1 Oct 2013

George Osborne’s new do – the hair to Blair?

In conversation with Gary Gibbon – George Osborne tells Channel 4 News what his hair reveals about his economic policy and how the Tories “never really dealt” with Tony Blair as a political opponent.

Is it a naked power grab? A mid-life crisis? Or something more? Chancellor George Osborne’s new haircut, unveiled at the 2013 Conservative party conference in Manchester this week, has certainly got people talking.

But – ever on message – Mr Osborne himself made sure to link his style choices back to the day job.

“Michael Gove is the only person who has spotted what is really going on,” he told Political Editor Gary Gibbon, speaking at a Channel 4 News “in conversation” fringe event at the conference.

“He said: ‘You’ve applied your economic policy to your hairstyle. You’ve turned it around to stop the recession.'”

The chancellor also spoke more seriously about the challenges of leading the country’s economic policy through the global financial crisis. He said that dealing with moments such as the “omnishambles” budget and pastygate “wasn’t great”, admitting he had made political miscalculations. He said he had, in the past, retreated a little from the public gaze in those situations but said he now realised it was important to “get out of the Treasury” to meet working people and explain what he was doing, and why.

‘No dark nights of the soul’

However, he said it had been important for the country that the government held its nerve and stuck with a plan which had come under pressure but which, Mr Osborne attests, is now paying dividends. This summer, GDP showed 0.6 per cent growth, the first time the economy has seen back-to-back increases since 2011.

He said: “Last year and the beginning of this year was when we were coming under maximum pressure to do a U-turn… it was also a period when we held our nerve, and I think when we look back on this government we will see this as an important moment where we stuck to our course.” He said there had been no “dark nights of the soul” over sticking to the coalition’s economic plan.

And while he did touch on his famous tears at the funeral of former Conservative prime minister, Margaret Thatcher – saying it was the emotion of realising that this great woman was lying in the coffin near him, dead, which overwhelmed him – he also reserved praise for one of his earlier political rivals: Tony Blair.

“He was a master of the political landscape,” said the chancellor, adding that the Conservatives’ political lives got considerably easier when he was off the scene.

“I think it took us quite a long time to deal with Tony Blair – and you could argue we never really did,” he said, echoing Prime Minister David Cameron’s renowned 2005 reported comment that he is the “heir to Blair”.

But apart from that interlude, in the end, the Channel 4 News fringe event was rather more about the hair – than the heir.