Speaking at the LSE, where he’d been invited by director (and MT columnist) Howard Davies, Osborne warned that Brown had failed to make use of a decade of growth to prepare Britain for the economic shocks to come.
‘The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining,’ he pronounced. ‘Britain is not prepared if rainy days lie ahead. And the blame lies squarely and fairly with Gordon Brown.’ Since his family own wallpaper business Osborne & Little, we can only assume that the Shadow Chancellor’s a dab hand at this kind of DIY.
The Tories are on a big push to undermine the Prime Minister’s reputation for economic competence. Whatever voters think of him, they’ve always trusted him to look after the public purse – and Osborne is desperate to change that. ‘His actions betray him,’ he insisted today. ‘It is his economic incompetence and fiscal incontinence that have left Britain more exposed than any other developed economy to the current crisis.
'The truth is,' he went on to proclaim, 'thanks to Gordon Brown's economic incompetence, Britain has run out of money.' (This may have come a shock to the Governor of the Bank of England, who's probably racing down to check his vaults even as we speak)
The Shadow Chancellor also rubbished Alistair Darling’s claim that the creation of a COBRA-style committee would provide better leadership in the event of financial shocks like the run on Northern Rock. ‘COBRA sounds impressive – it conjures up images of a West Wing style war room. Well it's not. Not many people know, but COBRA stands for Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. It's just a room… It's a bit bigger than Cabinet Office Briefing Room B.’
We’re sure we’re not the only ones disappointed that a COBRA meeting doesn’t look like a scene from Dr Strangelove. But to be fair, it’s definitely got a better ring to it than COBRB.
The Shadow Chancellor will be the subject of the next MT interview – find out what he had to say about his plans for UK plc in the February issue of MT, out next month.