Meet George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Tomorrow, the Chancellor will stand up and deliver the Budget. It's a plan for growth amid radical spending cuts. But will his privileged background be a problem?
Tomorrow, Britain's 39-year-old chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, will deliver the Budget – the government's economic plans for the coming year. But who is the man behind the speech?
One thing we do know. He was thinking about being Prime Minister even when a pupil at the expensive St Paul's private school in West London.
It was there he changed his name from 'Gideon', telling friends that he thought 'George' more fitting for a Prime Minister.
But though he's always desired political power, popularity has not come easily. He ran the Tory election campaign, but stayed in the background because private polling revealed he was not liked by the electorate.
Perhaps some are suspicious of his background. Born into an ancient aristocratic family, he is the heir to Sir Peter Osborne, the 17th Baronet.
He went to Oxford University where he studied history and joined the Bullingdon Club – an all-male upper-class drinking society, famous for 'drunken hell-raising'.
This background is awkward for a person who has introduced spending cuts and tax rises that are hitting many people's jobs and income.
'People say you just don't get it,' said Daisy McAndrew, the ITV News economics editor, suggesting the public cannot stomach their local services being closed down by somebody as privileged as Osborne.
And there was embarrassment in a recent interview with the BBC. The interviewer asked what cutbacks he was making during the recession – in his own home.
For a moment, Mr Osborne froze. Reckoned to be worth over £4.5 million, cutbacks at home are simply not necessary.
But if the electorate don't warm to him, the Prime Minister David Cameron, a university friend, does. They are godparents to each other's children, and the door between their offices is always open.
They share similar ideas. But Osborne takes more liberal positions on social issues such as abortion and gay adoption and has less time for Cameron's social initiatives.
Osborne is obsessed by politics and by Tony Blair, 'the master' who won three elections. He names Blair's memoir, A Journey, as one of his favourite books, a textbook on how to win power.
A very gifted political strategist and privately warm, Mr Osborne is still on political probation. But Labour's Peter Mandelson believes he's developing. 'He's become a more authoritative figure,' he says.
And if the economy thrives, and his popularity improves, perhaps one day the re-named 'George' will fulfil his boyhood dream – and become Prime Minister.
- 'A politician's background – aristocratic or poor - should make no difference.' Do you agree?
- George Osborne sounds like he was an ambitious schoolboy. Is there anything wrong with ambition?
- 'Lords, Ladies, Dukes, Earls and Baronets! Is there still a place for the aristocracy in the 21st century?' Debate.
- One of George Osborn's political 'heroes' is Tony Blair because he won elections. He was successful. Do you have a political hero? If so, why? Write a short piece about them.
Some People Say...
“There's no recession in George Osborne's fridge.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- Is George Osborne married?
- Yes, to Frances Howell. She's the daughter of a Conservative cabinet minister and also a biographer.
- Children? I haven't seen any pictures.
- They have two children, Luke and Liberty, but they're rarely photographed as a family in public.
- It must help if the PM and Chancellor are friends.
- It's certainly rare! There was no love lost between Blair and Brown when they held those posts; nor between Brown and Alistair Darling, after Blair had gone.
- You don't hear a lot from Mr Osborne.
- He's compared to a submarine, surfacing only at key moments when he has something important to say, then disappearing for weeks on end.
- And he's a political animal?
- Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, quoted in Wikileaks, says Osborne tends to think about things 'only in terms of politics'.