The National Infrastructure Commission announcement was a masterclass in Osborne tactics contained within a substantial speech
The chancellor’s move to steal one of Labour’s best ideas – that of a National Infrastructure Commission to help get infrastructure projects planned and prioritised more quickly – was a masterclass in Osborne tactics contained within a substantial speech that roused the party faithful.
By shamelessly taking on the plan which Sir John Armitt had drawn up for former shadow chancellor Ed Balls before the election, Osborne both addressed a major flaw in the government’s infrastructure strategy and neutered Labour attacks on the subject.
It will be doubly galling for Labour that he has lured the party’s highly regarded, if technocratic, former transport secretary, Lord Adonis, to run the commission.
It will be doubly galling for Labour that he has lured the party’s highly regarded, if technocratic, former transport secretary, Lord Adonis, to run the commission
But while Osborne’s infrastructure announcement was the big news of the week for construction, it also contained news on devolution, on the acceleration of public land sales, on local authority pension funds, and a reiteration of his resolve to build more homes and accelerate brownfield land development.
Conference delegates thronged the Manchester G-Mex and Midland hotel in confident mood, jubilant at their election victory and Labour’s woes. However, they were daily reminded by a battle through anti-austerity protesters manning the secure zone entrance that the country is not wholly united. So, reflecting this vulnerability, Osborne’s speech also contained a vigorous defence of the party’s Right to Buy policy, using words echoed over and again by CLG ministers during the week.
The overwhelming vote of housing associations to accept the Right to Buy extension will have given ministers a boost – but they are still aware the policy is being vigorously opposed by Labour, and isn’t polling well. There is likely to be more rhetoric of this kind to come.
Joey Gardiner, deputy editor