|The Right Honourable
|Chancellor of the Exchequer|
12 May 2010
|Prime Minister||David Cameron|
|Preceded by||Alistair Darling|
|Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer|
5 May 2005 – 11 May 2010
|Preceded by||Oliver Letwin|
|Succeeded by||Alistair Darling|
|Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury|
14 June 2004 – 5 May 2005
|Preceded by||Howard Flight|
|Succeeded by||Philip Hammond|
|Member of Parliament
7 June 2001
|Preceded by||Martin Bell|
|Born||Gideon Oliver Osborne
23 May 1971
London, United Kingdom
|Spouse(s)||Frances Howell (m. 1998)|
|Residence||11 Downing Street (Official)|
|Alma mater||Magdalen College, Oxford|
George Gideon Oliver Osborne, MP (born Gideon Oliver Osborne, 23 May 1971) is a British Conservative politician. He is the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Second Lord of the Treasury of the United Kingdom, roles to which he was appointed in May 2010. He has been the Member of Parliament for Tatton since 2001.
Osborne is one of the old Anglo-Irish aristocracy, known in Ireland as the Ascendancy. He is the heir apparent to the Osborne baronetcy (of Ballentaylor, in County Tipperary, and Ballylemon, in County Waterford). He was educated at St Paul's School, London, and Magdalen College, Oxford, before working for the Conservative Party as a researcher, special adviser, speechwriter and strategist. In 2005, he ran David Cameron's successful party-leadership campaign and was made Shadow Chancellor.
Early life and education
Osborne was born in Paddington, London, and is the eldest of four sons. His father, Sir Peter Osborne, 17th Baronet, co-founded the firm of fabric and wallpapers designers Osborne & Little. His mother is Felicity Alexandra Loxton-Peacock, the daughter of artist Lady Clarisse Loxton Peacock. His mother was a Labour voter, an anti-Vietnam War marcher and worked for Amnesty International.
Originally named Gideon Oliver, he changed his name to George when he was 13. In an interview in July 2005, Osborne said: "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."
He was given a demyship to Magdalen College, University of Oxford, where he received a 2:1 bachelor's degree in Modern History. At Oxford he edited the university's Isis magazine, and was a member of the Bullingdon Club. He also attended Davidson College in North Carolina for a semester as a Dean Rusk Scholar.
After graduating in 1992, Osborne did a few part-time jobs including as a data entry clerk, typing the details of recently deceased into a NHS computer database. He also briefly worked for a week at Selfridges, mainly re-folding towels.
In 1993, Osborne originally intended to pursue a career in journalism. He was shortlisted for but failed to gain a place on The Times trainee scheme, and instead did freelance work on the Peterborough diary column of The Daily Telegraph. Some time later, an Oxford friend of his, journalist George Bridges, alerted Osborne to a research vacancy at Conservative Central Office.
Conservative Research Department
Between 1995 and 1997 he worked as special adviser to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Douglas Hogg (during the BSE crisis) and worked in the Political Office at 10 Downing Street. In 1997, Osborne worked on Prime Minister John Major's campaign team in the run-up to the Tories' heavy election defeat. After the election, he again considered journalism, approaching The Times to be a leader writer, though nothing came of it.
Between 1997 and 2001, he worked for then Conservative leader William Hague as a speechwriter and Political Secretary. In this role he helped prepare Hague for the weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions, often playing the role of Prime Minister Tony Blair. Under the successive leaderships of Michael Howard and David Cameron he remained on the Prime Minister's Questions team.
Member of Parliament
Elected as the Member of Parliament for Tatton, Cheshire, in June 2001, Osborne succeeded the Independent MP Martin Bell, who had defeated the controversial former Conservative minister Neil Hamilton at the 1997 election; but chose not to stand again in Tatton at the 2001 election. Osborne won with a majority of 8,611 over the Labour candidate, becoming (at that time) the youngest Conservative MP in the House of Commons. Osborne was a strong supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. At the 2005 election, he was re-elected with an increased majority of 11,731 (51.8% of the vote) and in 2010 increased his majority still further to 14,487.
Following the 2005 general election, he was promoted to Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer at the young age of 33 by the then-Conservative Party leader Michael Howard. Howard had initially offered the post to William Hague, who turned it down. Press reports suggest that Howard's second choice for the post was in fact David Cameron, who also rejected the job as he preferred to take on a major public service portfolio (he was made Shadow Education Secretary). Thus Howard turned to Osborne as his third choice for the role. His promotion prompted speculation he would run for leadership of the Conservative Party when Howard stepped down, but he ruled himself out within a week. Osborne served as campaign manager for David Cameron's leadership campaign, and kept the Shadow Chancellor's post when Cameron became leader later that year.
In 2009 when David Cameron was asked whether or not he would be willing to sack a close colleague such as Osborne, he stated, "With George, the answer is yes. He stayed in my shadow cabinet not because he is a friend, not because we are godfathers to each other's children but because he is the right person to do the job. I know and he knows that if that was not the case he would not be there. "
Osborne has expressed an interest in the ideas of "tax simplification" (including the idea of flat tax). He set up a "Tax Reform Commission" in October 2005 to investigate ideas for how to create a "flatter, simpler" tax system. The system then proposed would reduce the income tax rate to a flat 22%, and increase personal allowance from £4,435 to £10,000-£15,500. The idea of a flat tax is not included in the current Conservative party manifesto.
Comments on Gordon Brown
During Osborne's response to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown's Pre-Budget Report on 5 December 2005, Osborne accused Brown of being "a Chancellor past his sell by date, a Chancellor holding Britain back". In an interview the same week, he also referred to Brown as 'brutal' and 'unpleasant'. In October 2006 Osborne was rebuked by the Speaker of the House of Commons when he attacked the Chancellor at Oral Questions to the Chancellor by citing a comment attributed to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions John Hutton, describing the Chancellor as likely to make an 'effing awful' Prime Minister. It was widely suggested that Osborne was leading an assault on Brown which would allow the Conservatives to discredit him without damaging David Cameron's public image. Osborne faced criticism from some quarters for appearing to suggest that Brown was "faintly autistic". After talking about his ability to recall odd facts in an interview, a host suggested that Osborne may have been "faintly autistic"; Osborne responded by saying that "We're not getting onto Gordon Brown yet".
"Run on the pound"
On 14 November 2008, in an intervention described by the BBC's Nick Robinson as "pretty extraordinary", Osborne spoke out warning that the more the government borrows the less attractive sterling becomes. He said: "We are in danger, if the government is not careful, of having a proper sterling collapse, a run on the pound. " Labelling Gordon Brown's tactic as a "scorched-earth policy", which a future Conservative government would have to clear up, Osborne continued: "His view is he probably won't win the next election. The Tories can clear this mess up after I've gone. " Lord Kalms, a prominent supporter of David Davis in the 2005 leadership election, told the BBC that former shadow home secretary David Davis would be more appropriate as shadow chancellor.
The Deripaska claim
In October 2008, Osborne's school and university friend the financier Nathaniel Rothschild stated that George Osborne had tried to solicit a £50,000 donation from the Russian aluminium magnate Oleg Deripaska, which would have been a violation of the law against political donations by foreign citizens. Rothschild wrote: "[I]t turns out that your obsession with Mr. Mandelson is trivial in light of Mr. Osborne's actions. I also think it ill behoves all political parties to try and make capital at the expense of another in such circumstances. Perhaps in future it would be better if all involved accepted the age old adage that private parties are just that. " Rothschild had hosted Deripaska, Osborne and Lord Mandelson at a party in his villa in Corfu. The alleged solicitation of a donation occurred on Deripaska's yacht during the party. The Electoral Commission received a formal complaint initiated in a letter by the Liberal Democrats' Home Affairs Spokesman, Chris Huhne, requesting them to investigate the claims against Osborne. The Commission rejected the claims and said it saw "no information" suggesting an offence. The story was coined by the press as 'Yachtgate. '
In 2009, he received criticism for the way he had handled his expenses, after he was found to have "flipped" his second home, changing which property he designated as his second home in order to pay less capital gains tax. The Lib Dems estimated he owed £55,000 to the public purse as a result of this. He had previously paid back £1,193 on overpayments on his mortgage and chauffeur fares after a complaint from a Labour activist, and it also emerged that he had claimed £47 for two copies of a DVD of his own speech on "value for taxpayers' money". Parliament's standards commissioner's report found that although Mr Osborne had breached the rules the offence was "unintended and relatively minor". Osborne had been told at the time by the Fees Office that his claims would be within the rules. "We entirely accept that Mr Osborne derived no significant benefit from them, " the report added. The BBC's Political Correspondent Iain Watson said the repayment was relatively small in comparison with those made by some other MPs and would not be regarded as politically damaging.
2010 general election campaign
During the 2010 general election campaign, Osborne was considered to have been sidelined due to his perceived unpopularity and the perception as a 'weak link' by both the Liberal Democrat and Labour strategists.
The Financial Times describes Osborne as "metropolitan and socially liberal. He is hawkish on foreign policy with links to Washington neo-conservatives and ideologically committed to cutting the state. A pragmatic Eurosceptic". There is evidence of this commitment to cutting the state in his party's manifesto, with Osborne and the Conservatives seeking to cut the deficit "faster and deeper" than any other main party as well as committing to various tax cuts such as inheritance tax and national insurance. According to an IFS report before the 2010 election, the Conservatives needed to find more money from cuts beyond what they had outlined than any other major party, although the report was also critical of Labour and the Lib Dems.
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Osborne acceded to the chancellorship in the continuing wake of the financial crisis. Two of his first acts were setting up the Office of Budget Responsibility and commissioning a government-wide spending review, to conclude in autumn 2010, to set limits on departmental spending until 2014–15. In July 2010, Osborne seeking cuts of up to 25 per cent in government spending to tackle the deficit, taking on the £20 billion cost of building four new Vanguard-class submarine to bear Trident would require a severe reduction in the rest of the Ministry of Defence budget. The Chancellor insisted that Trident had to be considered as part of the MoD's core funding. He said, "The Trident costs, I have made it absolutely clear, are part of the defence budget. " He warned that if Trident was considered core funding, there would have to be severe restrictions in the way that Britain operated militarily, amid suggestions that regiments could be axed, or, potentially, the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy amalgamated. Liam Fox said, "To take the capital cost would make it very difficult to maintain what we are currently doing in terms of capability. "
On 4 October 2010, in a speech at the Conservative conference in Birmingham, Osborne announced a cap on the overall amount of benefits a family can receive from the state, estimated to be around £500 a week from 2013. It has been estimated this could result in 50,000 unemployed families losing an average of £93 a week. He also announced that he would end the universal entitlement to child benefit, and removed the entitlement from people on the 40% and 50% income tax rates from 2013.
In February 2011 Osborne announced Project Merlin whereby banks will lend about £190bn to businesses this year – including £76bn to small firms – curb bonuses and reveal some salary details of their top earners. The Bank of England will monitor whether loans targets are being met. Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Lord Oakeshott resigned after the agreement was announced. This was in addition to the government increasing its levy on banks to £2.5bn this year – raising an extra £800m. HSBC, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Lloyds Banking Group have signed up to the Project Merlin agreement, while Santander has agreed to the lending parts of the deal. Other pledges include providing £200m of capital for David Cameron's Big Society Bank, which is supposed to finance community projects.
Osborne set himself the target of reducing the UK's deficit to the point that, in the financial year 2015–16, the total public debt would be falling as a fraction of GDP. On 24 May 2010, Osborne outlined £6.2bn cuts: "We simply cannot afford to increase public debt at the rate of £3bn each week. " A Financial Times editorial agreed. In an open letter to the chancellor, however, the respected FT commentator Martin Wolf wrote: "I have been fascinated—if appalled—by the pre-Keynesian approach you and the prime minister have taken to the UK's fiscal challenges. What Keynes called "the Treasury view"—that fiscal policy has no effect on activity, even in a deep recession—is alive and well in Downing Street. " Comparing Coalition austerity measures with the Opposition's, Wolf commented that the "big shift from Labour. . . . is the cuts in welfare benefits. "
Leaked Treasury documents the next month revealed that Osborne anticipated his tighter spending would lead to 1.3 million jobs lost over the course of the parliament. Osborne has termed those who object to his policy "deficit-deniers".
In September, the IMF described Osborne's deficit reduction plans as "essential", though revised its growth estimate down, and dozens of leading British CEO's publicly declared their support in a high-profile letter. Others were openly hostile to Osborne's plans, notably David Blanchflower and Martin Wolf. It was also reported in September that the quarterly UK trade deficit for April–June 2010 was the largest since annual records began in 1946. "July's dreadful UK trade figures cast further doubt over the ability of the external sector to drive the recovery once the boost from government and consumer spending fades, " commented Vicky Redwood of Capital Economics.
George Osborne, presented the Government's Spending Review on 20 October, which fixed spending budgets for each government department up to 2014–15. Before and after becoming chancellor, Osborne had alleged that the UK was on "the verge of bankruptcy". When he maintained the stance to justify the Spending Review, Martin Wolf took issue: "The chancellor presents the hypothesis of looming national 'bankruptcy'. If so, the UK must have been bankrupt for much of the past two centuries. " A fortnight after his Review presentation, the Treasury Select Committee also accused the chancellor of using inflammatory language to justify the large public spending cuts.
More bad news was to follow as it was reported that UK exports had fallen at a record pace in the fourth quarter of 2010, highlighting the fact that Britain had not escaped a plunge in global trade. Vicky Redwood remarked: "Until the UK's export sector starts to perk up, any recovery in the overall economy seems unlikely. " The economy also posted a contraction of 0.5 percent for the final quarter of 2010. Hetal Mehta from Dalwa Capitol described the negative growth as "a horrendous figure. An absolute disaster for the economy. . . . It seems that the economy is incredibly vulnerable. And with the fiscal tightening yet to fully bite, we will have to brace ourselves for a bumpy ride. " Osborne said that although the figures were disappointing, there was strong performances and growth from sections of the economy less affected by the weather, such as manufacturing. He also declared that the poor figures and bad weather would not affect implementation of his austerity measures and budget deficit reduction, and that he would not be "blown off course".
2011 ushered in better news, with the revised figures for the month of January indicating that the deficit in trade in goods had narrowed compared to December 2010, and by much more than expected. "This is welcome news for the UK economy and signals a further rebalancing of the economy towards export-led manufacturing growth, " said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit Group.
Osborne's policies caused continuing concern as a series of bad data indicated the deteriorating state of the UK economy. Martin Wolf observed: "The release of the preliminary version of the May 2011 Economic Outlook from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development allows the reader to trace the disappointing path that the UK economy has taken", and NIESR, predicting a growth slump, recommended delaying the spending cuts. On 6 June, fifty-two people, including some of Britain's leading economists, two former Whitehall advisers and two signatories of the previous year's high-profile letter backing the Tories' cuts, publicly warned Osborne that the UK was too fragile to withstand his drastic spending cuts and that he must draw up a plan B. As in January, Osborne dismissed the criticism. Over the following week, the IMF reaffirmed its support for Osborne's cuts, again describing them as "essential", though again revising its growth prediction down, and a number of economists publicly encouraged Osborne not to abandon his deficit-reduction programme. The same week featured a repetition of a threat by Moody's to downgrade the UK's credit rating (a Chinese ratings agency had already downgraded Britain's credit rating because it foresaw years of sluggish growth), contradicting Osborne's claim a few weeks prior that the UK's credit rating had "come off negative outlook when other countries are facing downgrades. We have brought much-needed stability at home and attracted near universal confidence abroad".
In June it was reported that Osborne's staff had been complaining privately to the BBC about an alleged negative bias in the latter's coverage of the economy, and Osborne aired the accusation publicly in a BBC interview. The BBC rebutted Osborne's comments on its website.
Second-quarter GDP-figures were, with just 0.2% growth, "horribly unimpressive". The Office for National Statistics (ONS) argued the figures were heavily influenced by one-off, suppressing factors, though Lex argued that, "Little weight should be put on" the ONS's argument. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls accused Osborne of being "breathtakingly complacent", while Malcolm Barr, an economist at JPMorgan, said, "No one can claim that the economy is anything but disappointing". Though the OBR's monthly survey of private sector economists showed progressive downgrades of GDP growth estimates—the July forecast was a 1.3 per cent rate of expansion, down from 1.7 per cent in March—the OBR reported that public finances were on track. Commenting on the low, 0.2% growth of GDP, Osborne, as on previous occasions, stated that, although the economy was carrying some "heavy weights", abandoning his austerity programme "would only risk British jobs and growth. " An FT editorial again gave qualified praise for Osborne's performance.
Within days, however, bad news emerged for the manufacturing sector, which had been "the economy's stellar performer since the UK emerged from recession". Optimism among manufacturers fell for the first time in two years (shortly thereafter it emerged that manufacturing had contracted in July, the first such decline in more than two years, as British manufacturers fired a broadside at ministers' efforts to "rebalance" the economy); Osborne's plan to offer a national insurance holiday to small companies to boost jobs growth in the UK's regions had had only a "minuscule" take-up since it was launched a year ago; the CBI lowered its growth forecast for 2011 again, but emphasised that the economy was still expected to grow; the IMF, pointing to weak growth prospects, cast doubt on Osborne's ability to meet his 2015–6 goal for eliminating the deficit; the head of the OBR stated his belief that the UK would fail to meet its 2011 growth target of 1.7%; leading builders merchants complained that the construction sector's recovery was being held back by Osborne's austerity measures; the IMF estimated that British households would lose £1,500 a year for the next five years as a consequence of the austerity drive, warned that the UK faced a "bumpy and uneven" recovery, and that Osborne should prepare to be flexible; NIESR, in a more outspoken fashion than the IMF, told Osborne that his cuts would lead to the deficit's existence past his 2015–16 target; NIESR and the IMF estimated that the UK's structural unemployment rate would be worse than before the financial crisis; UK car sales continued their uninterrupted fall for each month of Osborne's chancellorship; and, with the Bank of England preparing to slash growth forecasts, Business Secretary Vince Cable warned that the UK was facing the risk of a double-dip recession.
With problems with eurozone and US debt peaking again, Osborne interrupted his holiday to make crisis calls.
In November 2011, Osborne sold Northern Rock to Richard Branson's Virgin Money for a price that could range from £747m to £1bn. Northern Rock, the first British bank in 150 years to suffer a bank run, had been taken into public ownership in 2008, then divided into two entities on 1 January 2010 – the other half being Northern Rock (Asset Management). The Independent described the entity sold as the "detoxified arm" of the bank, while saying the taxpayers retained "responsibility for £20bn of toxic assets such as bad debts and closed mortgages. " The newspaper quoted Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor: "It is being sold off at a loss and I think there is a question as to whether or not this is the best time, with the markets in turmoil to get the best deal. " It quoted Osborne that the takeover would create "a powerful new presence on the high street" offering "real choice and competition" for the public", and based on independent device and careful consideration the Treasury had decided it "was clear to us this was the best deal for the British taxpayer – we were getting more money back than any other deal on the table. " Osborne responded to concerns about the timing in The Daily Telegraph by saying that the 2008 Labour government had secretly made a deal with the European Commission in Brussels to sell the bank in or before 2013, and "[g]iven we were advised that Northern Rock plc would have been likely to remain loss-making [until] at least well into 2012, which would have depleted taxpayer resources still further, agreeing a sale now was even more imperative. " The deal valued the bank at somewhat less than its £1.12bn net asset value, and "locks in a minimum loss" for taxpayers of £373m to £453m.
It was reported in The Independent in December 2011 that Osborne had been involved in meetings with bankers lobbying to avoid proposals in the Vickers Report that were intended to reduce risks in the banking industry. The talks were alleged to be secret but were obtained via a Freedom of Information request.
In March 2012, Osborne faced opposition to changes in tax policy which included reducing a 50% income tax rate on top earners, which he said had been specially designated by his predecessor as "temporary", to 45%, while imposing a VAT tax on food such as Cornish pasties when served at above ambient temperature. Critics commented on the potential effect on vendors, with members on the Treasury Select Committee suggesting that Osborne was inexperienced with the issue after a comment that he 'couldn't remember' the last time he'd bought such a pasty from Greggs. The Guardian called the pasty decision "logically correct", as pasties are hot food like kebabs, which are currently subject to the 20% tax, but called it "bad policy" politically, because raising the tax on pasties burdens lower income groups already facing 3.5% inflation but 1.1% wage growth. In October 2012, Osborne proposed a new policy to boost hiring staff. Companies are to give new appointees shares worth between £2,000 and £50,000 but the appointee will lose the right to claim unfair dismissal and time off for training. In October on a train Osborne was reported to have been sitting in first class despite holding only a standard class ticket as he refused to sit among the general public. On 25 January 2013 GDP figures for the UK economy were published for the period October to December 2012. These figures showed another negative figure for growth and a risk that the UK could enter a 'triple dip' recession for the first time in its history.
In February 2013 the UK lost its AAA credit rating for the first time since 1978.
Osborne married The Hon Frances Victoria Howell (b. 18 February 1969), author and elder daughter of the Conservative politician and Government Minister Lord Howell of Guildford, on 4 April 1998. The couple have two children, Luke Benedict, born at Westminster on 15 June 2001, and Liberty Kate, born at Westminster, London, on 27 June 2003. He has an estimated personal fortune of around £4 million, as the beneficiary of a trust fund that owns a 15 per cent stake in Osborne & Little, the wallpaper-and-fabrics company co-founded by his father, Sir Peter Osborne, Bt.
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- Glen Owen The coalition of millionaires: 23 of the 29 member of the new cabinet are worth more than £1m... and the Lib Dems are just as wealthy as the Tories Mail on Sunday 23 May 2010
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- George Osborne MP official Conservative Party profile
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- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Electoral history and profile at The Guardian
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- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou.com
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- Appearances on C-SPAN
- George Osborne at the Internet Movie Database
- Profile: George Osborne BBC News, 5 April 2005
- Economic thinking after the crunch, video speech, RSA Insights, 8 April 2009
- The Real George Osborne, parody series featuring Rufus Jones as George Osborne, November–December 2011
- Debrett's People of Today
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament
|Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
|Chancellor of the Exchequer
|Second Lord of the Treasury
|Order of precedence in England and Wales|
as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and UK Baron
as Chancellor of the Exchequer
Sir Nicholas Wall
as President of the Family Division