Osborne minimum wage spin as general election looms

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne outside Downing Street. Photo: PA

Over the last few months, there has been a vigorous debate within Number Ten as to whether the Tories should come out in favour of a dramatic increase in the minimum wage. It could do so easily enough, simply by announcing that it would over-rule any recommendation by the Low Pay Commission (which has to increase the level as much as is feasible without increasing unemployment).

The upside for the Tories has always been obvious; it would make the party look like it was really on the side of hard-pressed, low paid workers - and thus make good inroads into dealing with its biggest negative (that it is perceived as being a party only for the rich).

Sadly for those pushing for it, they lost. David Cameron and George Osborne decided that the Low Pay Commission is (in their words) slightly stacked with left of centre people anyway, that if they haven't been recommending big increases, it was with good reason and that they probably shouldn't, on balance, get into the business of interfering with its business (which could become a yearly macho face-off with the Labour Party with uncertain long term consequences).

So, what then to do?

We now have the answer; announce that they are all in favour of a big rise, whilst not in any way making the policy change that could allow them to make it to happen. This is otherwise known as spin.

The election campaign has begun in earnest!

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