George “submarine” Osborne has never been particularly popular either in Westminster or the country at large. That won’t have unduly bothered the Tories. After all they don’t need their chancellor to be liked.
But they do need him to be thought of as capable.
Worryingly for them, the switch from unpopular to incapable is taking place. Whilst only three months ago George Osborne and Ed Balls were closely matched when Ipsos-Mori asked the public who would make the best chancellor, now a gap has opened up. An 8 point gap to be precise (Balls 37% Osborne 29%), and one that broadly reflects current polling for the two parties.
The economy is clearly one of the key determinants (if not the key determinant) of voting intention. So it’s baffling why we aren’t sticking it to the government on the economy at every possible opportunity (see today’s PMQs for proof).
Yet, as I’ve argued before, Labour has a long way to go to regain real and lasting economic credibility. The real take away from these figures shouldn’t be that we’ve already done the hard work (because we haven’t), but that a reputation for economic competence can be lost incredibly quickly. Years of Cameroon detox undone with the context of one red briefcase.
From unpopular to incapable, and probably onwards to incompetent.
The submarine? He’s sunk.