Page last updated at 12:01 GMT, Wednesday, 22 October 2008 13:01 UK

Osborne affair is about judgement

By David Thompson
Political correspondent, BBC News

Luxury yachts, billionaire Russian oligarchs, scions of wealthy banking families... it all seems a long way from chilly old Britain in October.

George Osborne
George Osborne is seen as one of the party's big players

And who-said-what-to-whom on balmy days on a boat off Corfu may not seem the most pressing political issue when we are faced with recession and very real fears over our jobs and pensions.

But what Shadow Chancellor George Osborne did on his summer holidays is important - not so much for the whys and wherefores, but because of one simple word: Judgement.

How crucial is judgement? Well, here is David Cameron on the subject, as recently as the Tory Party conference earlier this month: "To do difficult things for the long term, or even to get us through the financial crisis in the short term - it's not experience we need; it's character and judgement. "

Economic turbulence

The shadow chancellor is an important figure, not just because of the position he holds - he is the Conservatives', and in some respects, the country's, point man on the government's handling of the economic crisis - but also because of the position he aspires to.

Should David Cameron win the next election and move into 10 Downing Street, George Osborne would have every expectation of moving into Number 11.

The decision to go to war with the new business secretary has undeniably come back to bite him

As chancellor, his decisions - and judgement - would have a large bearing on how Britain comes through what is still likely to be an extremely turbulent period in our economic history.

Closer to his political home, Mr Osborne is a massive player for Team Cameron; he is credited with making big calls, like the decision to back Boris Johnson as the party's candidate for London Mayor, for bringing in new talent and for inventing the charge that in terms of the economy, Gordon Brown "didn't fix the roof when the sun was shining".

But Mr Osborne also judged it correct to attack Lord Mandelson over his links with Oleg Deripaska.

Whether you see the hand of the man known to his enemies as the Prince of Darkness behind Mr Osborne's troubles or not, the decision to go to war with the new business secretary has undeniably come back to bite him.

Mr Osborne may yet be able to navigate his way through his current difficulties; the name of Oleg Deripaska may fade back into the shadows, but by placing himself in a position - however innocently - where he is now under intense scrutiny, he has raised a lasting question mark over his long-term political judgement.

It may also leave him wishing that in relation to the goings-on aboard Mr Deripaska's yacht, he had adhered to the old rugby adage - that what happens on tour, stays on tour.

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