As a general rule, I think people are too ready to knock politicians they don’t agree with as stupid. It’s particularly striking when someone whose best result is a distant sixth place in a council by-election seven years ago pontificates about how they are so much politically smarter than the Prime Minster. It also applies more widely and is one reason why Gordon Brown puzzled me for so many years during his time as Chancellor.
Anyone who gets to be Chancellor, especially for as many years as he did, has some political talent lurking somewhere in his character. Yet all the talk about him at the time as a great strategist left me rather cold as from the outside his personal political strategy seemed to be to (a) disappear from the scene when big issues hit (remember how silent he fell over Tube privatisation and Iraq, for example) and (b) to let the press paint a picture of him as someone who was frequently in tiffs with Tony Blair that sounds more like teenage temper tantrums than serious successful politician.
And yet, and yet… when it came to him becoming Prime Minister, it was the flaws not the greatness which were the defining feature.
So when it comes to George Osborne, again someone heavily feted by those who know him best but leaving a public trail of obvious questions about his real ability, I’m increasingly of the view that he too is of the Gordon Brown mould: just too many flaws to be a success save when circumstances make it easy. And circumstances aren’t making it easy now.