THE BLOG
23/08/2012 08:50 BST | Updated 23/10/2012 06:12 BST

The Economy: New Chancellor Please

There was an arresting BBC documentary recently called 'Wonderland: Young, Bright, and on the Right.' Initially it was quite amusing, depicting, as it did, some late teenage hoorays in the Conservative associations of Oxford and Cambridge wearing jackets and ties, drinking port, and planning their assault on Westminster. Some were appallingly posh.

There was an arresting BBC documentary recently called 'Wonderland: Young, Bright, and on the Right.' Initially it was quite amusing, depicting, as it did, some late teenage hoorays in the Conservative associations of Oxford and Cambridge wearing jackets and ties, drinking port, and planning their assault on Westminster. Some were appallingly posh.

Clearly, the eccentric young politicos were astonishingly ideal pre-fab material for any film-maker wanting to show life at the psychological margins. By the end, however, it had turned sad; both the main characters, one from each of the ancient universities, mingling as they were amongst privilege and the old school tie were natural outsiders, and neither from a rich background. One of them, his father in prison, said his northern accent had attracted snobbery. As a child he'd struggled with dyslexia, devouring books on a wide variety of subjects after being diagnosed, desperate to catch up. The other main character was a painful combination of youthful spirit and loneliness. By the end I felt guilty for laughing at them at the start.

What also came to mind, however, amid the complexity of late teenage development, of leaving home, trying to fit in socially and setting early professional goals, was the reality that this was the political crucible from which David Cameron and George Osborne had sprung.

On its own that's fine. Who hasn't made an arse of themselves at university? And in Mr Cameron's case, he did have one job outside politics, as head of PR for Carlton TV.

But Mr Osborne's first proper job was at Conservative Central Office, and he's been a full-time politico ever since.

And the nagging thought I have about that documentary is this: had the director given us a proper look at the posh, public school members of both associations, just how scary would it have been?

Much was made of the Bullingdon Club shenanigans when Cameron and Osborne first rose to prominence, and some inverted snobbery was clearly involved, the Mirror and The Guardian up to hijinks.

But the news this week that the Government borrowed 600 million pounds in July, when the City had been forecasting a two billion surplus, was somewhat alarming.

The disappointing figures are partly attributable to a temporary shutdown of the Elgin gas field in the North Sea, leading to a fall in corporation tax receipts.

The crisis in the Eurozone is clearly a credible excuse for the double dip too; it would be fascinating to know where the economy would be now were Mr Darling still in Number 11. It seems plausible to suggest that Labour would be bleating just as loudly about Spain and Greece.

And yet, when the Daily Telegraph initially leads, as it did on Wednesday, with the Institute of Directors calling for a new strategy for growth, you know the Tories are in trouble.

To be fair, plans are said to be afoot: there is talk of a major house-building programme being announced when Parliament returns, and reform of the Highways Agency, enabling it to borrow money to spend on roads. Plus there were the receptions held during the Olympics.

But in business, confidence is often said to be key. Indexes are published, surveys carried out.

And confidence in the Chancellor is ebbing away.

Mr Osborne hasn't run a factory, making things. He hasn't worked in a bank, hasn't been an accountant, hasn't spent time in the service sector. His degree is in modern history.

But he is, somehow, Chancellor of the Exchequer. For which he is arguably unsuited.

And whatever his general intellectual abilities, he was given a leg-up through private school and Oxford. Had he gone to a comprehensive and a red-brick university, where would he be now? Would he have done as well as John Major did, without even a degree? Maybe he would. Or perhaps he'd be nowhere near.

The Prime Minister's already indicated his coming re-shuffle will not inaugurate a new Chancellor.

There are suggestions that to change the occupant of Number 11 would be an admittance of failure.

But to continue with Mr Osborne next door would perhaps be to invite further failure. Tony Blair should have removed Gordon Brown from the Treasury. Will David Cameron have the courage to do what his predecessor but one failed to do? His own future may partly depend on it.