IF the latest scaremongering by George Osborne and the Remain campaign is an accurate barometer, the final week of the EU referendum campaign promises to be one of the most unedifying in political history.
They clearly hope, after being outmanoeuvred by the Brexit side on freedom of movement laws and immigration, that Project Fear’s latest scare stories on the economy will persuade sufficient undecided voters to support the status quo.
Yet Downing Street fails to realise that the Chancellor is in danger of becoming a political and economic liability. Guilty of sidestepping Parliamentary exchanges, and TV debates, on the legitimacy – or otherwise – of his latest forecasts, Mr Osborne was even more unconvincing when questioned about his claim that a Brexit vote would not only necessitate an emergency Budget but a further £30m of unspecified spending cuts.
However the electorate will not be moved by such assertions. Even though Mr Osborne indicated a fortnight ago during a visit to The Yorkshire Post that he intended to remain as Chancellor if the country defied the Government’s will, his position – and that of David Cameron – will almost certainly be untenable.
And even if Mr Osborne did remain in post long enough after a Brexit vote to deliver a Budget, perhaps as early as the Saturday after the referendum, it will not be passed by Parliament – there are sufficient Tory MPs prepared to join forces with Opposition parties to vote it down. If that happened, both the Chancellor and the Government would fall and a general election would almost certainly follow.
Given this, it might be more prudent of Mr Osborne to tone down the rhetoric, and make a positive case for Britain staying in the European Union, rather than compromising his office – and his Government’s reputation – with precisely the type of tactics, and spin, that the public despised under Tony Blair, like even less now and which are playing straight into the hands of the Brexiteers.
It missed the point. The Work and Pensions Committee was not on trial. Sir Philip was, and his responses not only exposed weaknesses in business regulation which need addressing, but his knighthood risks bringing the honours system into disrepute because it appears to favour the rich. Not only should he forfeit this title, but what possessed Labour to sanction it in 2006?
Insult to BHS staff: Green is the Knight of arrogance
IT SPEAKS volumes about the arrogance of Sir Philip Green that the former BHS owner made Sports Direct supremo Mike Ashley look like an employer of the year in comparison when he became the latest corporate ‘fat cat’ to be interrogated by a Parliamentary committee.
The billionaire’s token apology, and vague promise to help those 11,000 employees whose jobs are at risk and whose pension fund races a £571m black hole after Sir Philip sold the store chain for £1, were overshadowed by extraordinary exchanges which exposed the ugly face of capitalism.
He accused Tory MP Richard Fuller of “staring” at him, complaining that it made him feel “uncomfortable”. Defending his decision to run his business affairs from the tax haven of Monaco, he said: “I don’t accept that it is tax avoidance. I could have been a lot more aggressive than I probably was.” And when challenged over the minutes of a meeting that he attended in January 2010, his memory failed him and he sought to ask his inquisitors if they could remember what they were doing on a specific day six years ago.
It missed the point. The Work and Pensions Committee was not on trial. Sir Philip was, and his responses not only exposed weaknesses in business regulation which need addressing, but confirmed that his knighthood has, in fact, now brought the whole honours system into disrepute. Not only should he forfeit this title, but what did possess Labour to even sanction it in 2006?
Hull of an opportunity
HULL CITY can’t lose when the new Premier League season kicks off. Not only will the Tigers have the privilege of hosting Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City, the team that defied all odds to win the title, but the club will still be £100m better off even if relegation – the worst case scenario – comes to pass. It’s the same with newly-promoted Middlesbrough and also Burnley, winning promotion has enabled them to steal a financial march on their rivals across the region.
However let’s hope this windfall is not squandered on transfer fees and inflated salaries for over-rated footballers – Hull has a great opportunity to be inspired by its visitors. As Leicester’s previously unsung heroes proved, titles can still be won by team spirit. And, as the East Midlands club demonstrated so spectacularly, success on the pitch can have a galvanising effect off it – the Foxes put their city on the map because the players embraced their fans and local community with affection.