Margaret Thatcher Funeral: Five Other Things Which Should Bring A Tear To Osborne's Eye

Posted: Updated:
OSBORNE CRYING
Sky News

The big story of the day is that George Osborne has working tear ducts. The chancellor of the exchequer was caught on camera, at Margaret Thatcher's funeral on Wednesday morning, crying. He was clearly moved by the service at St Paul's and a great fan of the Iron Lady's.

Here are five other things that might make our lachrymose chancellor want to shed a few more tears.

1) WHERE HAVE ALL THE JOBS GONE?

On Wednesday morning, as Osborne and co headed for St Paul's, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that, between December 2012 and February 2013, unemployment in the UK increased by 70,000 to 2.56 million.

"The total is the worst since last summer," reported the Press Association, "giving the UK a jobless rate of 7.9%."

Uh-oh. Falling unemployment had been one of the few positive economic trends that the chancellor could point to, amidst all the austerity doom and gloom and predictions of a triple-dip recession. "We’ve seen more people in work than ever before... and the unemployment rate is lower than when we came to office," declared Osborne in his Budget last month.

He can't say that any more. Unemployment between April and June 2010 was 2.46 million - or 7.8%.

As Alan Clarke, an economist at Scotiabank, told the BBC: "It's not a disaster, but a lot of the froth and really good news we had over the last year on jobs is becoming exhausted, which shouldn't be a surprise when there is not much growth around."

I guess it was was, as someone once said, a good day to bury bad news.

2) FALLING OUT OF LOVE WITH THE IMF

There was a time when George Osborne would invoke the Very Serious People at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) whenever anyone challenged his plan A for austerity.

On Tuesday, however, the IMF downgraded its growth forecast for the UK by 0.3%, both for this year and next, and called for a Plan B: "[I]t may be time to consider adjusting the original fiscal consolidation plan." The fund's chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, went further, telling Sky News that Osborne was "playing with fire": "The danger of having no growth, or very little growth, for a long time is very high."

So Osborne's love affair with the IMF must now, surely, be over. As the Telegraph's Benedict Brogan put it in his Morning Briefing today, "the apparent defection of the IMF to Ed Balls' side of the House is a cause for concern for the Chancellor".

3) OOPS. THOSE AUSTERITY SUMS WERE ALL WRONG.

In recent years, one of George Osborne's key advisers on austerity has been Harvard economist and ex-IMF official Kenneth Rogoff. Rogoff, along with co-author Carmen Reinhart, published a much-discussed paper in 2010 which claimed that countries with debt-to-GDP ratios above 90 percent suffer from much slower growth. As New York magazine's Jonathan Chait points out, their work provided the "intellectual basis" for austerity economics and "was cited frequently" by press and politicians alike. (Osborne himself has cited Rogoff's work in defence of the coalition's cuts.)

But, guess what? On Tuesday we discovered that Rogoff and Reinhardt are wrong. It turns out that they selectively excluded years of high debt and average growth from their results, used a questionable method to weigh the economies they evaluated and - I kid you not - failed to update a key row formula in an Excel spreadsheet.

Oops.

4) POLL BOUNCE? WHAT POLL BOUNCE?

Despite the never-ending encomiums and tributes, the wall-to-wall media coverage and the £10m 'ceremonial' funeral, there hasn't been a "Thatcher bounce" in the polls for the Tories. Given the chancellor also serves as the Conservative Party's chief election strategist, he should be more worried than most by this.

The Tories continue to trail Labour in every single opinion poll - an ICM poll for the Guardian on Monday found that the Tories had gone up by just a single percentage point since March, reaching 32%. That left them six points behind Labour, on 38%.

Last week, a YouGov poll in the Sun put Labour a whopping 14 points ahead of the grieving Tories. Today, the paper gleefully points out that Labour's poll lead has since halved to 7 points; the latest YouGov poll for the Sun puts Labour on 40%, compared to the Tories' 33%.

The problem for the chancellor is, that even with only a 7-point lead, Labour would win a landslide Commons majority of 86. And Osborne would be out of a job.

5) MORE UNPOPULAR THAN... ED BALLS?

Forget national opinion polls, check out the chancellor's own personal ratings. To say that they are pretty dire would be an understatement.

According to ComRes, "just under one in five (18%) believe George Osborne should remain in place as chancellor for the foreseeable future". According to YouGov, two out of three voters (67%) think Osborne is doing "very" or "fairly" badly as chancellor of the exchequer.

Osborne is now a bigger drag on the Tories' economic policy agenda than the much-maligned shadow chancellor Ed Balls is on Labour's. As the Evening Standard reported last month: "Voters are less likely to back the Government’s core economic policies when they are told George Osborne is the author, an extraordinary poll reveals today.

"The Ipsos MORI survey, a week ahead of the Budget, may suggest that the Chancellor is so toxic to voters that he has become a liability to his own flagship policies."

Surely discovering that you're more unpopular - sorry "toxic" - than your arch-nemesis, the man who you've long blamed for all of the economy's ills and on whose alleged unpopularity you've staked the Tory re-election strategy, is worth a good cry?