This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Notes in the new issue of The Spectator, out tomorrow.
George Osborne says he can stay in the government in some capacity (‘a decision for the next prime minister’). Monday’s Financial Times reported ‘Friends say a move to the Foreign Office would be the only other job that would appeal.’ No doubt they are right, but have Mr Osborne and his friends not noticed that what ‘appeals’ to him has nothing whatever to do with what the country needs?
Unlike David Cameron, who said immediately and firmly that he will go, the Chancellor does not seem to understand that he has got it all wrong. His sense of entitlement is completely unfounded. Until Monday, I shared the general view that he had to stay on as Chancellor for the time being in order to calm the markets, but I am now beginning to wonder. In both his public statement on Monday and his interview on the Today programme on Tuesday, Mr Osborne did not confine himself to sober Treasury matters, but made political statements. He declared, among other things, that he wanted to ‘reject intolerance and hatred against migrant communities’ — a clear, false and insulting suggestion that the Leave campaign has encouraged such hatred. Worse, he has put himself in the position by which, having told us such appalling things would happen if we voted Leave, he feels he must prove himself right. ‘Absolutely’ there will be spending cuts or tax rises, he told Nick Robinson, though he will not himself introduce them.
The repair job now required would surely be much better done by Michael Gove or Andrea Leadsom than by someone so invested in disaster. Mr Osborne agreed that something must have gone awry with the Remain campaign — since it lost — but at no point would he admit any personal or tactical error. He did not speak in French, but he was in effect repeating Norman Lamont’s ‘Je ne regrette rien’ (after falling out of the ERM in 1992). He should suffer the same fate.
It is so weird how some politicians do not understand the rhythm of such crises. Mr Osborne, who has done much for his country, could easily (he is young) return in later years, but only if he quickly and clearly admits that he has messed it up, and then goes. Instead of staying in office to tell us how we must all have a punishment Budget, he must inflict overdue punishment on himself alone, and resign.