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Mick Temple’s Blog



George Osborne MP

It’s Mandy versus Osborne in the row over who said what on a Russian millionaires yacht. But as Mick Temple observes, there may be others involved as well.

Say what you like about Mandy, but his return has livened up British politics. He’s not been in the job two shakes of a Brazilian’s backside before a juicy scandal hits the fan.

On the surface, it’s all a big fuss about nothing. George Osborne leaked Mandelson’s private opinion of our PM to the papers. Well, we know Mandy thinks Gordon is fundamentally flawed.

The astonishing thing about this story is Nathaniel Rothschild’s letter to The Time. Despite the fact that nothing illegal was done, Rothschild’s assertions have seriously damaged Osborne’s chances of the Chancellorship.

Chancellors, like Caesar’s wife, have to be above suspicion.

What must have horrified both Cameron and Osborne is the source of the poisoned umbrella tip. From the composition of the shadow cabinet, one might have thought that Tory toffs stick together. Rothschild was a fellow member of the Bullingdon Club, that most exclusive of all Oxford student societies (and brilliantly immortalised as the Bollinger Club in Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall).

Apparently, Rothschild felt that Osborne had unforgivably broken the code of omerta – what gets said at private meetings of such exalted company remains within the cabin walls.

So – the commentators are baying for Osborne’s blood. Even some of his own party are saying he needs to go.

And if Cameron follows the path of most recent political leaders he’ll cling on to Osborne for days or weeks and then bow to the pressure and (with expressions of great regret) ‘reluctantly’ accept his colleague’s resignation.

I don’t suppose even for one shake of a Brazilian’s bum that David Cameron reads this column – or that he would take any notice of it, even if he did. But I would caution him against bowing to the pressure.

Cameron should stand by his man. With a general election on its way, he cannot afford to lose one of the few genuine talents on his front bench. This story could, if Cameron, Osborne and other top Tories maintain their own code of silence, die from natural causes very soon. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Osborne’s biggest mistake was failing to consider the implications of taking on Mandelson who has few scruples about marshalling his mates when necessary. And it appears unlikely that Osborne leaked Mandy’s poisonous verdict on his new master without high-level Tory discussions.

Has anyone asked Cameron whether he was consulted by Osborne before the decision to leak? If so, I haven’t seen it.

The Conservatives must hope no-one starts asking the big question – did David Cameron encourage Osborne to attack Mandelson? And if he did, does that not suggest it is Cameron’s judgement that must be questioned here, and not Osborne’s?



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