George Osborne makes play for centre ground

George Osborne says his party is the true Labour Party. Picture: Getty
George Osborne says his party is the true Labour Party. Picture: Getty
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CHANCELLOR George Osborne made a grab for the “new centre ground” of British politics as he used his conference speech to appeal to “ordinary working people” who voted Labour to abandon the far left party of Jeremy Corbyn and switch to the Tories.

In a speech aimed arguing that the Conservatives needed to respond to the election of Mr Corbyn as Labour leader by taking the centre ground rather than lurching to the right, Mr Osborne declared that it was his party that is now “the true Labour Party” representing those who wanted to work hard. He also confirmed the Treasury is to sell off another of the £2 billion of Lloyds shares it owns following the bail out of the bank after it took on HBOS.

He also signalled a massive push in devolution in England by announcing councils could keep their business rates instead of them being pooled and shared across the country.

He said: “Every argument we won, we have shifted the terms of the debate in our country and created a new centre ground, around fiscal responsibility and lower welfare, reformed public services and support for business too. We turned our country around, and together we’ve made sure, Britain is working again. Now we must build on those foundations.”

The decision to allow English councils to keep business rates from their areas, which will trigger competition between areas within England to attract businesses, immediately led to demands from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) for the SNP government to follow suit.

A Cosla spokesman said: “Cosla, in its local government funding review, set out a strong case for fiscal autonomy and as part of that called for the localisation of business rates.”

But a Scottish Government spokesman said:“In contrast to UK government funding of English councils, the Scottish Government has treated councils very fairly, with a total settlement this year of over £10.85 billion. We are keeping business rates arrangements under active review.”