George Osborne doesn't like it if your blinds are down in the morning

Other Tory initiatives include "fold your clothes better", "tidy your room" and "call your grandmother more often, she likes to talk to you."

George Osborne told the Today programme that:

It is unfair that [a] person leaves their home early in the morning and they pull the door behind them and they are going to do their job and they look at their next-door neighbour, the blinds are down and that family is living a life on benefits. That is unfair as well and we are going to tackle that as part of tackling this country's economic problems.

The rhetoric has moved beyond simple scapegoating of the poor, and on to silliness. For the benefit of Osborne, here are other reasons why your neighbour may have their blinds down while you head to work:

  • They may leave their blinds down for security reasons
  • They may leave their blinds down because they leave home before it gets light
  • They may leave their blinds down because they leave home before their children wake up
  • They may leave their blinds down because they don't want light in their house
  • They may leave their blinds down because they work from home and don't need to take a punishing commute
  • They may leave their blinds down because they work a night shift and only just got back home before you left for work
  • They may leave their blinds down because their disability means they require more sleep than people who have the good fortune to be healthy
  • They may leave their blinds down because they don't want to raise them and don't really understand why that is now the test of whether or not they are thought of as "living a life on benefits"

If you're wondering why Osborne decided to pick on that particular example, well. Just look at his neighbour's house:

Blinds. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Theresa May's "clean Brexit" is hard Brexit with better PR

The Prime Minister's objectives point to the hardest of exits from the European Union. 

Theresa May will outline her approach to Britain’s Brexit deal in a much-hyped speech later today, with a 12-point plan for Brexit.

The headlines: her vow that Britain will not be “half in, half out” and border control will come before our membership of the single market.

And the PM will unveil a new flavour of Brexit: not hard, not soft, but “clean” aka hard but with better PR.

“Britain's clean break from EU” is the i’s splash, “My 12-point plan for Brexit” is the Telegraph’s, “We Will Get Clean Break From EU” cheers the Express, “Theresa’s New Free Britain” roars the Mail, “May: We’ll Go It Alone With CLEAN Brexit” is the Metro’s take. The Guardian goes for the somewhat more subdued “May rules out UK staying in single market” as their splash while the Sun opts for “Great Brexpectations”.

You might, at this point, be grappling with a sense of déjà vu. May’s new approach to the Brexit talks is pretty much what you’d expect from what she’s said since getting the keys to Downing Street, as I wrote back in October. Neither of her stated red lines, on border control or freeing British law from the European Court of Justice, can be met without taking Britain out of the single market aka a hard Brexit in old money.

What is new is the language on the customs union, the only area where May has actually been sparing on detail. The speech will make it clear that after Brexit, Britain will want to strike its own trade deals, which means that either an unlikely exemption will be carved out, or, more likely, that the United Kingdom will be out of the European Union, the single market and the customs union.

(As an aside, another good steer about the customs union can be found in today’s row between Boris Johnson and the other foreign ministers of the EU27. He is under fire for vetoing an EU statement in support of a two-state solution, reputedly to curry favour with Donald Trump. It would be strange if Downing Street was shredding decades of British policy on the Middle East to appease the President-Elect if we weren’t going to leave the customs union in order at the end of it.)

But what really matters isn’t what May says today but what happens around Europe over the next few months. Donald Trump’s attacks on the EU and Nato yesterday will increase the incentive on the part of the EU27 to put securing the political project front-and-centre in the Brexit talks, making a good deal for Britain significantly less likely.

Add that to the unforced errors on the part of the British government, like Amber Rudd’s wheeze to compile lists of foreign workers, and the diplomatic situation is not what you would wish to secure the best Brexit deal, to put it mildly.

Clean Brexit? Nah. It’s going to get messy. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.