When the Premiership season starts tomorrow, there’ll doubtless be a commentator somewhere who’ll explain that the title winner will be the one able to win not only the big games, but also the smaller ones. They’ll note the importance of momentum, and how the eventual champions will be the ones who keep ticking over, avoiding the major hurdles.
The same logic applies to politics, and in that sense, this week has been a good one for Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. It’s not been the biggest week of his career. They’ve been a couple of major announcements, but nothing with quite the significance of the Budget or Spending Review. Yet the Chancellor approaches the weekend with cause for optimism and his seemingly inevitable journey to Number 10 as clear as ever.
The big announcement for the week has of course been the sell-off of RBS shares. A potentially contentious issue, the Chancellor has weathered the storm with economists noting that while the sale might return a loss, the decision is still the right one. And Mr Osborne ends the week with the news the Bank of England expects further economic growth with low prices and rising wages.
It is news like this that typifies Mr Osborne’s rise ever since the nadir of the so-called ‘omnishambles Budget’.
Small wonder then that bookies now have Mr Osborne well out in front of his presumptive rivals for the Tory leadership when David Cameron steps down. And even this news has helped the Chancellor, coupled as it was with the revelation that Boris Johnson – Mr Osborne’s presumed main rival – had dropped behind Business Secretary Sajid Javid (a longstanding Osborne ally) in the pecking order.
News of expected wage rises (even if the effects of eventual interest rate rises represent a far off cloud in the sky) from the Bank of England will tighten Mr Osborne’s already vice-like grip on the leadership of his party. Having been the hatchet man for much of the past five years, he is now fully enjoying his renaissance – his profile and image improving in line with the economy.
Boris Johnson will rise again. And others may well emerge to challenge Mr Osborne in the years to come. But barring an economic calamity that can be laid at his feet, it’s difficult at this moment in time to see much in the way of an impediment to his ascent to the leadership, if not premiership.