The lost art of keeping a secret, rediscovered.

By Laura Miller

George Osborne skipped up onto the stage at the Policy Centre full of the joys of a man who can say what he likes about “effective economic policy” without having to prove the courage of his convictions.

Despite that, it was fantastic how little he managed to say, in his own words at least, pulling instead the old undergraduate trick of hiding a lack of substance behind a flurry of worthy academic quotes.

“So what exactly is happening?” Osborne asked, having spent the first half of his speech going over what is happening.

Turning to pose for the photographers off to the right, the shadow chancellor demanded that Gordon Brown “stop boasting about [policy] success and start addressing the reasons for its failure,” which included telling the public about the severity of the situation.

“[Labour] has alarmed the public about our soaring national debt, alerted them to the tax rises needed to pay for it if Labour is re-elected, and so undermined confidence in the future,” said Mr Osborne.

Presumably a Conservative government would have kept quiet and hoped nobody noticed.

However, when asked how the Tories would fund their “radical” £50 billion national loan guarantee scheme of new lending to companies, he was unequivocal.

“The fee businesses will pay should be able to cover the liabilities of the taxpayer.”

Should? Is the proposal based on sums or surmises? Maybe he’s just not willing to tell us yet in case we think there’s a problem.

Only a “political blockage” in the rooms of Westminster was to blame for the scheme not being implemented by Labour now, he noted.

Even he smiled when he said it.

Osborne finished by throwing the weight of an entire decade behind his argument.

“For as they said in the 1930s – we need action and action now.”

And as if to prove the point he jumped down off the stage and ran away.

Who says the Tories are the do-nothing party?