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Why they call Chancellor Osborne The Submarine

HE is known as The Submarine, surfacing only at moments of fine weather and sinking beneath the waves when a storm is brewing up top.

After David Cameron recently came in for potshots from Tory right-wingers, complaining about the LibDem tail wagging the Tory dog, George Osborne is now in the line of fire over a Budget presentation even the creators of The Thick of It could barely have imagined. The no-holds-barred aide Malcolm Tucker would have turned the air deepest blue if real life had been turned into fiction.

Privately, the Chancellor will be blaming those scheming LibDems for leaking Budget details; no doubt thinking opportunism is not confined to the official Opposition.

Last week – when, incidentally, the Commons was not sitting – the Government performed not one but three U-turns on the "omnishambles" Budget, reversing ferret on pasty, caravan and charity taxes. Poor David Gauke, junior treasury minister, was wheeled out to defend the indefensible while his boss made a brief appearance and, true to form, dived below the surface.

Yesterday, as Mr Cameron admitted to having messed up on the Budget but gave himself Brownie points for fessing up, a Tory backbencher in a feeble piece of backbiting – bylined as "anonymous" – penned a highly critical article about Mr Osborne, branding him a "part-time Chancellor" interested in gossip but not, it seems, the economy.

The author claimed Mr Osborne was a slacker, who "just doesn't do the work", and wanted him swapped with William Hague. He kind of gave away his/her credentials when he/she suggested a minority Tory Government after 2015 was preferable to "another five years of the centrist mush we get from Cameron and Clegg".

This sniping comes just weeks after Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries branded the PM and his Chancellor "two posh boys who don't know the price of a bottle of milk".

It is, of course, from the traditional right where the LibDem-hugging Notting Hill set will get stick from their own. A right-wing eurosceptic grouping, which constantly rattles the Cameron and Osborne cages, could prove a nagging, debilitating force in the run-up to the next General Election on the issue of a referendum on EU membership.

In the wake of another omnishambles that was the BSkyB bid, the PM is expected to reshuffle his Cabinet pack once the Olympics are out of the way. In a Coalition where maintaining political equilibrium is all-important, no-one has suggested Mr Cameron will ditch his blood brother; they are too intertwined on economic policy. While their rhetoric on deficit reduction might have changed to give more prominence to growth, the Prime Minister and his Chancellor are inextricably linked on the key policy of austerity. Yet the omnishambles of the Budget will seem like a Jubilee street party if a Greek exit sparks panic across Europe.

On June 14, Mr Osborne is due to make his annual Mansion House speech. Coming just three days before the Greeks go to the polls with the eurozone hanging in the balance, it could prove to be one of the most important of his Chancellorship.

It won't, however, satisfy his critics, anonymous or otherwise.

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