Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
16 September 2016

George Osborne shows that he still wants to be prime minister

Theresa May was "the best person for the job of the candidates who put themselves forward," the former chancellor says. 

By George Eaton

Even had he remained in the Commons, David Cameron would never have spearheaded the defence of his political project. A former prime minister is constitutionally required to remain above the fray or be labelled “the incredible sulk” (as Ted Heath was). The alternative of self-censorship is similarly unattractive.

But the vanquished Cameroons have found a new leader: George Osborne. When he was sacked from the cabinet by Theresa May, some expected Osborne to retreat to a lucrative City career. But unlike Cameron (who he entered parliament with in 2001), the former Chancellor is going nowhere. 

Osborne has launched a new think-tank – Northern Powerhouse Partnership – devoted to the project that became his greatest political passion. May, he told the Today programme this morning, had a “bit of a wobble” (she pointedly referred to the need for a “proper industrial strategy” and avoided mentioning the phrase shortly after becoming PM). With May having since told MPs that she is “absolutely committed” to the project, Osborne’s new body is designed to ensure there is no backsliding. 

This was not the only point on which he rebuked May. Though he did not oppose the opening of new grammar schools, he declared that the “real focus” of reform should be “the academy programme transforming the comprehensive schools that most people in this country send their children to.” The “special share” taken by the government in Hinkley Point C would not, he said, “add any additional protection”. 

But Westminster’s Machiavelli has far greater ambitions than merely critiquing the government. He still, it appears, aspires to lead it. May was, Osborne said, “the best person for the job of the candidates who put themselves forward”. A certain former chancellor, he reminded us, had not. “I don’t want to write my memoirs because I don’t know how the story ends,” he mischievously observed. 

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. Your new guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture each weekend - from the New Statesman. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Osborne is justly famed for his political escapology. After nearly losing his post in 2006 over the Oleg Deripaska affair, he prevented Gordon Brown calling an early election by pledging to cut inheritance tax. Having delivered the calamitous 2012 Budget (and been booed at the Paralympics), he helped the Tories secure a parliamentary majority and became the favourite to succeed David Cameron (a status he swiftly lost). 

Many concluded that Osborne long ago lost the last of his political nine lives. But aged just 45, the Chancellor has begun his quest to prove them wrong.