Osborne urges '100% focus' on economy after election defeats


The chancellor reacts to criticism from Conservative MP Nadine Dorries

George Osborne has said his party will focus on what matters to the public amid criticism from Conservative MPs in the wake of local election defeats.

Some Tories have urged the coalition to drop plans for electing the House of Lords and legalising gay marriage in favour of more populist policies.

The chancellor told the BBC ministers should "focus 100%" on the economy and not get "distracted" by other issues.

But they would still do "socially progressive" things, he insisted.

He was responding to criticism of the coalition's direction and priorities from some Conservative-supporting newspapers and backbench Tory MPs.

On Wednesday, the coalition will outline its agenda for the next year in the Queen's Speech, as it tries to regain the initiative after both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems suffered heavy losses in local elections.

'Change direction'

Many Conservative MPs want ministers to use the occasion to assert more traditional Conservative priorities on issues such as welfare, crime and tax and either delay or abandon proposals to legalise gay marriage and reform the House of Lords, seen predominately as Liberal Democrat ideas.

Mr Osborne told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that "100% of our efforts need to be directed" at fixing the economy, which is back in recession.


"Incompetent" and "out of touch" - those have been the two most damaging charges against the coalition in recent weeks.

After the hammering in local elections, ministers are pressing the reset button.

George Osborne had one central task today: To persuade voters that he understood their concerns, and would act on them.

There would be no time for any "distractions".

So House of Lords reform will be discussed by Parliament, but it wasn't a priority.

Consultation would continue on gay marriage, but there will be no legislation for it soon.

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg are preparing to renew their vows.

But, with the Leveson Inquiry rumbling on, the economy stubbornly refusing to grow, and Tory and Lib Dem backbenchers agitating, there are plenty of "distractions" ahead.

While he believed the "national mood" was behind the need to get the deficit under control, he said he accepted many people were having a "very tough" time and had either backed other parties or not voted at all in last week's elections.

"The government understands your message. We take it on the chin and we have got to learn from what you are saying... what people are saying is focus on the things which really matter like the economy, welfare, education, crime and healthcare... and not get distracted by too many other issues".

Asked about plans to reform the House of Lords - which senior Tory Tim Yeo said should be "relegated right down to the bottom of the queue" - he said Parliament should debate the issue but it was not an "overriding" priority.

On proposals to legalise gay marriage by 2015, Mr Osborne said "we are a socially progressive country and it is something I support" but opposing views had to be listened to in a future consultation.

Earlier, Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries told the Stephen Nolan show on Radio 5 live the Conservatives could see even bigger losses in council elections next year unless the party "changed direction".

On the issue of leadership, Ms Dorries - a frequent critic of the prime minister and chancellor - said some of her colleagues could push for a confidence vote in the prime minister unless the situation improved in the next year and the issue was already being "discussed".

But her colleague Robert Halfon said the majority of MPs were "supportive" of the PM as the government confronted a very difficult economic situation and Conservative peer Lord Fowler said Mr Cameron should "stick to his guns".


For Labour, shadow chancellor Ed Balls said David Cameron and George Osborne had been "rattled" by the election results.

"For the Conservatives, it is much more deeper than mid-term blues," he told the Sunday Politics. "It is about an economic failure and a sense that Conservative leaders are out of touch and making the wrong calls about tax and fairness in the economy."

While Labour supported plans to reduce the deficit, he said the government's austerity plan was self-defeating and Mr Osborne was "in a hole" and "should stop digging".

Labour are calling for "practical steps" in this week's Queen's Speech to ease the burden on living standards, such as caps on rail fare rises and employment guarantees for young people.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 968.

    Georges comments are pretty much par for the course more notable are Tories whose response is to intensify their policies. It takes a real fanatic to turn "we don't like what you're doing into "we need to do a lot more of it"

  • rate this

    Comment number 967.

    Our "democracy" is a sham. The big parties rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic giving an illusion of us having a say in things. The reality is more like all the big policies being dictated by Big Business PLC, USA and Bilderberg etc and continues behind the scenes no matter what window dressing changes of government an election may bring!
    Tories=Labour=Libdem = £$ but not for us little people!

  • rate this

    Comment number 966.

    Nadine Dorries is just a lose cannon on the government backbenches. Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher has lose cannons to deal with and so does David Cameron.

    The government should concentrate on the important things like getting the deficit down and restructuring the economy and public services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 965.

    TORY MPs FRIGHTENED ABOUT LOOSING THEIR JOBS because they see the Tory leadership becoming SELF INTERESTED

    These same MPs state they are frightened about loosing the next election WHEN WILL THEY REALISE THEY NEVER WON ONE Its the colluding libdems who put them there

    As for Labour, well they now clearly show the whole thing is a CON!

    Democracy has become & perhaps always was a FALSE CHOICE !

  • rate this

    Comment number 964.

    I wonder how many of those who voted against the Tories were public sector employees. Most public sector workers understand the need for cuts and many would go willingly if offered reasonable terms. What most can't forgive is the relentless victimisation of public sector employees to pay for the excesses of the financial sector. There are a lot of us and we won't forget by the next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 963.

    The Tories have to cut. If they didn't we'd have sky-high borrowing rates like Spain, Italy or Greece. I'd rather short- than long-term austerity. Labour can promise what they like; they're in Opposition. It's a darn sight harder being in government!

  • rate this

    Comment number 962.

    Makes me wonder why I done 23 years in the army. Dont think I would fight a war with this lot in charge. Most likely fight for the other side!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 961.

    924. Adam

    I'm sure there are many honest Greek people who pay their taxes just like everyone else in the civilized world, but from what I've seen, it looks as if tax avoidance continues to pat a major part in Greece's economic problems."

    Don't get me wrong; I'm not disagreeing. However, it's far more complex than this one factor. That's the point I've tried to make.

  • rate this

    Comment number 960.

    917.Kenneth Galea
    We are sick and tired of hearing the same old broken record. The deficit we inherited from Labour. What did you expect Labour to do in the height of the crises back in 2008/9? They were injecting the economy with billions of pounds like other countries. The Tories are out of touch..
    But they were IN CHARGE & they didn't see it coming........
    Bull poop

  • rate this

    Comment number 959.

    Thanks for the indcrease in my pension, the same amount taken from me in Income tax result zero increase well done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 958.

    Well I'm happy that our visas came through and that we're emigrating, taking our degrees, skills and experience with us.

    Good luck fighting the chavs for what's left. I really feel for folks who do not have the means/skills to leave this toilet of an island.

    Last person to leave, please turn out the lights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 957.

    When the LibDems agreed coalition with the Tories it was the worst move they could have made. At the time somebody on a t v programme on a panel grinned and said it would be excellent for the Tories in the future because if or when things got really tough or went wrong they could blame the LibDems. Osborne is now taking the flack even though he doesn't make a budget without input from Cameron!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 956.

    CV For British Government:

    UK Economy - We couldn't organize a p*ss-up in a brewery!

    Book deal - No problem
    After dinner speaking - No problem
    Arabs round for coffee - No problem
    Private late night dinner parties - No problem
    Expense Account - Able to fiddle and claim depression as a defense
    Banking system - We like to help our buddies out

  • rate this

    Comment number 955.

    Its not pride, its HUBRIS! Nadine Dorries is right. This government, faster than almost any other, has lost touch with both the people who elected it, and all the other people it also serves!
    They need to develop a way to get banks to loan more to small businesses and start-ups. A better system of loan guarantees, using the government's own bank stockholding as guarantee capital? Plan B 2.0?

  • rate this

    Comment number 954.

    The problem, as I see it, is that the public have realised that austerity costs more than it saves. Every few months we hear that they've had to borrow another £100,000,000,000 as they minimise tax revenue. They've sucked so much money from the economy that people can't buy goods or services so more jobs are lost. It's a vicious circle but their heads are in the sand, time to change course

  • rate this

    Comment number 953.

    So he is going to now concentrate on the economy.

    So what has he been doing for the last two years while we have been in recession and the country is in a crisis, playing in his sandpit !?

    Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr odious fool.

  • rate this

    Comment number 952.

    Donation scandal showed that DC and Osborn are not serious about the big society and volunteering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 951.

    Further to 929 Clamp down on the CLAMPERS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 950.

    CamBorne just dont get it. you cannot cut and slash and expect people to spend.Stop looking at what is happening in the blue rinse areas of the country and start looking at what the problems are. The money raided from the post office pension fund should have been used to promote growth and not to pay off the debt. target areas that can grow such as contruction and lets see what happens

  • rate this

    Comment number 949.

    “The chancellor told the BBC ministers should "focus 100%" on the economy and not get "distracted" by other issues.”

    Like the wishes of the electorate. Ignore the will of the people at your own risk!


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