George Osborne in a Twitter wilderness: “That all you got George? You disappointing me.”

“I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody.”

Are those famous Marlon Brando lines from ‘On The Waterfront’ swirling round George Osborne’s head? Bitterness towards Theresa May and the world in general, is the most obvious explanation for the ex-Chancellor’s behaviour.

There must be a certain degree of enjoyment for him – using Evening Standard editorials to add to the Prime Minister’s many woes, touring the studios to deliver well-rehearsed soundbites.

“Dead woman walking” was hardly original but it was sure to grab the headlines. Job done. But surely there can be no great long-term satisfaction merely throwing barbs from the sidelines?

Osborne hardly wants to be the modern-day equivalent of 1980s Ted Heath – with added Twitter. There is, however, a much bigger problem for him. In short, George Osborne is one of the authors of the Tory Party’s current misfortunes.

It’s a little rich for him to now cast Metropolitan sneers at his hapless party leader. At the heart of all this, of course, is Brexit. The EU referendum smashed British politics apart like a chandelier dropped from on high in a stately home.

The job of trying to pick up the tiny fragments and somehow piece them together fell, partly by accident, to Theresa May. It’s no great surprise she’s been cutting her fingers to ribbons.

When it comes to Brexit, Osborne can’t dodge his share of the responsibility.

There have been plenty of informed suggestions that the then Chancellor argued within Cabinet against holding the 2016 referendum.
At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, he had been elected to Parliament promising just such a vote.

Alternatively, he may have simply opposed the timing of the referendum. If that is true, he lost one of the most crucial arguments of his entire political career. Doesn’t look great on the CV, does it?

Then there is the not insignificant matter of the Remain campaign. Osborne was at the heart of it. If it’s fair to characterise that campaign as “Project Fear”, then he was Fearmonger in Chief.

Remember the warnings of an emergency budget immediately following a Brexit vote, plugging a “£30 billion black hole”? He even spelt out eye-watering potential measures, including a 2p income tax rise and the slashing of health, education, policing and transport budgets.

Not enough voters believed him, and it seems they may have had a point. On immigration, arguably the most crucial Brexit issue, there are also questions worth asking.

Osborne is widely recognised as taking a liberal view on the subject. But how hard did he work in the months and years before June 2016 to sell the benefits of immigration?

In the heat of the recent general election battle, Osborne’s Evening Standard ran an editorial that was viewed as his personal broadside.
It ridiculed as “economically illiterate” May’s plan to retain the Tory pledge of cutting immigration to tens of thousands.

And it said no senior members of the Cabinet backed the policy in private.

There’s only one problem here. Osborne was elected to public office on a manifesto containing this very pledge. Are there any of your other public commitments you don’t actually believe, George? I think we should be told. The list goes on.

Remember who and what swiftly took the shine off the Tory general election victory in 2015? That would have been George and his not so marvellous tax credit cuts.

Back in 2010, Osborne’s deficit-reduction drive was hailed as the only route to salvation. The alternative, slower-paced approach of Ed Balls and Gordon Brown was portrayed as a shortcut to economic Armageddon.

And yet, to the untrained eye at least, Osborne’s flexible deficit reduction efforts don’t look that different in practice to Labour’s allegedly reckless plans. Not all the Tories’ election campaign failings this time around were down to May.

Their central message on the economy didn’t seem to resonate with the electorate; the claims of Labour profligacy didn’t hit home. It’s almost as if voters had stopped believing dire Conservative warnings.

George Osborne is undoubtedly one of the savviest Tory politicians of his generation. Luck has not been with him in the last two years. But he needs more to occupy himself than mischief.

Endlessly tweeting newspaper splashes and cartoons makes him look like an over-eager work experience kid. And sassy sound bites on the Andrew Marr sofa will eventually start to lose their impact.

Maybe he should heed the words of Mohammad Ali to the flagging Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle:

“That all you got George?
“You disappointing me.”

  • George

    Corbyn ran for government with a manifesto saying Trident would be retained even though he strongly disagreed with it. That’s because it was his party’s manifesto not his own. Osbourne ran on the Tory manifesto not the Osbourne manifesto. I’m no fan of Osbourne but that’s the way party politics works.

  • Brian Walker

    George has to bear his share of cabinet responsibilty and mistakes..Remember the Cornish pasty tax? But recall the circumstances of the referendum. Remain expected to win but they didn’t want to expose a flank to Ukip. Better to beat the drum on immigration.

    The real puzzle about George today is the degree of his virulence to Theresa. If he wants to return to Conservative leadership one day, you’d think he should behave with a bit more restraint, especially now that so many others are prepared to do a more discreet demolition job on her.

    Would David like to offer Theresa his services? He seems to specialise in “bloody difficult” women fighting for survival.

  • Jag

    What a load of drivelly tosh! “Osborne, you loser”, with your multi-million pound stipends from ES, BlackRock and others.

    Osborne wasn’t a great chancellor, didn’t eliminate the deficit, and, contrary to popular opinion, wasn’t a champion of austerity because he borrowed more than he said he would, he didn’t cut as much as he said he would and he was supportive of the BOE’s monetary easing. He brought in the independent Office for Budgetary Responsibility. He did loan Ireland a few billion during the Crash, though cynics will suggest that was just so his pals in the City could see their bonds in Irish banks repaid. But he could have withdrawn Ulster Bank from Ireland and he didn’t.

    As for Brexit, what charge are you laying at his door? That he’s a democrat and followed through with the commitment to hold a referendum? Why is that so anathema to the author?

    If George is a bit sad for his accomplishments and his current rewards, and for his appearances on prestigious current affairs progs, where does that leave the author? Will Nolan be asking you for a comment on anything in the near future at all, David?

  • Zorin001

    Is Osborne maybe working as someone within the cabinets “attack dog” perhaps? Sticking the boot in publicly while someone else subtlety manuvers in the background?

  • runnymede

    Great article. The man is indeed pathetic.

  • runnymede

    Well he was always a sockpuppet of sorts but you need to look beyond the cabinet to see whose hand is up his rear

  • aquifer

    He was a master tactician, buying votes from pensioners, ducking and diving with aplomb, bribing those with pensions with their own money, but his lack of ‘bottom’ did for him in the end. His attempt to see off UKIP may have ruined the UK. But we know better than to feed crocodiles, don’t we?

  • chrisjones2

    Heath with a charisma bypass?

  • aquifer

    The original Tories were outlaws. The modern version of vandalism is ‘cutting red tape’, or in other words, people elected to govern refusing to do their job, downsizing government to cut taxes for the already rich.

    If people in boiler suits refuse to work it is called a strike and should be ended, by police action if required. Brexit was a coup, aided and abetted by the racist lying right wing press. In France they are having a political coup led by people with administrative skills. In England?

  • aquifer

    Ce systeme politique a besoin d’un “enema” tres grand, voila les francais:

  • Granni Trixie

    That the best you got? You started off with valid points but Casting up is man playing. You didn’t have to.

  • paul

    If i want a pension of £15000 a yr that means i need a pension fund worth around £300000 what government is going to give me that??