They say that George Osborne is a great tactician, but I'm starting to wonder how that can be a possible? Unless 'tactic' is another word for something else?
Before the election Osborne and Co gave a very strong impression that there would not be big cuts to the less well-off. Indeed this could be seen as exploiting a gap. The £10bn of extra savings required would come from elsewhere, although the actual source was never described. So the tactic was to not explain this before the election and to then quickly implement something after reaching power. A kind of 'stand and deliver' tactic?
Then there was the matter of the Treasury Select Committee, which urged that the proposed changes be reconsidered. This wasn't a quick aside, but a lengthy meeting with Osborne in a hot seat across the table from the Committee urging a different approach. Osborne's tactic was to hold his ground with his right eye on the £4.5bn. After the Lords rebuttal, his subsequent tactic has been to say he is listening.
Then the tactic of using a statutory instrument to speed through the change, instead of a new Act of Parliament. This means it is regarded as a change to something already in place, rather than something fundamentally new. More for tweaks than for fundamental changes.
Maybe the tactic to rename the tagline of the party as being the workers' party. No Orwellian doublespeak here, of course.
Then when it all went wrong in the House of Lords, a couple of new tactics emerged. First was one to accuse the Lords of wrecking things contained in the Conservative manifesto. This doesn't seem quite right to me, Osborne and the Conservatives did their best to not discuss their plans for changes to benefits before the election.
The second new tactic is to challenge the Lords power of veto. Divert the discussion to a constitutional one about power. This isn't the bigger debate about the second chamber, more one avoiding any further trip-ups for Osborne.
And today's new tactics, to say that the changes to the Lords will need to be careful considered, but then as Chris Grayling has already remarked, to draw up some proposals to change them in 'the next few hours'. And finally, to rotate a range of ministers through the TV and radio studios, fully on message with all of Osborne's agenda.
So let's review those tactics:
- avoid mentioning the tax credit reform before the election
- have a plan ready for fast implementation after reaching power
- avoid listening to the major concerns expressed by Treasury Select Committee
- adopting a workers' party moniker, playing on a particular use of the wording
- using a statutory instrument to downplay the change through Parliament
- after Lords rejection claim to have been listening all along
- misrepresenting the manifests as part of the Lords rejection
- diverting attention to the Lords powers
- pressure selling the point of view through any media that will listen