|The Right Honourable
|First Secretary of State|
8 May 2015
|Prime Minister||David Cameron|
|Preceded by||William Hague|
|Chancellor of the Exchequer|
11 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
|Spouse(s)||Frances née Howell (1998–present)|
|Residence||11 Downing Street, SW1|
|Alma mater||Magdalen College, Oxford|
George Osborne (born Gideon Oliver Osborne; 23 May 1971) is a British politician and member of the Conservative Party who has been First Secretary of State since 2015, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Second Lord of the Treasury since 2010 and Member of Parliament (MP) for Tatton since 2001.
Born in Paddington, London, Osborne descends from one of the oldest Anglo-Irish aristocratic families. The eldest son of Sir Peter Osborne, 17th Baronet, he is heir apparent to the Osborne baronetcy. He was educated at various schools before going to Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating with a degree in modern history.
Osborne worked for The Daily Telegraph before joining the Conservative Research Department and becoming head of its political section. He was then a special adviser to Douglas Hogg during his time as Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Osborne then worked at 10 Downing Street. After working for Prime Minister John Major's campaign team during the party's unsuccessful campaign for the 1997 general election, Osborne was a speechwriter and political secretary for Major's successor as party leader, William Hague.
In the 2001 general election, Osborne successfully contested the Tatton constituency in Cheshire, and became the then-youngest Conservative MP in the House of Commons. He was appointed Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury by Conservative leader Michael Howard in 2004. After being returned to parliament in the 2005 general election he ran his university friend David Cameron's successful leadership campaign. Cameron appointed Osborne Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and after the 2010 general election, Osborne became Chancellor in the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government.
Osborne has aimed to reduce the United Kingdom national debt since becoming Chancellor and has attempted to cut public spending. After the Conservatives won an overall majority in the 2015 general election, Osborne was reappointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer by Cameron in his second government and was given the additional title of First Secretary of State.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Early political career
- 3 Member of Parliament
- 4 Shadow Chancellor
- 5 Chancellor of the Exchequer
- 6 Political views
- 7 Political relationships
- 8 Personal life
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Early life and education
Osborne was born in Paddington, London, and is the eldest of four boys. 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 Clarisse Loxton-Peacock.
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 awarded a demyship at Magdalen College, University of Oxford, where he received a 2:1 bachelor's degree in Modern History. He also attended Davidson College in North Carolina for a semester as a Dean Rusk Scholar.
In 1993, Osborne 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.
Early political career
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 kept to his promise not to stand again 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 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 was not included in the 2010 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 Martin 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. In October 2006, 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".
Pledge to match Labour spending
In September 2007, ahead of the publication of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, Osborne pledged that the Conservative Party would match Labour's public spending plans for the next three years. He promised increases in public spending of 2% a year, calling Labour charges that the Conservatives would cut public spending "a pack of lies". He also ruled out any "upfront, unfunded tax cuts".
The Deripaska claim
In October 2008, Osborne's school and university contemporary 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 Lord 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 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 spokesperson, Chris Huhne, urging them to investigate the allegations against Osborne. The Commission rejected the claims and said it saw "no information" suggesting an offence. The saga has been referred to by the press as 'Yachtgate'.
"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. " Stanley 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.
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 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 said he had received "flawed" advice and not benefited personally.
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 that he was a "weak link" by both the Liberal Democrat and Labour strategists.
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. Shortly before the 2010 election, Osborne had pledged to be "tougher than Thatcher" on Britain's budget deficit, and he duly set himself the target of reducing the UK's deficit to the point that, in the financial year 2015–16, 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. " 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 July 2010, Osborne, seeking cuts of up to 25 per cent in government spending to tackle the deficit, insisted the £20 billion cost of building four new Vanguard-class submarine to bear Trident had to be considered as part of the MoD's core funding even if that implied a severe reduction in the rest of the Ministry of Defence budget. The Defence Secretary Liam Fox warned that if Trident was considered core funding, there would have to be severe restrictions in the way that Britain operated militarily.
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", though this hyperbolic and inaccurate assertion was criticised by the Treasury Select Committee and others as an effort to try and justify his programme of spending cuts.
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.
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. 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.
The 2012 budget - dubbed the "omnishambles budget" by Ed Miliband - is viewed as the nadir of Osborne's political fortunes. Osborne cut the 50% income tax rate on top earners, which he said had been specially designated by his predecessor as "temporary", to 45%, but faced criticism for simultaneously proposing 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 had bought such a pasty from Greggs. The "pasty tax" proposals were later withdrawn in what was seen as a political "U-turn", as was the neutering of policies to cut tax relief on charitable donations and tax on static caravans.
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 February 2013 the UK lost its AAA credit rating - which Osborne had indicated to be a priority when coming to power - for the first time since 1978. His March 2013 budget was described as being made "very tight economic straitjacket" as it halved forecasts for economic growth. However it was positively received by the public, with the ensuing boost to Conservative party support in opinion polls standing in marked contrast to the previous year's budget. The economy subsequently began to pick up in mid 2013, with Osborne's net public approval rating rising from -33 to +3 over the following 12 months.
By 2015 the annual deficit had been cut by about half of the initial target, so the debt-to-GDP ratio was still rising. Government debt had increased more during the 5-year term than during the previous 13 years.
After the Conservatives won an overall majority at the 2015 general election, Osborne was reappointed Chancellor of the Exchequer by Cameron in his second government. Osborne also received the honorific title of First Secretary of State.
Second 2015 budget
On 16 May, Osborne announced that he would deliver a second Budget on 8 July and promised action on tax avoidance by the rich, increased funding for the NHS, more apprenticeships, efforts to increase productivity and cuts to the welfare budget. In response, the Conservative-led Local Government Association, on behalf of 375 Conservative-, Labour- and Liberal Democrat-run councils, said that further austerity measures were "not an option" as they would "devastate" local services. They said that local councils had already had to make cuts of 40% since 2010 and couldn't make any more cuts without serious consequences for the most vulnerable. After the budget many departments were told to work out the effect on services of spending cuts from 25% to 40% by 2019-20. There are fears services the public takes for granted could be hit.
Osborne announced the introduction of a "National Living Wage" of £7.20/hour, rising to £9/hour by 2020 which will apply to those 25 or over. This was widely cheered by both Conservative MPs and political commentators.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies claims the budget reduced incomes of poor people in the UK disproportionately, notably those in low paid work. Osborne's declared goal of increasing work incentives will not clearly be achieved. Paul Johnson of the IFS said
The key fact is that the increase in the minimum wage simply cannot provide full compensation for the majority of losses that will be experienced by tax credit recipients (...) Significant allowances were an integral part of the design of universal credit, intended to give claimants an incentive to move into work. This reform will cost about 3 million families an average of £1,000 a year each. It will reduce the incentive for the first earner in the family to enter work.
The biggest slap in the face for young people in this budget is what George Osborne has done on pay. His flagship proposal of a national living wage only kicks in at 25, but his cuts to tax credits affect people of all ages. He was not honest about this before the election and has no mandate for his plans. There is a real risk this will cement a two-tier workforce between young and old as he brings down the deficit on the backs of young people.
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. He has stated that the British economy must diversify away from London following the 2008 banking crisis, most notably in the form of the Northern Powerhouse policy proposals which aim to agglomerate the polycentric cities of the north to increase economic output.
Osborne is widely viewed as a potential future leader of the Conservative Party, despite being seen as a relatively unpopular figure with the general public. Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi has suggested the closeness of his relationship with David Cameron means the two effectively share power in the current government, whilst critics point to his hand in Cabinet reshuffles. He has worked hard on rebuilding his image after the much criticised 2012 budget.
During House of Commons debates. Michael Deacon of The Daily Telegraph has described him as "the prince of the parliamentary putdown" after he managed to taunt both Ed Balls and Norman Baker in one sentence. Osborne denied rumours that he had referred to his colleague Iain Duncan Smith as "not clever enough", which were published in Matthew d'Ancona's book, In It Together.
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.
- Osborne baronets
- New Enterprise Council (Conservative Party, United Kingdom)
- United Kingdom government austerity programme
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Unpublished estimates of the impact of the biggest squeeze on public spending since the second world war show that the government is expecting between 500,000 and 600,000 jobs to go in the public sector and between 600,000 and 700,000 to disappear in the private sector by 2015. . . . A slide from the final version of a presentation for last week's budget. . . . says: "100–120,000 public sector jobs and 120–140,000 private sector jobs assumed to be lost per annum for five years through cuts. "
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The chancellor presents the hypothesis of looming national 'bankruptcy'. If so, the UK must have been bankrupt for much of the past two centuries.
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- George Osborne MP official Conservative Party profile
- George Osborne for Tatton official constituency site
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Profile at BBC News Democracy Live
- Articles authored at Journalisted
- George Osborne collected news and commentary at The Guardian
- George Osborne collected news and commentary at The Telegraph
- 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 Chief Secretary to the Treasury
|Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
|Chancellor of the Exchequer
|Second Lord of the Treasury
|First Secretary of State
|Order of precedence in England and Wales|
as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
& eldest son of a baronet
as Chancellor of the Exchequer
Sir James Munby
as President of the Family Division