As George Osborne stands in for David Cameron at PMQs we chart how the Chancellor has positioned himself as the future leader of the Conservative party
As George Osborne makes his Prime Minister’s Questions debut Georgia Graham explains how the Chancellor has been positioning himself for the top job.
At lunchtime today Mr Osborne will have his most high profile opportunity yet to cement his position as David Cameron’s natural successor when he stands in for the Prime Minister at PMQs.
He has the necessary experience: twenty years ago he spent Wednesday mornings, prepping John Major for the clash, and has briefed every Tory leader since.
For the last five years Nick Clegg covered for the Prime Minister when he was out of the country but with the Lib Dems ousted and the coalition over it is Mr Osborne will get the chance to take the limelight.
In the wake of the surprise Conservative majority Mr Osborne was quickly named First Secretary of State – deputy Prime Minister in all but name. A role previously held by William Hague who retired at the election.
Being favoured by George Osborne is one of the surest routes to the top of the Tory party in recent years.
The Chancellor has increasing numbers of treasury proteges making waves in big Government jobs. Sajid Javid, the former Treasury minister has been rocketed to the front line of British politics.
In the first of the last two reshuffles his promotion to culture secretary also made him the first ever Asian male conservative cabinet minister. His move to business secretary has secured his position – and Osborne’s influence, at the very top of the party.
Last year the Chancellor decided it was time for an image overhaul. Mr Osborne turned to the fashionable 5:2 diet to get in shape, combining limiting his diet to 600 calories two days a week with regular jogs in central London parks.
George Osborne struggled with his public image – so much so he was humilitatingly booed by spectators in the Olympic stadium and he handed out medals during the 2012 paralympics.
Since then he has had an image overhaul. New suit, new hair and thanks to the diet mentioned above, a new, svelter figure. As one style editor put it, his look is now less ‘uppity prefect’ he perfected in 2010.
The Chancellor also famously tweeted a picture of him tucking into a Byron burger as he wrote his big speech for the B2013 budget and during the election campaign he made sure to present himself as the blue collar man of the people – despite his St Paul’s boys school and Oxford education.
For months he was pictured in a constant stream of high viz jackets and blue overalls downing builders tea at manufacturing plants and garages up and down the country.
Mr Osborne has made a crucial statement of intent to the Westminster political lobby – hiring one of their brightest and best to manage his media relations. Hiring respected Daily Mail political editor James Chapman will give his media operation more heft, professionalism – and contacts – than any other in Downing Street.
The floppy haired elephant in the room when it came to George Osborne’s leadership ambitions has been largely silenced by the Conservatives poll defying majority.
Had Cameron fallen, Osborne would have gone with him and newly anointed MP Boris would rise from the ashes.
As it stands the Conservative win is put down largely to it’s economic successes. As a result the Chancellor and his ‘long term economic plan’ are back on top, and the blonde bombshell is back in his box.
Mr Osborne’s 2012 budget unravelled so fast it was almost comical. Newspapers were packed with stories mocking the pasty tax, the granny tax and the caravan tax. Even the priests were up in arms about the ‘church steeple tax’.
In fact the word ‘omnishambles’ was thrown around with such vigour by his opponents afterwards that it was named the Word of 2012 by the Oxford English Dictionary.
However fast-forward three years and his role in steering the economy is heralded as one of the key forces behind the Tory majority.
The FT says Mr Osborne is lauded around the world for presiding over a recovery which has seen UK economic growth accelerate to 2.6 per cent in 2014 and unemployment fall to 5.7 per cent — half the eurozone average.
During the campaign, Mr Cameron surprised many in his party by announcing he would quit before the 2020 election adding to the drama by suggesting possible successors – of whom Osborne featured highly.
He said at the time: “‘There definitely comes a time where a fresh pair of eyes and fresh leadership would be good and the Conservative Party has some great people coming up: the Theresa Mays and the George Osbornes and the Boris Johnsons.”