George Osborne backs Christine Lagarde for IMF

Chancellor delivers the final blow to Gordon Brown’s hopes.

Chancellor George Osborne last night spelled out his backing for the French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, to take on the top job at the IMF after the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Osborne said:

On the basis of merit, I believe Christine is the outstanding candidate for the IMF – and that's why Britain will back her. She's shown real international leadership as chair of the G20 finance ministers this year. She has also been a strong advocate for countries tackling high budget deficits and living within their means. We support her because she's the best person for the job, but I also personally think it would be a very good thing to see the first female managing director of the IMF in its 60-year history.

The snub to the former prime minister Gordon Brown is implicit. Osborne puts emphasis on "merit", and also the fact that Lagarde has been an advocate for countries living "within their means". The latter point echoes the explicit criticism David Cameron made of Brown's suitability for the job back in April, while Strauss-Kahn was still secure in the job. The Prime Minister said:

Above all, what matters is – is the person running the IMF someone who understands the dangers of excessive debt, excessive deficit? And it really must be someone who gets that rather than someone who says that they don't see a problem.

Vince Cable also undermined Brown's chances for the job in comments last week when he said that "promoting national champions, whoever they are, probably isn't the best way of dealing with this. The IMF is dealing with a major economic crisis in Europe. They need somebody very effective and respected. Particularly somebody who understands the internal problems of the eurozone."

Meanwhile Brown, who recently visited South Africa to launch a high-level panel on education, said that his visit was not a "pitch for the job" at the IMF. Now that he has definitively lost the British government's backing, however, there is little chance that the role will be his.

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What do Labour's lost voters make of the Labour leadership candidates?

What does Newsnight's focus group make of the Labour leadership candidates?

Tonight on Newsnight, an IpsosMori focus group of former Labour voters talks about the four Labour leadership candidates. What did they make of the four candidates?

On Andy Burnham:

“He’s the old guard, with Yvette Cooper”

“It’s the same message they were trying to portray right up to the election”​

“I thought that he acknowledged the fact that they didn’t say sorry during the time of the election, and how can you expect people to vote for you when you’re not actually acknowledging that you were part of the problem”​

“Strongish leader, and at least he’s acknowledging and saying let’s move on from here as opposed to wishy washy”

“I was surprised how long he’d been in politics if he was talking about Tony Blair years – he doesn’t look old enough”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

"“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as” 

“I agree with most of what he said, I must admit, but I don’t think as a country we can afford his principles”

“He was just going to be the opposite of Conservatives, but there might be policies on the Conservative side that, y’know, might be good policies”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the Labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister”

On Yvette Cooper

“She sounds quite positive doesn’t she – for families and their everyday issues”

“Bedroom tax, working tax credits, mainly mum things as well”

“We had Margaret Thatcher obviously years ago, and then I’ve always thought about it being a man, I wanted a man, thinking they were stronger…  she was very strong and decisive as well”

“She was very clear – more so than the other guy [Burnham]”

“I think she’s trying to play down her economics background to sort of distance herself from her husband… I think she’s dumbing herself down”

On Liz Kendall

“None of it came from the heart”

“She just sounds like someone’s told her to say something, it’s not coming from the heart, she needs passion”

“Rather than saying what she’s going to do, she’s attacking”

“She reminded me of a headteacher when she was standing there, and she was quite boring. She just didn’t seem to have any sort of personality, and you can’t imagine her being a leader of a party”

“With Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham there’s a lot of rhetoric but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction behind what they’re saying. There seems to be a lot of words but no action.”

And, finally, a piece of advice for all four candidates, should they win the leadership election:

“Get down on your hands and knees and start praying”

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.