Monday, 12 April 2010

George Osborne wants respect not popularity

I have interviewed George Osborne today for the new look WMN.

He was forthright about Labour’s record in the Westcountry, don’t understand rural areas, “malicious” cider tax – as you would expect.
But I also asked him why voters don’t warm to him. Here is an extract:
He is the brains of the Conservative campaign.
Credited with seeing off Gordon Brown’s snap election in 2007, the shadow chancellor is the chief strategist who has put the Tories back, if not yet on top, closer than any before him for a generation.
And yet. And yet. There is still something about him, or so people said time and again on the WMN’s Marginal Mystery Tour. Voters struggle to warm to George Osborne. After a moment of awkwardness on raising the issue, he tackles it head on.
“The job of the shadow chancellor, and indeed the job of the chancellor, is not just to court popularity,” he said.
“It is doing what you think is the right thing for the country economically. Sometimes that means being prepared to say things that aren’t necessarily very popular.”
Last autumn he delivered a brutal message about the coming “age of austerity”. Many have asked if he is ready to become the most unpopular man in the country, wielding the axe and potentially raising taxes.
“To be absolutely honest, I don’t think of it like that. People know the country faces a lot of economic problems and some tough decisions have to be taken.
“In the end, respect from the public comes from doing what is the right thing in the long-term and that is what I have always got my eye set on.”
The debt problem “overshadows everything” and “the longer we leave it, the bigger the risk that interest rates are going to go up, taxes will spiral up and the recovery will be killed stone dead.”
He offers an early glimpse of Tory strategy if they do win on May 6; blame Labour.
“People understand the Conservative party did not create these economic problems, Gordon Brown did.”
He was also pretty strong in his attack on the Lib-Dems:
He claims the Westcountry has been “very ill-served” by the Lib-Dems who “abandoned them” on these key issues.
Across the Westcountry, nine Lib-Dem seats are on the Tory list of targets for an overall majority. Mr Osborne has them all in his sights.
“In this election we are either going to have David Cameron as Prime Minister of Gordon as Prime Minister.
“And if you vote for the local Liberal Democrat candidate, even if you think they are doing a reasonable job locally, you are helping Gordon Brown to stay in office.”
In previous elections, when the outcome was more predictable, some constituencies “thought they could sit it out and vote for who was a local candidate they liked most”. This led to a rise in Lib-Dem support, which the Tories must reverse if they are to win outright.
The full interview is only in today’s Western Morning News.

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