Here Peter Oborne says
George Osborne has a very poor record when judged by his performance as Chancellor. His budgets have been a series of shambles — marked by humiliating U-turns such as being forced to abandon plans for £1.3 billion-a-year cuts in disability benefits and to cancel his so-called ‘pasty tax’ (which would have added VAT to heated takeaway meals).
The truth is that Mr Osborne has become distracted from his prime duties at the Treasury, and is frequently absent, I am told, for days at a time.
His main fascination is with political intrigue. This would have made him a very good chief whip or party chairman.
Bored by his responsibilities for Britain’s economy — for which he has been the steward for six years — Mr Osborne is now devoting his energies to ensuring the Government wins its campaign to keep Britain in the European Union.
Characteristically, like his friend and mentor Peter Mandelson, he is not trying to win the political debate by using straight, honest argument. Instead, he is adopting devious, manipulative tactics.
It is all incredibly devious
In a gross abuse of public office, the Chancellor is channelling the resources of the supposedly neutral government machine into a partisan campaign to keep Britain inside the EU.
One example is the notorious pro-EU pamphlet — produced at a cost of at least £9 million to the taxpayer — sent to every household in Britain a few weeks ago.
Teams of publicly funded civil servants are being moved from normal duties to get involved in the supply and distribution of pro-Brussels ‘Project Fear’ propaganda.
For example, Antony Phillipson, a very capable but fanatically pro-EU official who used to work as private secretary to Mandelson, is running the European unit at the Cabinet Office. I am told that Mr Phillipson retains his links with Mandelson and acts as a bridge between Tory and Labour wings of the pro-EU campaign.
This is all so they can further their grubby careers in the EU when they leave office.
This, however, is not the end of Mr Osborne’s shabby behind-the-scenes and undemocratic meddling. He has also enlisted international figures who, protocol normally demands, don’t interfere in British domestic politics.
Yesterday, Christine Lagarde, the French director of the International Monetary Fund, warned that Brexit could be ‘very, very bad’ for the British economy — despite the fact her organisation’s predictions on said economy have proved risibly wrong in the past.
The fact is Mr Osborne has exploited every conceivable diplomatic, economic and political ruse to try to make sure the case for Europe is heard.
Outrageously, heavy and persistent pressure has also been brought to bear on the broadcast media, culminating in ITV’s disturbing cave-in to Government bully-boys.
The supposedly independent broadcaster has disgracefully allowed Downing Street to dictate which representative of the Leave lobby goes head-to-head with David Cameron in a TV debate on the EU referendum. Wary of having to confront — and being outshone by — Boris Johnson or Michael Gove, the PM only agreed to appear on the programme with Ukip leader Nigel Farage — a man he feels he can out-argue and who is not universally liked by all sections of the Brexit campaign.