Osborne can only pray as the storm in Europe rages

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
By Paul Martin

By Benedict Brogan
June 12th, 2012

The Chancellor and No 10 seem powerless to act, while many Tories call for bolder measures

A British explorer on a round-the-world expedition described this week how a raging tropical storm left her trapped in the cramped cabin of her battered rowing boat, water seeping through the door, while waves smashed her equipment and rolled her over and over. Sarah Outen scrawled the words “breathe” and “smile” on her hands to help her fight off panic. Eventually she sent out an SOS, and sailors from the Japanese coastguard flew deep into the Pacific to pluck her to safety.
I haven’t checked his hands lately, but George Osborne reminds me of that young sailor: the Chancellor’s adventure has been turned into a test of endurance. He is trapped by the economic crisis raging all around him, powerless, upended, clinging on while external forces batter Britain. The economy has sprung leaks and may yet sink. There is no one – least of all Japan – capable of answering a distress call.

Westminster is running out of analogies to describe the horror the Government is going through. Another way to illustrate the mood among ministers and officials confronted with the euro crisis and our teetering economy is to imitate Munch’s The Scream: hands to head, mouth opened in a howl of despair. Certainly behind the scenes the feeling of worry, bordering on fear, is palpable. The prospect of an economic cataclysm terrifies the upper reaches of the Government. In public it is all confident smiles, but in private they are dead scared. Politically, meanwhile, every assumption has been ground to ashes. Instead of recovery leading to re-election, all they can see ahead is stagnation and uncertainty. Is there anything they can do?

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