|Intro||British politician (b. 1971)|
|Birth||23 May 1971, Paddington|
George Gideon Oliver Osborne, CH, PC (born Gideon Oliver Osborne; 23 May 1971) is a British Conservative Party politician who has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Tatton since 2001. Under the premiership of David Cameron, from 2010 to 2016, Osborne served as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Osborne worked for The Daily Telegraph before joining the Conservative Research Department and becoming head of its political section. He was a special adviser to Douglas Hogg at the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and worked at 10 Downing Street as well as for Prime Minister John Major's campaign team in the party's unsuccessful 1997 general election campaign before becoming a speechwriter and political secretary to Major's successor as party leader, William Hague.
In 2001, Osborne was elected as MP for Tatton, becoming the youngest Conservative MP in the House of Commons. He was appointed Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury by Conservative leader Michael Howard in 2004. In 2005, he ran David Cameron's successful leadership campaign. Cameron appointed Osborne Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and, after the 2010 general election, Chancellor in the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government.
As Chancellor, Osborne pursued austerity policies aimed at reducing the United Kingdom national debt. After the Conservatives won an overall majority in the 2015 general election, Osborne was reappointed Chancellor of the Exchequer by Cameron in his second government and was given the additional title of First Secretary of State. Following the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union and Cameron's consequent resignation, Osborne was sacked by newly appointed Prime Minister Theresa May and he returned to the backbenches.
Early life and education
George Osborne was born in Paddington, London, as Gideon Oliver; he changed his name to George when he was 13. In an interview in July 2005, Osborne said: "It was my small act of rebellion. I never liked it. When I finally told my mother she said, 'Nor do I'. So I decided to be George after my grandfather, who was a war hero. Life was easier as a George; it was a straightforward name." He is the eldest of four boys. His father, Sir Peter Osborne, 17th Baronet, co-founded the firm of fabric and wallpapers designers Osborne & Little. His mother is Felicity Alexandra Loxton-Peacock, the daughter of artist Clarisse Loxton-Peacock.
Osborne was educated at independent schools: Norland Place School, Colet Court and St Paul's School. In 1990 he was awarded a demyship at Magdalen College, Oxford, where in 1993 he received a 2:1 bachelor's degree in Modern History. While there he was a member of the Bullingdon Club. He also attended Davidson College in North Carolina for a semester as a Dean Rusk Scholar.
In 1993, Osborne intended to pursue a career in journalism. He was shortlisted for but failed to gain a place on The Times trainee scheme; Osborne also applied to The Economist, where he was interviewed and rejected by Gideon Rachman. In the end he had to settle for freelance work on the Peterborough diary column of The Daily Telegraph. Some time later an Oxford friend of his, journalist George Bridges, alerted Osborne to a research vacancy at Conservative Central Office.
Early political career
Osborne joined the Conservative Research Department in 1994 and became head of its Political Section. One of his first roles was to go to Blackpool and observe the October 1994 Labour Conference.
Between 1995 and 1997 he worked as special adviser to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Douglas Hogg (during the BSE crisis) and worked in the Political Office at 10 Downing Street. In 1997, Osborne worked on Prime Minister John Major's campaign team in the run-up to the Tories' heavy election defeat. After the election, he again considered journalism, approaching The Times to be a leader writer, though nothing came of it.
Between 1997 and 2001, he worked for then Conservative Leader William Hague as a speechwriter and Political Secretary. In this role he helped prepare Hague for the weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions, often playing the role of Prime Minister Tony Blair. Under the successive leaderships of Michael Howard and David Cameron he remained on the Prime Minister's Questions team.
Member of Parliament
Elected as the Member of Parliament for Tatton, Cheshire, in June 2001, Osborne succeeded the Independent MP Martin Bell, who had defeated the controversial former Conservative minister Neil Hamilton at the 1997 election but kept to his promise not to stand again at the 2001 election. Osborne won with a majority of 8,611 over the Labour candidate, becoming (at that time) the youngest Conservative MP in the House of Commons. At the 2005 election, he was re-elected with an increased majority of 11,731 (51.8% of the vote) and in 2010 increased his majority still further to 14,487.
In September 2004, Osborne was appointed by Michael Howard to the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
Following the 2005 general election, he was promoted to Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer at the young age of 33 by the then-Conservative Party leader Michael Howard. Howard had initially offered the post to William Hague, who turned it down. Press reports suggest that Howard's second choice for the post was in fact David Cameron, who also rejected the job as he preferred to take on a major public service portfolio (he was made Shadow Education Secretary). Thus Howard turned to Osborne as his third choice for the role. His promotion prompted speculation he would run for leadership of the Conservative Party when Howard stepped down, but he ruled himself out within a week. Osborne served as campaign manager for David Cameron's leadership campaign, and kept the Shadow Chancellor's post when Cameron became leader later that year.
In 2009 when David Cameron was asked whether or not he would be willing to sack a close colleague such as Osborne, he stated, "With George, the answer is yes. He stayed in my shadow cabinet not because he is a friend, not because we are godfathers to each other's children but because he is the right person to do the job. I know and he knows that if that was not the case he would not be there."
Osborne expressed an interest in the ideas of "tax simplification" (including the idea of flat tax). He set up a "Tax Reform Commission" in October 2005 to investigate ideas for how to create a "flatter, simpler" tax system. The system then proposed would reduce the income tax rate to a flat 22%, and increase personal allowance from £4,435 to £10,000-£15,500. The idea of a flat tax was not included in the 2010 Conservative Party manifesto.
Each year between 2006 and 2009, Osborne attended the annual Bilderberg Conference, a meeting of influential people in business, finance and politics.
Comments on Gordon Brown
During Osborne's response to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown's Pre-Budget Report on 5 December 2005, Osborne accused Brown of being "a Chancellor past his sell-by-date, a Chancellor holding Britain back". In an interview the same week, he also referred to Brown as "brutal" and "unpleasant". In October 2006 Osborne was rebuked by Speaker Martin when he attacked the Chancellor at Oral Questions by citing a comment attributed to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions John Hutton, describing the Chancellor as likely to make an "effing awful" Prime Minister. It was widely suggested that Osborne was leading an assault on Brown which would allow the Conservatives to discredit him without damaging David Cameron's public image. In October 2006, Osborne faced criticism from some quarters for appearing to suggest that Brown was "faintly autistic". After talking about his ability to recall odd facts in an interview, a host suggested that Osborne may have been "faintly autistic"; Osborne responded by saying that "We're not getting onto Gordon Brown yet".
Pledge to match Labour spending
In September 2007, ahead of the publication of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, Osborne pledged that the Conservative Party would match Labour's public spending plans for the next three years. He promised increases in public spending of 2% a year, calling Labour charges that the Conservatives would cut public spending "a pack of lies". He also ruled out any "upfront, unfunded tax cuts".
The Deripaska claim
In October 2008, Osborne's school and university contemporary, financier Nathaniel Rothschild, said that George Osborne had tried to solicit a £50,000 donation from the Russian aluminium magnate Oleg Deripaska, which would have been a violation of the law against political donations by foreign citizens. Rothschild had hosted Deripaska, Osborne, Peter Mandelson and others at a party in his villa in Corfu. The alleged solicitation of a donation occurred on Deripaska's yacht during the party.
The Electoral Commission received a formal complaint initiated in a letter by the Liberal Democrats' Home Affairs spokesperson, Chris Huhne, urging them to investigate the allegations against Osborne. The Commission rejected the claims and said it saw "no information" suggesting an offence. The accusation was referred to by the press as 'Yachtgate'.
"Run on the pound"
On 14 November 2008, in an intervention described by the BBC's Nick Robinson as "pretty extraordinary", Osborne spoke out warning that the more the government borrows the less attractive sterling becomes. He said: "We are in danger, if the government is not careful, of having a proper sterling collapse, a run on the pound." Labelling Gordon Brown's tactic as a "scorched-earth policy", which a future Conservative government would have to clear up, Osborne continued: "His view is he probably won't win the next election. The Tories can clear this mess up after I've gone."
In 2009 and 2012 Osborne was criticised for his expense claims, in particular for the claims for mortgage interest payments on his Cheshire properties. Osborne had funded the purchase of a country farmhouse and adjoining paddock in Cheshire before he became an MP in 2001 by way of a £455,000 extension of the mortgage on his London home. In 2003 he substituted a new £450,000 mortgage on the Cheshire property, which he then designated as his second home, or "flipped". As a result, he was able to claim up to £100,000 in mortgage interest on the house and paddock between 2003 and 2010, when the regulations changed. In 2012 it was revealed that the paddock had been legally separate from the farmhouse.
The Lib Dems said he had a "moral obligation" to pay an estimated £55,000 in capital gains tax to the public purse which he had saved through the designation or "flipping" of his London property as his main home. He previously paid back £1,193 on overpayments on his mortgage and chauffeur fares after a complaint from a Labour activist, and it also emerged that he had claimed £47 for two copies of a DVD of his own speech on "value for taxpayers' money". Parliament's standards commissioner's report found that although Mr Osborne had breached the rules the offence was "unintended and relatively minor". Osborne said he had received "flawed" advice and not benefited personally.
2010 general election campaign
During the 2010 general election campaign, Osborne was considered to have been sidelined due to his perceived unpopularity and the perception that he was a "weak link" by both the Liberal Democrat and Labour strategists.
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Osborne was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer on 11 May 2010 and, as per custom with Cabinet Ministers, was sworn in as a Privy Counsellor the next day. Osborne acceded to the chancellorship in the continuing wake of the financial crisis. Two of his first acts were setting up the Office for Budget Responsibility and commissioning a government-wide spending review, to conclude in autumn 2010, to set limits on departmental spending until 2014–15. Shortly before the 2010 election, Osborne had pledged to be "tougher than Thatcher" on Britain's budget deficit, and he duly set himself the target of reducing the UK's deficit to the point that, in the financial year 2015–16, total public debt would be falling as a fraction of GDP. On 24 May 2010, Osborne outlined £6.2bn cuts: "We simply cannot afford to increase public debt at the rate of £3bn each week. " Leaked Treasury documents the next month revealed that Osborne anticipated his tighter spending would lead to 1.3 million jobs lost over the course of the parliament. Osborne has termed those who object to his policy "deficit-deniers".
In July 2010, Osborne, seeking cuts of up to 25 per cent in government spending to tackle the deficit, insisted the £20 billion cost of building four new Vanguard-class submarine to bear Trident had to be considered as part of the MoD's core funding even if that implied a severe reduction in the rest of the Ministry of Defence budget. The Defence Secretary Liam Fox warned that if Trident was considered core funding, there would have to be severe restrictions in the way that Britain operated militarily.
Osborne presented the Government's Spending Review on 20 October, which fixed spending budgets for each government department up to 2014–15. Before and after becoming chancellor, Osborne had alleged that the UK was on "the verge of bankruptcy", though this assertion was criticised by the Treasury Select Committee and others as an effort to try and justify his programme of spending cuts.
On 4 October 2010, in a speech at the Conservative conference in Birmingham, Osborne announced a cap on the overall amount of benefits a family can receive from the state, estimated to be around £500 a week from 2013. It has been estimated this could result in 50,000 unemployed families losing an average of £93 a week. He also announced that he would end the universal entitlement to child benefit, and removed the entitlement from people on the 40% and 50% income tax rates from 2013.
In February 2011 Osborne announced Project Merlin whereby banks aimed to lend about £190bn to businesses in 2011 (including £76bn to small firms), curb bonuses and reveal some salary details of their top earners, whilst increasing the bank levy by 800m. Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Lord Oakeshott resigned after the agreement was announced. Other pledges include providing £200m of capital for David Cameron's Big Society Bank, which is supposed to finance community projects.
In November 2011, Osborne sold Northern Rock to Richard Branson's Virgin Money for a price that could range from £747m to £1bn. Northern Rock, the first British bank in 150 years to suffer a bank run, had been taken into public ownership in 2008, then divided into two entities on 1 January 2010 – the other half being Northern Rock. The Independent described the entity sold as the "detoxified arm" of the bank, while saying the taxpayers retained "responsibility for £20bn of toxic assets such as bad debts and closed mortgages." The deal valued the bank at somewhat less than its £1.12bn net asset value, and "locks in a minimum loss" for taxpayers of £373m to £453m. Osborne argued the deal would get "more money back than any other deal on the table." and responded to concerns about the timing by saying that a secret deal between the previous Labour government and the European Commission in Brussels obliged them to sell the bank in or before 2013, and "[g]iven we were advised that Northern Rock plc would have been likely to remain loss-making [until] at least well into 2012, which would have depleted taxpayer resources still further, agreeing a sale now was even more imperative. "
The 2012 budget – dubbed the "omnishambles budget" by Ed Miliband – is viewed as the nadir of Osborne's political fortunes. Osborne cut the 50% income tax rate on top earners, which he said had been specially designated by his predecessor as "temporary", to 45%. HMRC figures showed that the amount of additional rate tax paid had increased under the new rate from £38 billion in 2012/13 to £46 billion in 2013/14, which Osborne said was due to the more "competitive" rate.
Osborne faced criticism for simultaneously proposing imposing VAT on food such as Cornish pasties when served at above ambient temperature. Critics commented on the potential effect on vendors, with members on the Treasury Select Committee suggesting that Osborne was inexperienced with the issue after a comment that he 'couldn't remember' the last time he had bought such a pasty from Greggs. The "pasty tax" proposals were later withdrawn in what was seen as a political "U-turn", as was the neutering of policies to cut tax relief on charitable donations and tax on static caravans.
In October 2012, Osborne proposed a new policy to boost hiring staff, under which companies are able to give new appointees shares worth between £2,000 and £50,000, but the appointee will lose the right to claim unfair dismissal and time off for training.
In 2012 Osborne sent a letter to the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke to help HSBC leadership avoid criminal charges for the bank's involvement in laundering drug money and channelling money to countries under sanctions. Osborne suggested that if HSBC were to lose its banking licence in the U.S., this could have negative consequences for the financial markets in Europe and Asia. HSBC avoided criminal charges and settled with the U.S. Department of Justice for $1.92 bn.
In February 2013 the UK lost its AAA credit rating – which Osborne had indicated to be a priority when coming to power – for the first time since 1978. His March 2013 budget was made under the shadow of the halving of the Office for Budget Responsibility's forecast for economic growth from 1.2% to 0.6%. It was described by The Daily Telegraph's economics editor as "an inventive, scattergun approach to growth that half-ticked the demands of every policy commentator, wrapped together under the Chancellor's banner of Britain as an 'aspiration nation'." However it was positively received by the public, with the ensuing boost to Conservative party support in opinion polls standing in marked contrast to the previous year's budget. The economy subsequently began to pick up in mid-2013, with Osborne's net public approval rating rising from −33 to +3 over the following 12 months.
By March 2015 the annual deficit had been cut by about half of the initial target, so the debt-to-GDP ratio was still rising. However the United Kingdom national debt increased more during the 5-year term than during the previous 13 years.
However the economy deteriorated post election due to the uncertainty caused by the referendum. Reviewing his performance in July 2016, the Guardian said that the UK still had a budget deficit of 4%, a balance of payments (trade) deficit of 7% of GDP and apart from Italy the worst productivity in the G7. An Office for National Statistics graph including the period 2010-2016 shows a worsening balance of trade deficit.
After the Conservatives won an overall majority at the 2015 general election, Osborne was reappointed Chancellor of the Exchequer by Cameron in his second government. Osborne also received the honorific title of First Secretary of State.
July budget 2015
On 16 May, Osborne announced that he would deliver a second Budget on 8 July and promised action on tax avoidance by the rich by bringing in a "Google Tax" designed to discourage large companies diverting profits out of the UK to avoid tax. In addition, large companies would now have to publish their UK tax strategies and any large businesses that persistently engaged in aggressive tax planning would be subject to special measures; However, resurfaced comments made by Osborne in 2003 on BBC2's Daily Politics programme regarding the avoidance of inheritance tax and using "clever financial products" to pass the value of homeowners' properties to their children were widely criticised by politicians and journalists as hypocritical.
The second Budget also increased funding for the NHS, more apprenticeships, efforts to increase productivity and cuts to the welfare budget. In response, the Conservative-led Local Government Association, on behalf of 375 Conservative-, Labour- and Liberal Democrat-run councils, said that further austerity measures were "not an option" as they would "devastate" local services. They said that local councils had already had to make cuts of 40% since 2010 and couldn't make any more cuts without serious consequences for the most vulnerable. After the budget many departments were told to work out the effect on services of spending cuts from 25% to 40% by 2019–20. This prompted fears that services the public takes for granted could be hit and concern that the Conservative Party had not explained the policy clearly in the manifesto before the May 2015 general election.
Osborne announced the introduction of a "National Living Wage" of £7.20/hour, rising to £9/hour by 2020 which would apply to those 25 or over. This was widely cheered by both Conservative MPs and political commentators. He also announced a raise in the income tax personal allowance to £11,000; measures to introduce tax incentives for large corporations to create apprenticeships, aiming for 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020; and a cut in the benefits cap to £23,000 in London and £20,000 in the rest of the country.
The July budget postponed the arrival of a UK surplus from 2019 to 2020 and included an extra £18 billion more borrowing for 2016–20 than planned for the same period in March.
In the July Budget, Osborne also planned to cut tax credits, which top up pay for low-income workers, prompting claims that this represented a breach of promises made by colleagues before the general election in May. Following public opposition and a House of Lords vote against the changes, Osborne scrapped these changes in the 2015 Autumn Statement, saying that higher-than-expected tax receipts gave him more room for manoeuvre. The IFS noted that Osborne's proposals implied that tax credits would still be cut as part of the switch to Universal Credit in 2018.
In July 2015, Osborne was criticised by John Mann of the Treasury Select Committee for ending the contract of Martin Wheatley, head of the Financial Conduct Authority and undermining the independence of the regulator. Wheatley had angered the banks by cracking down on misselling following the payment protection insurance scandal and fining them £1.4B.
Osborne was also criticised over his perceived inaction on enacting policies set forth by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to combat tax avoidance. MPs called for an inquiry in January 2016 when it was revealed that a retrospective tax deal the Treasury agreed with Google over previous diverted profits allowed it to pay an effective tax rate of just 3% over the previous decade.
BBC licence fee
According to The Guardian, Osborne was "the driving force" behind the BBC licence fee agreement which saw the BBC responsible for funding the £700m welfare cost of free TV licences for the over-75s, meaning that it lost almost 20% of its income. The Guardian also noted Osborne's four meetings with News Corp representatives and two meetings with Rupert Murdoch before the deal was announced.
In Osborne's 2016 budget, he introduced a sugar tax, raised the tax-free allowance for income tax to £11,500 as well as lifting the 40% income tax threshold to £45,000. He also gave initial funding for several large infrastructure projects, such as High Speed 3 (an east–west rail line across the north of England,) Crossrail 2 (a north–south rail line across London), a road tunnel across the Pennines and upgrades to the M62 motorway. There would also be a new "lifetime" Isa for the under-40s, with the government putting in £1 for every £4 saved. Those saving £4000 towards a house deposit were promised an annual £1000 top up until they reached 50. There was also £100m allocated to tackle rough sleeping. However, many charities complained that they thought Osborne's 2016 budget favoured big business rather than disabled people.
In August 2016, Osborne was criticised by The Daily Telegraph after 500,000 people opened the new Isas hoping to use them as a house deposit only to find the bonus would not be paid until the house sale was completed -a flaw which led experts to describe the scheme as useless and a scam.
On 13 July 2016, following Theresa May's appointment as Prime Minister, Osborne was sacked and replaced as Chancellor by Philip Hammond. He thus returned to the backbenches. On 4 August 2016, it was revealed that Osborne had been made a Companion of Honour by outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron. Unlike Cameron, Osborne intends to remain an MP and stand for parliament again in 2020, although his Tatton constituency may disappear following proposed boundary changes. In September 2016, he launched the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, a body bringing together business leaders and politicians to promote regional devolution.
By October 2016, he was writing a book called Age of Unreason; it is a diatribe against "populist nationalism". Osborne's lucrative speaking engagements for a range of financial institutions since his dismissal as Chancellor helped make him the highest earning MP in 2016. In February 2017 he will begin a role as a part-time advisor to BlackRock, the world's largest fund manager. The job was approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which stated that during Osborne's time as Chancellor "there were no specific policy decisions ... that would have affected BlackRock", and the Treasury permanent secretary had "no concerns" about Osborne taking up the role.
The Financial Times describes Osborne as "metropolitan and socially liberal. He is hawkish on foreign policy with links to Washington neo-conservatives and ideologically committed to cutting the state. A pragmatic Eurosceptic". There is evidence of this commitment to cutting the state in his party's manifesto, with Osborne and the Conservatives seeking to cut the deficit "faster and deeper" than any other main party as well as committing to various tax cuts such as inheritance tax and national insurance. According to an IFS report before the 2010 election, the Conservatives needed to find more money from cuts beyond what they had outlined than any other major party, although the report was also critical of Labour and the Lib Dems. He has stated that the British economy must diversify away from London following the 2008 banking crisis, most notably in the form of the Northern Powerhouse policy proposals which aim to improve transport links and boost science and technology investment in the cities of the North to increase economic output.
George Osborne strongly supported the People's Republic of China's involvement in sensitive sectors such as the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. Then Home Secretary Theresa May had been unhappy about Osborne's "gung-ho" attitude to the Chinese and she had objected to the project. It has been delayed for final approval after May assumed the Prime Ministership. In 2015, May's political adviser Nick Timothy expressed his worry that China was effectively buying Britain's silence on allegations of Chinese human rights abuse and he criticises David Cameron and Osborne of "selling our national security to China" without rational concerns and "the Government seems intent on ignoring the evidence and presumably the advice of the security and intelligence agencies." He warned that the Chinese could use their role in the programme (designing and constructing nuclear reactor) to build weaknesses into computer systems which allow them to shut down Britain's energy production at will and "...no amount of trade and investment should justify allowing a hostile state easy access to the country's critical national infrastructure."
Osborne was widely viewed as a potential future leader of the Conservative Party, should David Cameron stand down and trigger a leadership contest, despite being seen as a relatively unpopular figure with the general public. Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi suggested that the closeness of his relationship with David Cameron meant the two effectively shared power in the 2010-16 government, whilst commentators pointed to his hand in Cabinet reshuffles. He worked hard on rebuilding his image after the much-criticised 2012 budget.
During House of Commons debates. Michael Deacon of The Daily Telegraph has described him as "the prince of the parliamentary putdown" after he managed to taunt both Ed Balls and Norman Baker in one sentence. Osborne denied rumours that he had referred to his colleague Iain Duncan Smith as "not clever enough", which were published in Matthew d'Ancona's book In It Together.
On 28 June 2016, Osborne, claiming he is "not the person to provide the unity" his party needs, ruled out standing as a candidate in that year's party leadership election.
Osborne married The Hon. Frances Victoria Howell, author and elder daughter of Lord Howell, the Conservative politician, on 4 April 1998. The couple have two children, a boy, born at Westminster on 15 June 2001, and a girl, also born in Westminster, on 27 June 2003.
Osborne is heir to his family's Irish baronetcy, of Ballentaylor and Ballylemon in County Waterford.
He has an estimated personal fortune of around £4 million, as the beneficiary of a trust fund that owns a 15 per cent stake in Osborne & Little, the wallpaper-and-fabrics company co-founded by his father, Sir Peter Osborne.