George osborne

How depressing when people over-identify with their ethnicity

I am a Jew. I live in a council estate in London where considerably more than half of my neighbours are Muslims. These people aren’t my friends, but we get along fine: I pick up their parcels; we coordinate complaints to the council about the strange, blue-tinged fluid that sometimes drips from everyone’s ceilings, as if someone in the penthouse had decided to fill their flat with jelly. Elsewhere, our distant cousins are doing terrible things to each other. It’s increasingly hard to imagine a world in which these distant cousins can live together, intermingled but mostly minding their own business – but that’s exactly what we do every day

Enjoyable and informative but where’s the drama? Political Currency reviewed

The first episode of George Osborne and Ed Balls’s new podcast, Political Currency, opened with an old clip of the pair arguing across the despatch box. Osborne had described his latest Budget as ‘steady as she goes’ and Balls was having none of it. ‘What kind of ship does he think he’s on, the Titanic?’ If producers hoped that the duo would bring something of this, er, biting dynamic to their podcast, they were in for a surprise. The opening number saw little in the way of sparring between the former opponents. Seated in a studio in east London, they spent most of the time doing what so many in

Rory Stewart is a fish out of water

Rory Stewart is one of that almost extinct species in the modern Conservative party, a one-nation Tory. He is also – or was (until Boris Johnson kicked him out) – a politician with hinterland. He had been places and done things before getting himself elected in his late thirties, entering parliament in 2010. Disillusion rapidly set in: Too much of our time was absorbed in gossip about the promotion of one colleague or the scandal engulfing another. Even four weeks in, I sensed more impotence, suspicion, envy, resentment, claustrophobia and schadenfreude than I had seen in any other profession. It is made clear to him from the outset that rebellion

George Osborne’s midlife crisis

There should be a term in anthropology for what happens to a certain type of Tory male in middle age. The type who after decades of espousing often unpopular causes suddenly attempts to ingratiate himself with the masses. Ordinarily this breakdown expresses itself in a desire to legalise drugs, but it can take other forms. If you become the chairman of the British Museum, there is one rather obvious way to try to please people Anyway, the moment that George Osborne was made chairman of the British Museum I expected what has come to pass. Osborne has long been a prime candidate for a Tory midlife crisis. He always had

British Museum keeps the Chinese golden era alive

It’s been a bit of a bad week for the British Museum. High temperatures forced staff to close the site early on Monday and Tuesday, damaging revenue flow and prompting renewed criticism of its BP sponsorship deal. Then today Sadiq Khan – the museum’s own local mayor – called on the government to find a way of sharing the highly-prized Elgin Marbles with Greece. In such circumstances, the British Museum needs all the friends it can get. So it was no surprise therefore that two new names have been appointed as directors of the British Museum Friends, which serve as trustees of its collection. One of them is private equity chief Weijian Shan, who

What shape is the Treasury in now?

Don’t bring a bottle. Your chances of finding a party in full swing down those chilly corridors are close to zero. At most, you might hear the sound of a distant flute playing a courante by Lully. As Sir Howard Davies puts it in this insider’s view, which manages to be both authoritative and quite cheeky: The Treasury does not cultivate a warm and cuddly working environment. You may well not know if your immediate boss has a spouse or partner, and would certainly never meet them if they exist. Social events are at a premium. Yet this notoriously ascetic culture is not in the least hierarchical. Junior principals are

All talk and no trousers: is Oxford really to blame for Brexit?

Attacks on British elitism usually talk about Oxbridge, but Simon Kuper argues that it is specifically Oxford that is the problem, which has provided 11 (out of 15) prime ministers since the war. So what’s the explanation? Kuper thinks it’s all the fault of the Oxford Union, which fosters chaps who are clever at debating without particularly caring which side they are on. As a result, they acquire enough rhetorical skills to enable them to beat opponents who rely on thoughtful, fact-based arguments. Such arguments are ‘boring’, and being boring in the Oxford Union is the worst crime you can commit. This wouldn’t matter if it were confined to undergraduates

What Rishi Sunak could learn from George Osborne

I was walking last week from Canary Wharf tube station to my flat in east London – not far, little more than a mile, and the walk follows the Thames on the north side, away from traffic: lovely. But as I headed for the river, I saw trouble. A thick curtain of rain had descended over Blackheath across the Thames, and the wind was blowing strongly from that direction. The storm had not yet reached Greenwich, still clear, but the curtain was moving. After Greenwich the rainstorm would cross the river – and hit me. Umbrella-less, I quickened my pace. Few others seemed to have noticed. People were ambling around,

Boris Johnson’s Israel entanglement

Over Christmas, Steerpike was just one of those enjoying the memoirs of doughty Brexit street-fighter Mark Francois. Some 4,000 copies have now been sold, according to the Essex MP, whom Mr S encountered at a favourite Westminster haunt last week.  And book sales are not the only cause for the self-styled ‘Spartan’ to be celebrating, as Francois (successfully) proposed on New Years’ Eve to longtime girlfriend Olivia Sanders, the mayor of Brentwood and one half of the Posh and Becks of Essex politics. What better way to mark the first anniversary of the end of the Brexit transition period?  One story which appears to have eluded both Mr S and the rest of Fleet

Osborne’s wallpaper firm blames Brexit

George Osborne hasn’t been shy to take the occasional pop at Boris Johnson’s government and now the reason why seems clear. His family firm Osborne & Little’s annual accounts up until 31 March have just been published and they don’t make for entirely happy reading. The leading wallpaper manufacturer has been forced to report a pre-tax loss of £106,000, down from last year’s profit of £1.4 million, with Brexit cited as having an ‘immediate adverse effect on profits.’  Boris Johnson’s successful efforts to take the UK out of the EU on 1 January 2021 caused the company ‘unforeseen costs’ amounting to an extra £400,000, thanks in part to increased shipping charges and higher

Osborne masters the politics of art

As MPs spent the afternoon debating second jobs, a former colleague who knows all about the subject was holding court elsewhere. George Osborne, the part time banker and full time mischief-maker, was unveiling a plaque in Piccadilly to the legendary caricaturist James Gillray – a satirist who would no doubt have had great fun with the former Chancellor. Wearing one of his many, many hats, Osborne – in his capacity as chairman of the British Museum – told the assembled crowds of his love of the great British tradition of print cartoons, remarking:  As a teenager I used to go to Camden Passage to the antique shops there to try and get hold of some

Emily Sheffield out as Evening Standard editor

Oh dear. It was less than six months ago that Mr S was remarking on the number of onetime George Osborne acolytes now ensconced at the Evening Standard . But the winds of change now appear to be blowing through the corridors of Northcliffe House as owner Lord Lebedev has today unceremoniously axed the paper’s editor Emily Sheffield after just 15 months in the role. An email was sent out to Standard hacks this morning, informing them all that Sheffield was stepping down by ‘mutual agreement’ along with the obligatory platitudes for her ‘role in turning the Evening Standard Digital First.’ The former Vogue writer gets a column in the paper as a consolation prize, with

Changing fortunes for the Osborne family

George Osborne might be famous for collecting jobs but is he having any success with them? Since leaving the Treasury in July 2016, the onetime master of British politics seems to have acquired a reverse Midas touch. Having quit as an MP at the 2017 election – when Theresa May’s setbacks meant he could have been first in line to succeed her – Osborne has tried his hand at various gigs with, err, varying degrees of success. As editor of the Evening Standard, Osborne’s reign witnessed falling circulating, dozens of job cuts and losses which ran into the tens of millions. His long-awaited book ‘The Age of Unreason’ is still

Cameron snubs Osborne

The papers have been full of speculation this month about rumours of a rift between Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson. The pair are reported to have clashed over travel quarantine rules amid speculation about Sunak’s designs on the top job. Such tensions are nothing new in Westminster politics of course – not for nothing has the relationship between Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street been described as the ‘San Andreas Fault’ which runs through British government. But it appears the pair are not the only Chancellor and Prime Minister to have fallen out in recent months. David Cameron and George Osborne appear to be experiencing a rift of their own,

Gove skips self-isolation

This week, the government yet again threw the country’s holiday plans into chaos, after it announced that Portugal would be moved to the ‘amber list’ on Tuesday, meaning those returning from the country will have to quarantine at home for ten days. Little did the government know though that the Portuguese travel chaos would affect its own inner workings. The Daily Mail reports today that Michael Gove had to leave a meeting with Boris Johnson and devolved leaders after being pinged by the NHS app. It is thought that he came into contact with a Covid sufferer after traveling to the Champions League final in Porto last week with his

Exiled Osbornites find sanctuary at the Standard

Evening Standard editor Emily Sheffield waded into the row over Boris Johnson’s flat refurbishment this week. Sheffield – a regular visitor to Downing Street in the Cameron era, when her brother-in-law was prime minister – insisted the No. 11 flat ‘is no skip’ as some have implied.  As well as having the opportunity to check out the interiors firsthand, Sheffield also appears to have made some important connections along the way, judging by the familiar faces now adorning the pages of her newspaper. Sheffield, who once inadvertently posted a picture of David Cameron online in 2013, replaced George Osborne in the role as editor last year. Osborne, of course, is a man whose last journalistic experience was

How Boris eclipsed Cameron

Remember the days when David Cameron was the sleek young prime minister who had brought to an end 13 years of Labour government and Boris Johnson was just a clown on a zipwire? There seemed little doubt that Dave had won the race between the Bullingdon Club contemporaries for the glittering prizes of political life, seizing the chance to fashion a moderate Conservatism for the modern age. Boris, the great entertainer, was destined to be a far less consequential figure – a squanderer of his own talents. The Greensill affair underlines the perils of rushing to premature judgment. But while it is perfectly obvious that Boris now has the most

Blonde with a bombshell: Sasha Swire’s revelations about the Cameroons

Ten years ago, reviewing Alastair Campbell’s diaries for The Spectator, I concluded as follows: Who will be the chroniclers of the Cameron government? Somewhere, unknown to his or her colleagues, a secret scribbler will already be at work, documenting the rise and, in due course, no doubt, the fall of this administration. Well, here it is. It comes from an unpredictable source deep inside that privileged little caste who governed us between 2010 and 2016: Sasha Swire, wife of Hugo, a middle-ranking minister MP for a safe seat in rural Devon and a man who, for all that he was a low-key figure, has a very sharp wit and is

Is George Osborne to blame for HS2’s ballooning price tag?

The politics of HS2 are difficult for Boris Johnson, especially since so many Tory MPs hate the £100 billion-plus cost, the destruction of ancient pasture and woodland and the perceived harm to their rural constituents. But the bigger political consideration for Boris ‘another-blue-brick-in-the-red-wall’ Johnson is the perception of whether today’s modified version of HS2 is seen as an upgrading or downgrading of the portion north of Birmingham. His colleagues insist the new plan will be central to his promises to transform both the infrastructure and the prospects of the North. They claim what will happen is that HS2 to Manchester and Leeds – what is known as HS2b – will

Has George Osborne hit ‘peak job’?

Ever since leaving parliament, George Osborne has been piling up jobs almost as fast as he piled up the national debt when in office (nine, at the last count) But he might soon have an easier balancing act, with his editorship of the Evening Standard in question. The rumour from Derry Street is that the typically chummy relationship between Osborne and Evgeny Lebedev has been strained since Christmas. What could have led to a cold spell? Disagreement over Putin? Boris? London’s upcoming mayoral election? Mr S hears that a rather more mundane incident could be to blame. In the run up to Christmas, the Standard published pictures of Lebedev alongside