Robert “Budget Is Regressive” Chote heads for the OBR

It could all end in tears for Cameron and Osborne.

Is the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) "independent"? It's a question my colleague David Blanchflower has been asking for several weeks now in his economics columns in the NS.

Today's appointment of Robert Chote of the Institute for Fiscal Studies as the new head of the OBR -- replacing the outgoing Sir Alan Budd -- will go a long way towards reassuring the likes of Blanchflower. Chote has a reputation as a freethinker and is considered impartial and credible.

He has said that if his appointment is confirmed (by Andrew Tyrie's Treasury select committee), the OBR will present its judgements "without fear or favour".

Chote joins his wife, Sharon White, who is a policy director at the Department for International Development, inside Cameron's big tent -- along with the likes of Will Hutton, Frank Field, Alan Milburn and, of course, the Liberal Democrats.

But here's a question: will Chote continue to describe June's emergency Budget as "regressive" after he takes up the reins at the OBR? It might be a tad awkward for Cameron, Osborne, Clegg et al if he does.

In fact, I suspect that Dave's attempts to erect a "big tent" might backfire on him in the same way as Gordon Brown's "government of all the talents", or "goats", did.

Meanwhile, over on the Telegraph blog, James Kirkup imagines the response of our former PM to news of this particular coalition appointment:

Mr Chote will now become a senior member of the wider Treasury establishment, only a few years after a certain Gordon Brown vacated HMT. It's an open secret that the former PM was not a fan of Mr Chote. The oft-repeated story that Mr Brown engineered Mr Chote's removal as economics editor of the FT in the late 1990s is overstated. But it's certainly the case that Mr Brown frequently referred to Mr Chote using robust language, calling him things that cannot be repeated on a family blog . . . today, we can only imagine Mr Brown's feelings.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

Getty
Show Hide image

Donald Trump vs Barack Obama: How the inauguration speeches compared

We compared the two presidents on trade, foreign affairs and climate change – so you (really, really) don't have to.

After watching Donald Trump's inaugural address, what better way to get rid of the last few dregs of hope than by comparing what he said with Barack Obama's address from 2009? 

Both thanked the previous President, with Trump calling the Obamas "magnificent", and pledged to reform Washington, but the comparison ended there. 

Here is what each of them said: 

On American jobs

Obama:

The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift.  And we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.  We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.  We'll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.  We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.  And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

Trump:

For many decades we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.

Obama had a plan for growth. Trump just blames the rest of the world...

On global warming

Obama:

With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

Trump:

On the Middle East:

Obama:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. 

Trump:

We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.

On “greatness”

Obama:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned.

Trump:

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

 

On trade

Obama:

This is the journey we continue today.  We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth.  Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began.  Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week, or last month, or last year.  Our capacity remains undiminished.  

Trump:

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland