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What Cameron and Osborne’s rare joint appearance tells us about their relationship

22 April 2014

David Cameron and George Osborne managed to garner more attention for their infrastructure announcement (or re-announcement) today by organising their first joint appearance alone together in four years – and making sure the media were aware that this was the case. The pair haven’t appeared together in public for a while partly because they fear doing so would suggest to voters that the government was run by two chaps from very similar backgrounds; better to dilute it by pitching up with other ministers, hopefully with vaguely different backstories.

But it is also quite impressive that the two men haven’t felt the need to do these joint appearances after questions about splits between them. That’s because those questions rarely arise, and when they do, they’re rarely valid. They have differed over policies including tax breaks for married couples, but never resorted to briefing wars.

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They don’t need to do these funny launches where they pretend to get along and everyone in the audience winces. It’s often the thing that a politician is least comfortable with that they focus on the most when doing photocalls. I interviewed Mark Littlewood about his time spinning for the Lib Dems for Radio 4’s Week in Westminster recently, and he made the same point about Ming Campbell, who went to more efforts to show he was still youthful than was perhaps wise.

The relationship between Ed Miliband and Ed Balls requires more joint appearances, too, because the Shadow Chancellor hasn’t always marched in step with his boss. Most recently, Balls appeared to twist the knife a little at a briefing after the Labour leader’s poor Budget response. But he also continually pushed the leadership on its stance on HS2, seeming to set the bar for support a little higher than Miliband would. Osborne himself referred to Labour’s wobble over HS2 today, saying ‘attempts to break the consensus by some politicians have actually not got anywhere because the rest of the political party concerned said we want to go ahead with this’.

As Francis Elliott reveals in the Times today, advisers keep a close watch on any behaviour that could be read as signs of a split, but those who work closely with them also remark on their natural unity. One close colleague tells me that the only time he’s every seen a hair’s breadth between them is when the Prime Minister has, very politely, corrected Osborne on a finer point of economic theory, which reminds everyone in the room who out of the pair has a History degree, and who has a first in PPE. That sounds like a pretty healthy relationship.

What this appearance was really doing isn’t trying to argue one thing or another about Osborne and Cameron: it’s putting pressure on Labour to do the same and make its two top men speak together on economic policy, rather than hiding Ed Balls away. And getting a little bit more attention for a launch that was essentially a re-launch of existing spending commitments, thereby driving home the pair’s message about the economy.

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Show comments
  • Terence Hale

    Oh ! What a strange coincidence .with “Max and Moritz” it was the same.

  • HookesLaw

    Back in the day, Blair had to have Brown attached at the hip to avoid the left wing flak from his own party; later nobody wanted to be seen in the same room as Brown and then Mrs Brown had to act as the PMs bodyguard.
    Thank goodness those days are gone. Pity the people who conspire to bring them back.

    Oh and thanks to the good parformance of the econom y we have £32 billion of infrastricture this year – causing a shortage of construction workers, don’t y’ know Nigel?

  • Monkey_Bach

    I prefer the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge to a pair of flint-hearted reptilian men in black as far as modern couples go. Even though, according to the Daily Mail, Osborne is irresistibly attractive to the ladies. Shome mistake surely, Mr. Daker?

  • Mc Kenzie

    “Government of Top Chums”

  • @PhilKean1

    You think that this type of thinking is in Britain’s national interest?

    You can think like this man – – and use such unpatriotic reasons to justify unlimited EU immigration –

    – or you could say that UK firms are now under no pressure and feel no obligation to train inexperienced British job-seekers because they have the easy option of importing East Europeans.

    It ain’t rocket science. The pro-EU, Liberal-left’s complete dominance of British politics MUST be broken at the 2015 General Election.

  • Lady Magdalene

    Look at Osborne’s face in that picture …. “looking daggers” sums it up.

  • Hello

    Also, note that for a party that apparently wants to run a “presidential-style” campaign, the Conservatives have spent an awful lot of time promoting those beneath Cameron in the media. They’re trying to convince the electorate that there is a hard core of Tory cabinet ministers that were genuinely born to do the jobs that they are doing, and yes Cameron is a great president, but actually that’s pretty unimportant because he has the team in place.

    And no one is more competent than a potential future PM. Even more competent is the one that can serve the sitting PM.

  • jason green

    Osborne looks very creepy and malevolent in the above photo. Looking very uncomfortable in his own skin.

  • alabenn

    So this was a joint meeting to force Miliband and Balls, who can barely bring themselves to speak to each other, into having a staged meeting, that hopefully will show the public that electing Labour and you end up with a replay of the Blair and Brown hatefest at the heart of government.
    Do you really think Cameron and Osborne could really come up with such a well thought out strategy.

    • telemachus

      You folks know nothing

      Isabels post references

      ‘Overall we thought that was pretty underwhelming: Ed Miliband had written pages of his speech which weren’t used in the end because they referred to things that might be in there but weren’t and, so, you know, he obviously had to fill the space by going on and on about Michael Gove’s comments…’

      as evidence of a split
      Will not wash
      As a broad church political party we have a healthy synthesis of views before ensuring that voters have opportunity to vote on socially cohesive fair policies

      • Colonel Mustard

        Give it a rest. You can’t control what is blogged and discussed here by tagging everything.

        • HookesLaw

          ‘give it a rest’? You are joking surely. Lokk at all the other nujob kneejerk comments.
          Comments which at the end of the day are empty, a void, have nothing to say.
          Crime down I see, thanks to economic progress apparently.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Wrong enemy again. The other commentators are not routinely tagging the top comment with Labour party propaganda. They are entitled to articulate their opinions.


            telemachus is just trolling.

      • Tony_E

        It’s amazing that your loyalty can persuade you that this statement isn’t simply one man questioning another man’s ability – especially on the economy.

        You are totally unable to see the faults in your own side and their arguments. On the other hand, the right tends to be a much broader church (with one notable exception here).

        It is that inability to be critical that landed us in the mess we are currently in, economic, social and constitutional, as no-one on your side took the time to think about the last ‘great leader’s schemes before blindly trooping through the lobbies to support them.

        • telemachus

          Faults there may be
          But the synthesis will lead to a fairer society

          • Colonel Mustard

            No it won’t. It will lead to East Germany.

      • CharlietheChump

        Dull, repetitive, wrong.

  • Your Correspondent

    Good to see the PM sporting UKIP purple!

    • In2minds

      Well spotted! And have you noticed the Osborne haircut, it’s going a bit Miliband, what to make of that? Politics out of control and all over the place.

      • Agrippina

        He is also trying like dave to hide his bald spot, hence the haircut and colour.

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