Was the Chancellor shrewd to promise a mass-market Lloyds share sale?

The Chancellor has postponed the sales of Lloyds shares. Credit: PA

So as I said yesterday, the falling Lloyds share price made the Chancellor's election promise to hold a mass-market privatisation of the bank's shares costly and impractical and today George Osborne has formally postponed the multi-billion pound privatisation.

Fiscal common sense? Certainly. He would have been widely criticised for selling off the shares at a big loss to taxpayers in today's febrile market conditions.

But that does not make him immune to criticism. He was very successfully selling Lloyds shares in dribs and drabs to investment institutions through the so-called "dribble out" mechanism.

And if he hadn't made the populist electioneering pledge to flog the shares at a discount to ordinary punters, thus restricting how much could be placed with investors via the dribble-out mechanism, more-or-less the whole of Lloyds could have been privatised by now - and at a profit to the state.

The sale of the shares is likely to have drawn criticism.

Nor is that the only big Osborne initiative looking shaky at the moment.

The final approval of his adored Hinkley Point nuclear reactor by the French power giant EDF has been postponed.

If the huge deal were to collapse that would be a massive embarrassment to Osborne - who has been its great champion, especially the Chinese co-investment part of it.

Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset. Credit: PA

What Osborne also presumably knows is that his political enemies at the top of government (and there are a few of those) would mercilessly exploit his discomfiture: a number of them have told me they see Hinkley as a ludicrously costly white elephant.

That said, and for what it's worth, a well-placed French source tells me he is highly confident the nuclear deal will finally be done.

So maybe, by the finest atomic margins, the chancellor will retain his lucky soubriquet.