David Maddox: George Osborne’s new-found confidence

George Osbourne speaks during the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Picture: AFP/Getty
George Osbourne speaks during the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Picture: AFP/Getty
Share this article
Have your say

IT IS amazing what a messy new hair cut can do for a man.

Maybe Chancellor George Osborne was taking a leaf out of Boris Johnson’s book on how to be a future leader, but he has emerged from the summer recess with not just a trendy new hair style, but also a new-found confidence.

And his speech to the Conservative conference in Manchester yesterday was one of a man who knows he is back as a force in his party, and is positioning himself as a future leader.

Last year at the conference in Birmingham, David Cameron was under siege from his own party and it was all about Boris. The London Mayor was followed by a media scrum and adoring fans, cheered and applauded wherever he went. He was not so much the leader-in-waiting but the leader waiting-to-happen. Meanwhile, poor George Osborne was a footnote.

Osborne had delivered what has not gone down in history as “the omnishambles Budget”, so bad and full of U-turns that it was not so much a statement as a consultation document. He was lucky to stay in 11 Downing Street after the fiasco and was written off as a future leader. He was even booed at the Paralympics, a moment which would have crushed most politicians.

This year in Manchester, it has all changed. Boris’ arrival was far more modest and actually he was outdone by Ukip leader Nigel Farage who caused a bigger stir, when he addressed a fringe meeting.

But the real change is in Mr Osborne, who spoke to a packed house in the old railway hall that houses the main platform in the conference centre.

A new-found confidence saw him making jokes, actually delivering the punch lines well, and even getting personal and slightly emotional as he talked about his own family and how they had built a business out of nothing.

The pitch was very much a man trying to shake off his posh boy, old Etonian image and portray himself as an ordinary man who has experienced the struggles of the “hardworking people” the Conservatives say they want to represent.

The reason for this change is that Mr Osborne feels like a man who has been unfairly vilified but has been proven right. The economy is beginning to turn, the data is now on his side. Employment is up, growth is back, people are buying cars again.

And he is not holding back in telling everyone now, “I told you so”.

But there is another reason for Osborne’s new self-belief and that is the way his opponents, in the form of Labour, have moved to the left in the last week. There is nothing to warm the heart of a Tory more than knowing he has some socialists to fight. Socialists who want to fix prices and grab private property.

This conference began with a memorial service to Margaret Thatcher. Her death this year has made the party look back longingly to its values of the 1980s, and yesterday Mr Osborne presented himself as her true heir.