Tom Richmond: The cowardly Chancellor hiding behind his human shield on EU

George Osborne delivered the Treasury's assessment of a Brexit vote to B&Q staff rather than Parliament.
George Osborne delivered the Treasury's assessment of a Brexit vote to B&Q staff rather than Parliament.
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NOT only is George Osborne’s economic and political reputation teetering on the brink of bankruptcy – he proved himself not fit to govern when he tried to cut welfare payments to the disabled in his last Budget – but he also appears to be a coward.

Why? Once again the Chancellor chickened out of making a statement to Parliament, this time on the Treasury’s assessment that Britain will face a year-long recession if it votes to leave the European Union on June 23, and instead sent the poodle-like David Gauke – the Financial Secretary – to do his absent master’s bidding.

It was the fourth time in 2016 alone that the Chancellor dodged a Commons summons by sending his sycophantic minion who clearly hopes such loyalty will be rewarded with a promotion.

If Mr Osborne could find time to travel to B&Q’s Hampshire headquarters with David Cameron on Monday to tell staff that a Brexit vote would wipe six per cent off GDP in 2018, reduce house prices by 18 per cent and see 820,000 people lose their jobs as a consequence, why could he not go to Westminster and answer an urgent question relating to the contents of his 82-page dossier?

After all, these look to be very specific figures and it is only right that the Treasury’s analysis and calculations are Osborne’s propensity for missing pre-ordained targets on economic growth and the eradication of the budget deficit.

When Mr Gauke told MPs that the analysis was “serious, evidence-based analysis”, John Bercow, the Speaker of the Commons, had to intervene: “He is at least here, which is more than can be said for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to whom the question was directed. It appears that, as has happened on many occasions, the Chancellor has chosen to uncork the Gauke.”

Hear, hear.

It’s just a shame that the Speaker chose not to demand Mr Osborne’s presence rather than allowing this pompous pipsqueak of a Chancellor to get away with this discourtesy.

After all, Mr Bercow was overseeing Commons proceedings on January 25 when Labour’s call for an explanation about Google’s tax settlement was answered by the Financial Secretary.

“Many will feel it is a display of disrespect to this House that the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed the deal with a tweet over the weekend, but has refused to come here today personally to make a statement,” said Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, whose scrutiny of the Treasury continues to be far more effective than his own economics.

History repeated itself on March 21 when it was Mr Gauke – and not the Chancellor – who answered an urgent question on the fallout from the Budget five days previously, the ramifications of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation and cuts in payments to the disabled which were both heartless and immoral.

The Chancellor’s whereabouts still remain unclear – this was the week when he went into hiding.

And, on April 13, it was Mr Gauke – and not his boss – who led the Government’s response to an emergency debate on tax avoidance and evasion following the “Panama papers” leak.

Not so long ago, Mr Osborne was being touted as the next Prime Minister. Not now. He should be the first victim of any post-referendum reshuffle.

If he is incapable of defending himself in the Commons because he has not got the cojones, as the Americans say, to do so, he has no right to occupy a place on the Government front bench – irrespective of whether his fear-based “dodgy dossier” swings the June 23 poll and saves Mr Cameron’s skin.

As for Mr Gauke, I suggest he takes the battery out of his phone when the next controversy looms... or he’ll look an even bigger fool.

DAVID Cameron missed a trick 
delaying publication of the Chilcot 
report into the Iraq war until after 
the EU referendum. If only Britain had listened to its EU allies who said the invasion of Iraq was misguided and 
would end in catastrophe rather than allowing Tony Blair to kowtow to George W Bush.

IT’S bad enough when Ukip erect half a dozen or election posters on trees opposite the entrance to Rawdon Crematorium in Leeds – and leave 
them up for weeks on end. Now mourners are greeted to a succession of “Vote Leave” billboards. Talk about tactless.

FORMER Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti joined the Labour party shortly before being asked to head Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-Semitism 
inquiry. It won’t end here. She’ll be an unelected peer before long. You have been warned.

DESPITE promising that lessons will be learned over the trolleybus scandal, still no word from Leeds Council on how taxpayers and commuters will be able to scrutinise those officials responsible for wasting £72m of public money. And still no apology.

GIVEN the exam pass-rate in Yorkshire remains the lowest in the country, I had thought some of the region’s MPs would have taken part in Wednesday’s six-hour Commons debate on education, training and skills. Not one did.

CREDIT to Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis for asking how Parliament will mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme 
in the First World War, in which 
57,470 British soldiers were killed or injured on the first day of hostilities. Commons deputy leader Therese Coffey said she was unaware of any plans for a special debate. Shameful.

I WONDER if some of those Ryedale residents outraged by North Yorkshire County Council’s decision to agree to fracking at Kirby Misperton, on the edge of the North York Moors, now regret being part of the shenanigans which saw Anne McIntosh de-selected as Tory MP for Thirsk and Malton prior to the 2015 election.

Unlike her successor Kevin Hollinrake, at least she was on the side of residents – and spoke with great authority – when she addressed the council’s planning committee. Head of Parliament’s environment select committee from 2010-15, how her county could do with such wisdom now.