Saturday , June 22 2024

The case against George Osborne, Philip Hammond, and the Treasury

This paper considers whether George Osborne, Philip Hammond and senior Treasury officials should be prosecuted for Misconduct in a Public Office.

Prior to the EU Referendum the HM Treasury issued a document called: HM Treasury analysis: the immediate economic impact of leaving the EU.

This document was widely used by campaigners to argue that the EU Referendum itself would cause a disaster for the UK economy in the period between the Referendum and the expiry of the Article 50 notice period.

It was evident subsequently that the predictions in this document for huge unemployment and a dramatic reduction in GDP did not occur.  On Page 57 of the report this shocking graph was shown:

The annotation in coloured type has been added to explain the graph.

The Treasury paper was prefaced with this comment by George Osborne which allows no wriggle room for those who think the forecasts applied to anything other than the immediate post-referendum economy:

No doubt those who produced this document would like us to believe that it was simple incompetence or would point to other, related sources and claim that they made the same “honest” mistake.

Was it simple incompetence? As early as the Autumn 2017 Statement – section 2.9 the Treasury had amended its predictions to reasonably strong growth of 2.1, 1.4, 1.7, 2.1 percent growth for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Philip Hammond became Chancellor of the Exchequer in July 2016.  The question that a Court must decide is whether Philip Hammond was deliberately seeking to affect public opinion and the conduct of EU negotiations by failing to draw attention to the huge difference between the Treasury predictions in June 2016 and the Treasury predictions in November of 2016.

The failure of the HM Treasury to apologise for its failed predictions greatly affected the context of the Treasury predictions for “No Deal” produced in 2018, making it seem as if an organisation with a reasonable reputation was involved in the predictions rather than an organisation that had demonstrated huge incompetence or bias or both.

A further question for the Court is whether George Osborne, the Chancellor until July 2016, ordered that the Treasury predictions were produced in good faith or as an exercise to influence the Referendum.  The defence could be raised that other organisations like the IMF had produced similar predictions but it can  be seen that within 6 months the IMF had also gone back on its predictions.

Consider the much publicised IMF predictions. The UK is adopting what the IMF labelled the “Adverse Scenario” but the IMF revised its predictions by January 2017 Brexit will now be fine with GDP growth in the normal range for W.Europe:

In both the IMF and HM Treasury cases Article 50 had not yet been announced when the predictions for UK GDP were modified back to the normal range for a developed country.  Surely little to do with the underlying “uncertainty” assumptions in the Treasury and IMF models had changed between June 2016 and January 2017 so why did the Treasury and IMF abandon their pre-referendum predictions?  The answer is that organisations such as the IMF cannot retain public confidence if their predictions are massively discrepant from reality.  Those who made the predictions at the IMF knew that their predictions were just imaginary figures designed to help HM Government affect the UK electorate and so abandoned them once their work of affecting the Referendum had been done so that they would not threaten the credibility of the IMF.

The evidence against George Osborne and the Treasury is that their rapid withdrawal from the June 2016 predictions shows that they never believed them in the first place and so used their position to invent an imaginary “Project Fear” with the sole intention of affecting the Referendum.

HM Treasury is implicated in both the misconduct of George Osborne and Philip Hammond.  The defence of “just following orders” is not sufficient to absolve senior Treasury officials of charges of misconduct or gross incompetence.

This post was originally published by the author on his personal blog:


About John Sydenham

Dr John Sydenham has worked in International Pharmaceuticals and for one of the "big four" International Consultancies. He ran a successful company for 15 years and after selling the company devotes his time to travel, science, black labradors and freedom.

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  1. Isaac Anderson

    Excellent article John. I generally dislike ad hominem attacks, but it certainly a worthy question. I can’t help but think the BBC should be given a (dis)honourable mention here too, due to their clear anti-Brexit bias wrapped up in smug elitism and pretending it was all true.
    MPs can have their own opinions, but if there was Misconduct in Private office for stating what they may have thought of as true, how much more for the Ministry of Truth for having relayed them on as Gospel facts? With public funds?

    And I cite George Orwell about the BBC being the Ministry of Truth.

    • The BBC is extremely worrying. Orwell almost left the BBC for its activity in News Suppression.

      Suppressing the fact that the “experts” were wrong after the Referendum has been more divisive than any fake news.

      The utter suppression of the role of the European Movement in the Remain campaign is jaw dropping. Just last week on Radio 4 Today they had Dorrell, Corbett and Adonis on, one after another, as political commentators without any mention of the fact that they are senior officers in the European Movement.

  2. Pamela Viccars

    I find it very difficult to come to terms with this legal challenge against Boris Johnson considering the onslaught of negative comments being claimed by the so called ‘experts’ following the referendum: George Osborne, Phillip Hammond, The CBI, the Bank of England, to name but a few. Are any legal cases being brought against any of those? We are now suffering the same ‘project fear’ claims in the light of a no deal Brexit. Are there any lengths to which Remainers won’t sink in its bid to interfere with democracy. The signs are that the legal challenge against Johnson has backed fired. People are not stupid, they can see it for what it is.

  3. Quite disgraceful that the attempted case against Boris Johnson by Marcus Ball should have even been considered. The only good to come out of it is Marcus Ball and his supporters will be picking up a hefty bill having lost the case. It is likely he’ll be paying some or all Boris’s costs and their own from their £236,000 fund.He said it will bankrupt him. Good, it couldn’t happen to more devious individual

    I can’t imagine why he didn’t also make a similar charge against remainers false claims that we would have a recession immediately after the referendum; each family would be £4,300 worse of (no time factor specified). Those who requested Obama use our media to point out how we would be back of the queue for any US trade deal. And particularly against David Cameron directing the civil service to spend £9million of tax payers money on a propaganda pamphlet telling us how bad leaving the EU would be even though this was complete conjecture. There also ought to be a means of taking the BBC and Chan4 news to court for their biased remain and left wing handling of all political news items given their using all tax payers money to promote this bias

  4. Ron wilson

    Hammond has a big conflict of interest he doeswork forthe eu investment bank