Kinnock, Chris Patten and Peter Mandelson ended up in Brussels.

At least candidates would have to seek an electoral mandate. After all, has anyone heard of Jonathan Hill who is the UK’s representative at present? He was previously Leader of the Lords and presumably David Cameron owed him.

I’M pleased a train will be re-dedicated at King’s Cross station on Wednesday to mark the centenary of the birth of Alf Wight, the inspiration behind television vet James Herriot and the acclaimed All Creatures Great and Small TV series. It can only help promote Thirsk and Herriot country to a new audience.

Yet, when Mr Wight was carrying out his veterinary duties, there were 92 dairy farms in Thirsk and the surrounding area according to the author’s son Jim who remembers accompanying his father on visits to tend to livestock. Now, he says, there are just two.

FINALLY it’s not just the football hooligans at Euro 2016 who need kicking into touch. The same applies to the BBC’s largesse. Its radio team for one England game consisted of two commentators, a summariser behind a goal and two former players, one of whom, Jermaine Jenas, never won a medal of note for his club(s) and country.

Unlike ITV, whose equally uninspiring line-up is accountable to advertisers, the BBC is publicly-funded and its profligacy needs the red card.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk