As the dust settles on yesterday’s raucous, oft undignified bar room brawl-esque scenes in the Commons chamber during the banking inquiry debate, several Conservative MPs have expressed serious concerns at George Osborne’s “disproportionate obsession” with his opposite number.
Earlier this week, the chancellor, in an explosive interview with the Spectator, accused Ed Balls of complicity in the Libor scandal, saying he has “questions to answer”. Yesterday, Osborne said the shadow chancellor had “smeared his way through 13 years of Labour government”. Now, though, it is him in the firing line – from his own side as well as Labour.
Today’s Times reports (£):
One Tory said Mr Osborne’s obsession with Mr Balls and ‘Whitehall sources’ was a ‘red herring.’’ They added: “There was no smoking gun.”
Another worried about his priorities: “People want us to sort out the effing banks, not worry about what Ed Balls might have said four years ago.”
Another suggested Mr Osborne should spend more time in the Treasury: “When are we going to get a chancellor who is not part time? You can’t run the sixth largest economy in the world with a mate-ocracy.”
Andrea Leadsom, a member of the Commons Treasury select committee, said the name-calling was “a great shame”. She added: “I don’t think it’s helpful.”
Bernard Jenkin, chair of the Public Administration Select Committee, said: “I have to say to both front benches, this has not been the House of Commons’ finest hour.”
In the Telegraph, Fraser Nelson calls the battle between Balls and Osborne as “a fight to the death… the question of who is to blame for the Libor interest-rate scandal will be front and centre at the next general election”.
Reflecting on yesterday’s debate, meanwhile, the Telegraph’s Michael Deacon describes how a “venomous, slithering” chancellor “ambushed his prey”; the Guardian’s Caroline Davies compares it to Ali v Frazier, “for sheer pugilistic spectacle, for mutual enmity and for knuckle-bruising brutality”; and the Indy’s Simon Carr likens it to “medieval football… whole villages turning out to fight over a ball, losing the ball and just fighting”.
Osborne may have won yesterday’s Commons vote, but, if he isn’t careful, may end up losing his credibility, competence, and the next election.