PoliticsHome | Only the latest five entries on the PhiWire are visible to non-subscribers
- Sign up to see last 24 hours
Dont have an account?Sign up here
Friday 6th July 2012 | 12:51
George Osborne was due to do a pooled TV clip with the broadcasters yesterday soon after the Commons vote on a banking inquiry.
But I'm told that he pulled out at the last minute. Instead, Danny Alexander ended up doing the soundbites to Sky, ITN and the BBC.
Critics are already muttering that this has shades of the Chancellor sending Chloe Smith out onto Newsnight for a Paxo stuffing*.
Labour are bound to speculate that George's absence was designed to avoid any tricky questions asking him to repeat on the record his aides' line (as tweeted by Nick Robinson) that "Osborne is willing to accept Balls' assertion that he had no conversations about Libor".
Anyhoo, I put this to Treasury sources and they say the explanation is more prosaic. They always planned to do either a clip or a point of order. "Once Balls had done his point of order, it gave George the perfect opportunity and we thought it looked good enough not to need a clip," they say.
The same sources say the BBC preferred the Commons clip anyway.
The Treasury also say the Chancellor has been wilfully misquoted by Balls as he never alleged his Shadow had had conversations about Libor, only that he had 'questions to answer'.
Mr Osborne must be pleased that he got the Joint Committee he wanted and Labour's bluff was called this week on the banking inquiry. In what felt at times like a general election campaign, he also chucked some mud at Balls that may inevitably stick.
Still, some Tory backbenchers are grumbling that this week has proved that Osborne has failed in his other part-time job: as election supremo. The Times quoted one MP today saying he the Chancellor had a 'disproportionate obsession' with Mr Balls.
Supporters point out that the vast majority of Tory backbenchers loved to see Balls squirm in the Commons.
It's not been an easy year for George. Boris appears to have overtaken him as a natural next Tory leader (though the maths and timing on that are not clear). His Budget U-turns have seriously dented his reputation for competence and now some say the past week has proven that he has overreached himself in a raw political dogfight.
But it's far too early to write his political obituary. Allies say there are plenty of years left in this Coalition - and in George Osborne.
Speaking of the Newsnight carcrash, some Tory loyalists feel that Osbo has unfairly been accused of sending Chloe in against Paxman. They point out that Danny Alexander was on Radio 4's The World Tonight just 25 minutes earlier and could easily have done both.
I'm told however that Danny did his World Tonight interview as a pre-record earlier in the day. He was nowhere near TV Centre on the night.
Be briefed for £1.50 a week...PoliticsHome PRO Find out more