British Conservative politician
George Osborne is a Conservative Member of Parliament for Tatton and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, effectively David Cameron's right-hand man in his mission to re-invent the Conservative Party.
Born Gideon Oliver Osborne on the 23rd May 1971 in London, he later added the George himself at the age of thirteen(1). His father Peter George Osborne was one of the founders of Osborne and Little Ltd, the upmarket firm of fabric and wallpaper designers (2), as well as being the 17th Baronet Osborne of Ballentaylor, a title to which George himself will succeed to in due course. George was educated at St Paul's School and went on to Magdalen College, Oxford where he read modern history, was a demy and became joint editor of the University magazine Isis. He also became a Dean Rusk scholar and so spent a term at Davidson College, North Carolina.
Following university he spend a short time as a freelance journalist before joining the Conservative Research Department in 1994 where he became Head of the Political Section. From 1995 to 1997 he was a Special Adviser to Douglas Hogg at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food where he helped deal with the BSE crisis, and later worked in the Political Office at 10, Downing Street then occupied by John Major. Following the Conservative defeat at the 1997 General Election which saw the Labour Party returned to power, George spent the next four years working as Political Secretary to William Hague, who had replaced Major as Leader of the Conservative Party, a job which largely involved acting as Hague's speech writer and helping him with preparations for Prime Minister's Questions.
Naturally the fulfilment of George's own political ambitions required finding a seat in the House of Commons. He eventually won selection as the Conservative PPC for the Tatton constituency in Cheshire. This was regarded as something of a brave choice at the time since although Tatton would normally have been regarded as a safe Conservative seat, it was held at the time by the Independent Martin Bell(3). George gambled on the fact that Bell would decide not to stand again, and in this case, his judgment proved correct and he duly regained the seat at the 2001 General Election with a majority of 8,611 becoming, at the age of thirty, the youngest Conservative in the House of Commons. Sadly for both the Conservatives and William Hague, this was about the only gain the party made at that election.
As a Member of Parliament George served on the Public Accounts Select Committee (2001-2004) and the Transport Select Committee (2002-2003), becoming an Opposition Whip in 2003, and later that same year was appointed shadow Minister for Economic Affairs. In September 2004 he joined the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. By this time he was being referred to as one of the Conservative Party's fastest rising stars, being regarded as a member of the so-called 'Notting Hill set', a group of bright young things, allegedly in possession of sophisticated metropolitan views stood in stark contrast with what was normally regarded as 'traditional Tory values'. Prominent amongst those identified as belonging to the 'Notting Hill set' was one David Cameron with whom Oliver worked closely in preparing Michael Howard for his performances at Prime Minister's Questions.
At the 2005 General Election George increased his parliamentary majority by 3.8% to 11,731, but whilst the party as a whole made some gains the overall result still left the Labour Party with a comfortable majority. In the immediate aftermath of this defeat he was promoted to Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer in place of Oliver Letwin, whilst Michael Howard indicated his intention to resign as party leader. George immediately ruled himself out of standing for the Conservative leadership and also rejected suggestions that he and David Cameron had formed any kind of 'Granita pact'(4). In the event Osborne emerged as Cameron's campaign manager and no doubt deserves credit for steering his candidate to victory over the early favourite David Davies.
Under Cameron's leadership he has retained his position as Shadow Chancellor; on the 5th December 2005 he produced what many regarded as an impressive performance during the debate in the Commons on the pre-budget report in which he laid into Messrs Blair and Brown whom he accused of being "past their sell-by date". What is described as "an acolyte of Gordon Brown" has since been reported as having approached one of the dons at Magdalen College, Oxford, in search of some useful dirt on George, which if nothing else demonstrates that Brown regards him as something of a threat.
As Shadow Chancellor he has been resisting calls from the more radical wing of the party to commit to any specific level of tax cuts and is keen to present the case for lower taxes as "part of a broader economic vision about the future of Britain". George has described himself as a social and economic liberal who also happens to be an Eurosceptic.
He is married to Frances Howell, author of Lilla's Feast (Doubleday 2005), and daughter of David Howell, the former Conservative MP, now the Baron Howell, who was once a cabinet minister under Margaret Thatcher from 1979 to 1986. They have two young children and they live in London and Cheshire.
(1) As George put it himself, "It was my small act of rebellion. I never liked it. When I finally told my mother she said, 'Nor do I.' So I decided to be George after my grandfather, who was a war hero. Life was easier as a George, it was a straightforward name."
(2) His entry in the Register of Members Interests discloses that he is the "beneficiary of a discretionary family trust which holds more than 15% of the issued share capital of Osborne and Little Ltd, a family business manufacturing and retailing fabrics and wallpapers"
(3) Martin Bell had stood as an anti-sleaze candidate in the 1997 General Election against the Conservative Neil Hamilton.
(4) A reference to the alleged agreement made between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
- Biographical information at;
- Brian Wheeler Interview: George Osborne, 10 December 2004
- Brian Wheeler, Profile: George Osborne, 10 May 2005
- Osborne will not enter Tory race, 20 May 2005
- Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson, The future belongs to us, predicts Tory party's young star, 22/07/2005
- Matthew d'Ancona, George Osborne is the Tory whom Labour will come to fear most, 07/09/2005