Free of his pesky Liberal Democrat coalition partners, George Osborne was last week finally able to present a “totally Tory” budget – the first since 1996. With a Parliamentary majority, and a general election the best part of five years away, the Chancellor was well-placed to do what Conservatives are supposed to do, taking further steps to get our public finances in order. Except that he didn’t.
Since last week’s Commons set piece, Osborne has rightly won political plaudits. His package of measures displayed trademark strategic acumen and rhetorical guile. By putting welfare cuts front-and-centre and finally pledging to spend 2pc of GDP on defence, the Chancellor burnished his credentials among the Tory faithful, positioning himself for the party leadership contest which, it is widely assumed, will take place later this Parliament.