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 988.

    we live in a democracy? dont think we've had one of them for many years, the people tell politicians what we would like in our country, they promise to deliver, they get elected and fail to deliver, same old story, painted a different colour, usually red or blue. about time they grew some and worked for the ppl instead of sucking up to europe, heed this a revolt the common man will have his day

  • Comment number 987.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    Politicians, don't you just love them?

    When they are in government and the economy is in a mess then it is all the fault of the "global financial crisis" or the "Eurozone crisis" or whatever "crisis" may be going on, yet when they are in opposition it is all the fault of party in power.

    Conservative or Labour, both are powerless to halt the inevitable decline of our standard of living.

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    Employment guarantees for young people?

    It is nigh impossible to get a career started without some kind of work experience. How can young people get part time jobs when businesses' NI contributions are lowered by hiring convicted criminals?

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.


    You will NEVER EVER see this film on the mainstream media.

    Ever wondered why you have part of your wages stolen from you every week via an income tax that does not need to exist.


    Fractional reserve banking OWNS YOU.

    Your government know this and they provide you with a soap opera on the msm to distract you

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    #we're emigrating#

    No one likes migrants whatever way they go, they are the very selfish few. Part of the selfishness problem. No better than bankers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    Who does George Osborne think he’s kidding?
    This Government is made up of charlatans with a certain gift of the gab.
    David Cameron thinks that when he comes out with comments such, “He has my support” and “I am wholly behind these measures.” that there is nothing more to be said.
    Think again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    "Focus on what matters to the public", Just like they did with the NHS, university fees, public spending cuts, immigration, etc etc. This does not bode well. What matters to the pubic is that the SS UK is about to hit the recession iceberg, for a second time. The captain and first officers still aren't listening, but have made sure their own lifeboat is fully stocked juts in case. Time for mutiny

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    I just got the payoff for paying 24 years of an endowment mortgage. Its 1/3 short of the mortgage. Any party which regulates the financial sector to stop them robbing the population gets my vote. I notice that the Labour part doesnt even mention this. Remember this in thirty years time when the political class of today are retired in their cosy European retirement sun, you were used.

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    I don't like the way George Osborne seems to sneer patronizingly when asked a difficult question about the validity of his policies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    Some countries have been living beyond their means (Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland) and are now suffering. Austerity cuts are necessary but admittedly unpleasant for those without work, struggling.

    Only mistake tories have made - cutting tax on high earners. Ordinary voters do not understand that this is to attract investment/kobs. All they see is the Tory party looking after the rich.

  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    The trouble with political jokes is that they keep getting elected!

  • rate this

    Comment number 976.

    I am still a little at a loss as to why the recent budget was so unpopular. It seems to me that the "Granny tax" was entirely reasonable - there is no reason why a pensioner needs more money than anyone else. The "Pasty tax" was mere window dressing, economically insignificant in comparison to the rise in the income tax threshold. I've never voted Conservative but I felt the budget was fair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    So he has not been focusing 100%. So what has he been doing?

    Thats right, cutting and taxing the working men women and stealing from the children and the old.

    So far his focus has been on keeping the banks de-regulated, and cuttin tax for the rich. 100%

    All from a goverment that has no MANDATE from the people to govern.

  • rate this

    Comment number 974.

    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!
    Heh ..you must be trolling...
    ... This post will get a massive thumbs down from the lefty fascists permanently on here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 973.

    If the cuts were working in any way imaginable then why are we borrowing over £150 Billion pounds more for this year? [And that is with those cuts]

    When the really big cuts kick in will we be borrowing over £300 Billion to cover them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 972.

    The reason Osborne needs to focus 100% on the economy is because so far his policies are not working. The establishments who caused the economic disaster are getting richer and, those who are being made to pay for their mistakes, poorer. How to divide a nation in one easy lesson by George Osborne.

  • rate this

    Comment number 971.

    The coalition is, without doubt, taking the right course by doing all it can to eliminate Labour's massive overspending. Anyone who thinks that the UK can climb out of Labour's hole by borrowing more needs to have their head examined; trouble is, those who believe differently are the very people who have relied on excessive borrowing and given no thought to clearing their debts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 970.

    perhaps more people will get off their backsides and vote out the Tories

  • rate this

    Comment number 969.

    936. Billythefirst

    I don't know. Maybe we should listen to a Frenchman who has moved to the UK to understand why he did so.
    Ever been to Dordogne?

    Looks like people from both countries migrate to better themselves Who would have thought it - better close all the borders now..


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