The politics behind Osborne’s Spending Review

The Chancellor’s benefit cuts are designed to clear the Labour-voting poor out of London.

Like Gordon Brown before him, George Osborne is a highly political chancellor. Whenever possible, his measures are designed to meet both economic and electoral imperatives. The Chancellor's overarching project, as Benedict Brogan writes in today's Telegraph, is to construct a Tory majority between now and polling day.

Again like Brown, Osborne is also his party's chief electoral strategist and he does not share David Cameron's instinctive fondness for coalition government. He is determined to see the return of one-party Conservative rule.

The best example of Osborne's political and economic objectives working in tandem is the recently announced cap on benefits. The policy is not just a populist measure, designed to reassure the Daily Mail-reading classes, it is an act of supreme electoral engineering. The £500-a-week cap will trigger the largest population movement since the Second World War, as the poor are forced out of inner London and pushed into the suburbs, where rents are cheaper and living costs lower. The decision to charge new social housing tenants at least 80 per cent of the market rate will have a similar effect.

As a matter of social policy this is noteworthy enough, but, as I've argued before, for the Conservatives this is also a measure pregnant with political motives.

I noted then:

The Tories believe that the flight of poor, mainly Labour-voting families from inner London will allow hitherto unwinnable seats to fall into their lap. Many in the party are still aggrieved over their failure to win constituencies such as Westminster North (Joanne Cash) and Hammersmith (Shaun Bailey) – seats they felt were there for the taking.

Since I wrote those words, Conservative figures have openly acknowledged their political intentions. Bailey, the candidate defeated in west London, was recently heard to remark:

If you have a group of people that think that one government will advocate for them and one won't, of course they'll vote that way. And that's the fight for the Conservatives 'cos that's why inner-city seats are so hard to win – because Labour has filled them with poor people.

One unnamed Conservative minister was quoted as describing the policy as "the Highland Clearances" – and not unfavourably.

Conservative strategists believe that their poor performance in seats with large numbers of ethnic-minority voters and/or large concentrations of social housing was one of the main reasons they failed to win the last election. The cap on benefits is part of the party's supreme effort to overcome this defect.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Want to send a positive Brexit message to Europe? Back Arsene Wenger for England manager

Boris Johnson could make a gesture of goodwill. 

It is hard not to feel some sympathy for Sam Allardyce, who coveted the England job for so many years, before losing it after playing just a single match. Yet Allardyce has only himself to blame and the Football Association were right to move quickly to end his tenure.

There are many candidates for the job. The experience of Alan Pardew and the potential of Eddie Howe make them strong contenders. The FA's reported interest in Ralf Rangner sent most of us scurrying to Google to find out who the little known Leipzig manager is. But the standout contender is Arsenal's French boss Arsene Wenger, 

Would England fans accept a foreign manager? The experience of Sven Goran-Eriksson suggests so, especially when the results are good. Nobody complained about having a Swede in charge the night that England won 5-1 in Munich, though Sven's sides never won the glittering prizes, the Swede proving perhaps too rigidly English in his commitment to the 4-4-2 formation.

Fabio Capello's brief stint was less successful. He never seemed happy in the English game, preferring to give interviews in Italian. That perhaps contributed to his abrupt departure, falling out with his FA bosses after he seemed unable to understand why allegations of racial abuse by the England captain had to be taken seriously by the governing body.

Arsene Wenger could not be more different. Almost unknown when he arrived to "Arsene Who?" headlines two decades ago, he became as much part of North London folklore as all-time great Arsenal and Spurs bosses, Herbert Chapman or Bill Nicholson, his own Invicibles once dominating the premier league without losing a game all season. There has been more frustration since the move from Highbury to the Emirates, but Wenger's track record means he ranks among the greatest managers of the last hundred years - and he could surely do a job for England.

Arsene is a European Anglophile. While the media debate whether or not the FA Cup has lost its place in our hearts, Wenger has no doubt that its magic still matters, which may be why his Arsenal sides have kept on winning it so often. Wenger manages a multinational team but England's football traditions have certainly got under his skin. The Arsenal boss has changed his mind about emulating the continental innovation of a winter break. "I would cry if you changed that", he has said, citing his love of Boxing Day football as part of the popular tradition of English football.

Obviously, the FA must make this decision on football grounds. It is an important one to get right. Fifty years of hurt still haven't stopped us dreaming, but losing to Iceland this summer while watching Wales march to the semi-finals certainly tested any lingering optimism. Wenger was as gutted as anybody. "This is my second country. I was absolutely on my knees when we lost to Iceland. I couldn't believe it" he said.

The man to turn things around must clearly be chosen on merit. But I wonder if our new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson - albeit more of a rugger man himself - might be tempted to quietly  suggest in the corridors of footballing power that the appointment could play an unlikely role in helping to get the mood music in place which would help to secure the best Brexit deal for Britain, and for Europe too.

Johnson does have one serious bit of unfinished business from the referendum campaign: to persuade his new boss Theresa May that the commitments made to European nationals in Britain must be honoured in full.  The government should speed up its response and put that guarantee in place. 

Nor should that commitment to 3m of our neighbours and friends be made grudgingly.

So Boris should also come out and back Arsene for the England job, as a very good symbolic way to show that we will continue to celebrate the Europeans here who contribute so much to our society.

British negotiators will be watching the twists and turns of the battle for the Elysee Palace, to see whether Alain Juppe, Nicolas Sarkozy end up as President. It is a reminder that other countries face domestic pressures over the negotiations to come too. So the political negotiations will be tough - but we should make sure our social and cultural relations with Europe remain warm.

More than half of Britons voted to leave the political structures of the European Union in June. Most voters on both sides of the referendum had little love of the Brussels institutions, or indeed any understanding of what they do.

But how can we ensure that our European neighbours and friends understand and hear that this was no rejection of them - and that so many of the ways that we engage with our fellow Europeans rom family ties to foreign holidays, the European contributions to making our society that bit better - the baguettes and cappuccinos, cultural links and sporting heroes remain as much loved as ever.

We will see that this weekend when nobody in the golf clubs will be asking who voted Remain and who voted Leave as we cheer on our European team - seven Brits playing in the twelve-strong side, alongside their Spanish, Belgian, German, Irish and Swedish team-mates.

And now another important opportunity to get that message across suddenly presents itself.

Wenger for England. What better post-Brexit commitment to a new Entente Cordiale could we possibly make?

Sunder Katwala is director of British Future and former general secretary of the Fabian Society.