George Gideon Oliver Osborne, MP born 23 May 1971 in Paddington, London is a British Conservative politician. He is the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, a role he was appointed to in May 2010, and has been the Member of Parliament for Tatton since 2001.
Osborne is part of the old Anglo-Irish aristocracy, known in Ireland as the Ascendancy. He is the heir to the Osborne baronetcy (of Ballentaylor, in County Tipperary, and Ballylemon, in County Waterford).
He was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, before becoming a Conservative researcher, and then an MP.
Early life and family
Osborne 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.
Originally named Gideon Oliver,The 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.
Osborne was educated at two independent schools in west London: at Norland Place School in Holland Park and St Paul's School in Barnes (near Hammersmith), followed by a Bachelor's degree at Magdalen College at the University of Oxford where he received a 2:1 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.
Osborne's first job was entering the names of people who had died in London into a National Health Service computer. He also briefly worked for Selfridges, re-folding towels. He originally intended to pursue a career in journalism, but instead got a job at Conservative Central Office.
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Osborne was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer on 12 May 2010 and, as per custom with Cabinet Ministers, was sworn in as a Privy Counsellor the next day.
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.
He joined the Conservative Research Department in 1994 and became head of the Political Section. Between 1995 and 1997 he worked for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as special advisor to minister Douglas Hogg (during the BSE crisis) and worked in the Political Office at 10 Downing Street. Between 1997 and 2001, he worked for then Conservative leader William Hague as a speech writer 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, he succeeded the Independent MP Martin Bell, who had famously defeated the controversial former Conservative minister Neil Hamilton at the 1997 election. Osborne won with a majority of 8,611, becoming (at that time) the youngest Conservative MP in the House of Commons. 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.
In September 2004, Osborne was appointed to the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
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.
The Deripaska claim
In October 2008, Osborne's school and university friend the financier Nathaniel Rothschild claimed 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. Deripaska, whose wealth amounted to $3.5bn in 2009, hosted Osborne, Rothschild and Lord Mandelson on his yacht in Corfu in the summer of 2008, where the allegations took place. 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.
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.