Tag Archives: George Osborne

Osborne is right over May leadership!

George Osborne, former Conservative MP and Chancellor of Exchequer, now editor of the Evening Standard, threw another grenade into the ongoing conversation about the leadership of Theresa May on Thursday evening. Speaking at an event hosted by The Spectator, Osborne firmly stated there were “very serious challenges” facing the Conservative Party under the leadership of Theresa May.

The political and personal differences between the two are well-known, but if we ignore them and just assess what Osborne said, does he have a point?

Expanding on his main hypothesis, Osborne argued that “closing your eyes and hoping leadership questions go away, or exalting people to unity doesn’t work in politics.” This is a fair assessment. Although, many Conservative MPs have not voiced their concerns about Theresa May in public, it does not mean these concerns don’t exist and aren’t bubbling away and waiting to burst out at an appropriate time. The latest polls indicate Corbyn has now drawn level with May in the best Prime Minister ratings. This will only exacerbate the debate in the Conservative Party.

Osborne also added that it was no good for the Conservative Party to say “oh, I wish we could all stop talking about it” and that you couldn’t talk to a member of the Cabinet without the issue being raised. This adds weight to claims made by Grant Shapps during his aborted coup that there were Cabinet Ministers who wanted Theresa May to call a leadership contest. The Sunday Times also reported that at least three Cabinet Ministers had discussed the need to replace Theresa May. This cannot be merely labelled a ‘Westminster bubble’ issue, this conversation is dominating the highest levels of Government.

Osborne also remains defiant about the belief that the Conservative Party are at their best when they are “positive about the country’s future”.  This is a clear critique of the direction he believes Theresa May is leading the Conservatives in. The performance of the Conservative Party at the General Election raised legitimate questions about the brand of the Conservative Party and what voters believed about them. The damage caused by that campaign and the need for the party to change their image again will only persist whilst Theresa May is leader.

Projecting false senses of unity, insisting conversations aren’t happening and lastly pretending all in the party are happy with its current direction will not close this debate down. Leadership conversations in politics are notoriously messy, but until the Conservative Party have this debate, most crucially about their future direction as a party (and that includes their leader) they will not progress. Surely that is not in anyone’s interest?

Osborne has over-stepped the line

There is no love lost between George Osborne and Theresa May. The two enjoyed a difficult relationship throughout their time in David Cameron’s Cabinet and often found themselves at odds over policy direction. This feud only heightened when Theresa May sacked Osborne after becoming Prime Minister in 2016 advising Osborne to “get to know the party.”

A lot has happened since then! Official Brexit negotiations have begun. We have had a snap General Election, where unexpectedly Theresa May failed to gain a majority. And, lastly, George Osborne has left Parliament and become Editor of the Evening Standard.

Osborne has enjoyed the freedom of this new role. He has used his newfound influence to stick the knife into the Prime Minister, attacking her on numerous instances. (Examples include the mocking of the Conservative manifesto on election night, labelling the Prime Minister a “dead woman walking and comparing the Prime Minister to the “living dead in a second rate horror film.”

However, recently, Osborne was considered to have a crossed the line in remarks he allegedly made about the Prime Minister. Reportedly, he told colleagues at the Evening Standard he would not rest until Theresa May was “chopped up in bags in my freezer.”

These comments have drawn sharp criticism from Conservative MPs. Nadine Dorries has called for Osborne to be banned from party conference, Jacob Rees-Mogg has labelled Osborne as “bitter”, Iain Duncan Smith called the language “irresponsible” and Maria Miller said “we need to debate with facts, not vile abuse.” The list could go on and on.

Osborne considered himself humiliated when sacked by Theresa May. Therefore, to a certain extent, it is not surprising that he is enjoying the Prime Minister’s demise. Partially that is just human nature in action.

This does not mean though, that Osborne can say whatever he wants and ignore the consequences of his words. Osborne still holds a position of authority and has a duty to act responsibly. Language such as this is provocative at best, and violent at worst. In an era, where MPs and disproportionately female MPs are subject to vile abuse, all engaged in politics should be toning the language down, rather than dialling it up.

Osborne is a man of great ability, but this is beneath him. Osborne in his role should focus on balance, rather than personal attack. Maybe, a period of silence from Osborne would not be disastrous at present.

 

Can George Osborne still become Prime Minister?

George Osborne’s ambitions have long been common knowledge in Parliament. Furthermore the great political chess-player had seemed on course to achieve his aim and succeed his great friend and ally David Cameron into Downing Street, securing the front-runner status after the Conservative victory in 2015.

The Conservative victory in 2015 and the almost messianic status that Osborne received in the light of the win as a political strategist now seems a long time ago. Since then the former Chancellor has produced one questionable budget, played a leading role in ‘Project Fear’ and has lost his job with his reputation in tatters. Politically things have looked better for George Osborne!

So could this change in the future? George Osborne remains influential in the Conservative Party. Throughout his time as Chancellor he promoted many of his allies, some of whom now occupy powerful positions in the party. This gives Osborne a strong base for any future leadership contest. Added to this Osborne has begun to position himself as the champion of the modernising wing of the party. This gives him political room to exploit and allows him to maintain his influence and relevance in the new political landscape.

George Osborne remains young (he is only 45!). This gives him plenty of time. He has shown no desire to leave Parliament and has hinted he is yet to give up on his ambitions recently claiming he didn’t know ‘how this story ends’. Osborne can afford to be patient, even waiting for May to step down after a successful time in office. A vacancy does not have to occur immediately for Osborne to remain in the game.

The political situation in this country remains complex. Theresa May has enjoyed a solid start as Prime Minister but with Brexit negotiations to come things will become more tricky. Should May fail to take the party with her on Brexit, her position is far from insurmountable and a new vacancy may arise sooner than expected. In that climate Osborne’s experience could make him an attractive choice in what would be an open contest.

Much has to happen before this is even a possibility and we are largely talking about hypotheticals. However there does remain a plausible scenario where Osborne takes over from May as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister either after a successful May government or a failed May government. George Osborne has been written off before in politics and has bounced back, so when it comes to the former Chancellor, it is wise to never say never!