What about Redknapp?

Hodgson will pay the price for not being the chosen candidate of sportswriters.

Roy Hodgson is a dead man walking already. 

Look at the photos of him being driven to Wembley in the past couple of days and you’ll see a childlike gleam of excitement in his eyes. It’s as if he couldn’t believe that his day would come, yet he’s so delighted that it is. “Me, the manager of England!” he seems to be saying to himself. 
 
But that seemed to have gone already by yesterday’s first press conference, where the predictable questions began. Why wasn’t he Harry Redknapp? Why wasn’t he Harry Redknapp? And why wasn’t he Harry Redknapp? 
 
Never underestimate a wounded sportswriter. These people are valued by the knowledge and contacts they have, and they were all blindsided by the FA’s decision to go for Hodgson instead of Redknapp. It left them looking like the clueless bunch of sheep they really are, and they didn’t like it. 
 
No-one gave them the steer they wanted, so they behaved as a pack, telling their editors that they had the inside info and they knew what the decision would be. There was only one obvious choice – Harry Redknapp, the People’s Favourite, England’s Rosie 47, with his deflated whoopee cushion face, a man who would have needed a half-rolled-down car window to be brought to all press conferences to add that authentic touch. 
 
They were wrong, and now they look stupid. Hodgson will pay the price for not being their chosen candidate. 
 
And so it began. There were four questions about Redknapp at the press conference, though no-one asked the one that really mattered: Why on earth didn’t you pick the person we told you to? Over the past few days, Redknapp has been elevated to great status, to the level of Brian Clough, a man who won the European Cup twice (with players he could afford, it might be noted), and should have gone to the UEFA cup final as well, but for a bribed referee. 
 
Well, Redknapp’s not that good, but he’s not that bad either. It was probably a close decision. Hodgson hasn’t won a cabinet full of trophies during his managerial career either, but it was probably his experience in tournament football that tipped the vote his way. 
 
The first whispers of dissent from Hodgson’s camp will be seen as evidence that the FA got it wrong, rather than the more unpalatable possibility that this generation of players are a bunch of pampered infants who don’t care for the England shirt as much as they do for the fame and glory of the Premiership. The journos will have to work with the players when Hodgson is gone, after all; they need to keep them on side.   
 
We know it already, those of us who’ve seen England through thin and thin these past few years of trophyless despair. We try and back our managers, our hope that they might provide that elusive spark, but we know, sooner or later, there will come the time when they say goodbye and hand the baton de merde over to a new candidate. 
 
For what it’s worth, I’d like to see Hodgson succeed, just as I wanted Capello to succeed, and McClaren, and all the others. I think he has a better chance than most, and was probably the right choice. But what do I know? 
 
The hope rises again, but the knives are already being sharpened. 
Why didn't Harry Redknapp get the gig? Photo: Getty Images
Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
Photo: Getty
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George Osborne's mistakes are coming back to haunt him

George Osborne's next budget may be a zombie one, warns Chris Leslie.

Spending Reviews are supposed to set a strategic, stable course for at least a three year period. But just three months since the Chancellor claimed he no longer needed to cut as far or as fast this Parliament, his over-optimistic reliance on bullish forecasts looks misplaced.

There is a real risk that the Budget on March 16 will be a ‘zombie’ Budget, with the spectre of cuts everyone thought had been avoided rearing their ugly head again, unwelcome for both the public and for the Chancellor’s own ambitions.

In November George Osborne relied heavily on a surprise £27billion windfall from statistical reclassifications and forecasting optimism to bury expected police cuts and politically disastrous cuts to tax credits. We were assured these issues had been laid to rest.

But the Chancellor’s swagger may have been premature. Those higher income tax receipts he was banking on? It turns out wage growth may not be so buoyant, according to last week’s Bank of England Inflation Report. The Institute for Fiscal Studies suggest the outlook for earnings growth will be revised down taking £5billion from revenues.

Improved capital gains tax receipts? Falling equity markets and sluggish housing sales may depress CGT and stamp duties. And the oil price shock could hit revenues from North Sea production.

Back in November, the OBR revised up revenues by an astonishing £50billion+ over this Parliament. This now looks a little over-optimistic.

But never let it be said that George Osborne misses an opportunity to scramble out of political danger. He immediately cashed in those higher projected receipts, but in doing so he’s landed himself with very little wriggle room for the forthcoming Budget.

Borrowing is just not falling as fast as forecast. The £78billion deficit should have been cut by £20billion by now but it’s down by just £11billion. So what? Well this is a Chancellor who has given a cast iron guarantee to deliver a surplus by 2019-20. So he cannot afford to turn a blind eye.

All this points towards a Chancellor forced to revisit cuts he thought he wouldn’t need to make. A zombie Budget where unpopular reductions to public services are still very much alive, even though they were supposed to be history. More aggressive cuts, stealthy tax rises, pension changes designed to benefit the Treasury more than the public – all of these are on the cards. 

Is this the Chancellor’s misfortune or was he chancing his luck? As the IFS pointed out at the time, there was only really a 50/50 chance these revenue windfalls were built on solid ground. With growth and productivity still lagging, gloomier market expectations, exports sluggish and both construction and manufacturing barely contributing to additional expansion, it looks as though the Chancellor was just too optimistic, or perhaps too desperate for a short-term political solution. It wouldn’t be the first time that George Osborne has prioritised his own political interests.

There’s no short cut here. Productivity-enhancing public services and infrastructure could and should have been front and centre in that Spending Review. Rebalancing the economy should also have been a feature of new policy in that Autumn Statement, but instead the Chancellor banked on forecast revisions and growth too reliant on the service sector alone. Infrastructure decisions are delayed for short-term politicking. Uncertainty about our EU membership holds back business investment. And while we ought to have a consensus about eradicating the deficit, the excessive rigidity of the Chancellor’s fiscal charter bears down on much-needed capital investment.

So for those who thought that extreme cuts to services, a harsh approach to in-work benefits or punitive tax rises might be a thing of the past, beware the Chancellor whose hubris may force him to revive them after all. 

Chris Leslie is chair of Labour's backbench Treasury committee.