Will Blairites cross floor to Osborne?

Robert Peston
Economics editor

Image source, Getty Images

This note is to an extent about the Chancellor, George Osborne. But it is only tangentially about economics. So if you only read me for stuff about the economy, sorry.

But in the course of my day job, I sweep up all sorts of interesting gossip and speculation. And from time to time I feel it's only proper to share it.

So here is the chatter: that one or a number of the New Labour Blairite ultras could cross the floor to the Tories, because of their personal relationship with Osborne - to whom they feel closer, in a political and social sense, than they do to Labour's new leader, Jeremy Corbyn

Osborne mixes in the same modish London metrosexual and metropolitan elite circles as them. He takes their calls, responds to their emails, and is fully abreast of their current agony.

And they admire him. More than once I've been told, by a couple of their gang, that Osborne is the most impressive politician of the moment.

Naturally it would be quite a coup for the Tories if the ascent of Corbyn led to Labour defections to their ranks.

As is well known, both Osborne and Cameron were great admirers of Tony Blair, almost his disciples - and they both believe elections are won from the centre of politics.

So the strategic question for Osborne and Cameron of Corbyn's capture of Labour is whether they conclude - as some of their backbenchers have - that a left-wing Labour party liberates the Tories to follow their more right-wing instincts, or whether Osborne and Cameron move the Conservatives more conspicuously to the centre.

As I've said, Osborne would wish to position the Tories in the centre on almost everything - though on economic policy (to state the obvious) his preference for spending and welfare cuts to eliminate the deficit would be seen as to the right.

To be clear, the Blairites are already closer to Osborne than Corbyn on a whole range of issues they regard as basic - from membership of Nato, preserving the independence of the Bank of England, nationalisation, and the propriety of singing the national anthem on state occasions.

It is even theoretically possible that Osborne will be a more enthusiastic proponent of staying in the European Union than Corbyn, when it comes to the referendum, which would be another gravitational pull for them.

So will one or a number of Blairites find themselves on the Tory side of the house?

It would not be an easy relocation for them, partly because they may decide that they owe it to their constituents to resign and force a by-election - which they could well lose.

But for what it's worth, and this may be the more important point, more than one of them has told me that they could not possibly remain in Corbyn's Labour Party for long if it looks as though Corbyn will endure.