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George Osborne
Osborne 2015.jpg
Osborne in 2015
First Secretary of State
In office
8 May 2015 – 13 July 2016
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by William Hague
Succeeded by Damian Green
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
11 May 2010 – 13 July 2016
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Alistair Darling
Succeeded by Philip Hammond
Member of Parliament
for Tatton
In office
7 June 2001 – 3 May 2017
Preceded by Martin Bell
Succeeded by Esther McVey
Personal details
Born
Gideon Oliver Osborne

(1971-05-23) 23 May 1971 (age 51)
London, England
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s)
Frances Howell
(m. 1998; sep. 2019)
Children 3
Education Magdalen College, Oxford
Signature
Website

George Gideon Oliver Osborne CH (born Gideon Oliver Osborne; 23 May 1971) is a former British politician and newspaper editor who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2010 to 2016 and as First Secretary of State from 2015 to 2016 in the Cameron government. A member of the Conservative Party, he was Member of Parliament (MP) for Tatton from 2001 to 2017. He was editor of the Evening Standard from 2017 to 2020.

The son of the Osborne & Little co-founder and baronet Peter Osborne, Osborne was born in Paddington and educated at Norland Place School, Colet Court and St Paul's School before studying at Magdalen College, Oxford. After working briefly as a freelancer for The Daily Telegraph, he joined the Conservative Research Department in 1994 and became head of its political section. He went on to be a special adviser to Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Douglas Hogg and work for John Major at 10 Downing Street, including on Major's unsuccessful 1997 general election campaign. In Opposition, he worked as a speechwriter and political secretary to Major's successor as party leader, William Hague.

Osborne was elected as MP for Tatton in 2001, becoming the youngest Conservative member of the House of Commons. He was appointed Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury by Conservative leader Michael Howard in 2004. The following year he ran David Cameron's successful party leadership campaign, and was subsequently appointed Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. After the 2010 general election, Osborne was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Cameron–Clegg coalition. He succeeded Alistair Darling, inheriting a large deficit in government finances due to the effects of the late-2000s financial crisis. As Chancellor, Osborne's tenure pursued austerity policies aimed at reducing the budget deficit and launched the Northern Powerhouse initiative. After the Conservatives won an overall majority in the 2015 general election, Cameron reappointed him Chancellor in his second government and gave him the additional title of First Secretary of State. He was widely viewed as a potential successor to David Cameron as Leader of the Conservative Party; one Conservative MP, Nadhim Zahawi, suggested that the closeness of his relationship with Cameron meant that the two effectively shared power during the duration of the Cameron governments. Following the 2016 referendum vote to leave the European Union and Cameron's consequent resignation, he was dismissed by Cameron's successor, Theresa May.

Osborne served on the backbenches for a year before leaving public office at the 2017 general election. He was editor of the Evening Standard from 2017 to 2020. He has been chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) since 2016 and of the British Museum since 2021.

Early life and education

George Osborne was born in Paddington, London, as Gideon Oliver Osborne; he decided when he was 13 to be known by the additional first name of 'George'. In an interview in July 2005, he said: "It was my small act of rebellion. I never liked it [the name 'Gideon']. 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 is Sir Peter Osborne, 17th Baronet, co-founder of the firm of fabric and wallpaper designers Osborne & Little. George Osborne is to inherit the baronetcy; he would thus become Sir George Osborne, 18th Baronet. His mother is Felicity Alexandra Loxton-Peacock, the daughter of Hungarian-born Jewish artist Clarisse Loxton-Peacock (née Fehér).

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. Whilst 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; he 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 in The Daily Telegraph. One of his Oxford friends, journalist George Bridges, alerted Osborne some time later to a research vacancy at Conservative Central Office.

Member of Parliament

Osborne was elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tatton, Cheshire, at the June 2001 election. He succeeded Independent MP Martin Bell, who had defeated the controversial former Conservative minister Neil Hamilton in 1997 but had kept his promise not to stand there at the following 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 (securing 51.8% of the vote), and in 2010 increased his majority still further to 14,487.

Shadow Chancellor (2005–2010)

George Osborne
George Osborne at Conservative Spring Forum 2006 in Manchester

He was appointed in September 2004 by then Conservative leader Michael Howard to the Shadow Cabinet, as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Following the 2005 general election, Howard promoted him to Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer at the young age of 33. Howard had initially offered the post to William Hague, who turned it down. Press reports suggest that the second choice for the post was David Cameron, who also rejected the job, preferring to take on a major public service portfolio (he was made Shadow Secretary of State for Education). Thus, Howard seems to have turned to Osborne as his third choice for the role. His promotion prompted speculation he would run for the 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.

When David Cameron was asked in 2009 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."

At this time 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 the personal allowance from £4,435 to between £10,000 and £15,500. However, the idea of a flat tax was not included in the 2010 Conservative Party manifesto.

Comments on Gordon Brown

During Osborne's response to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown's Pre-Budget Report on 5 December 2005, he 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". Osborne was rebuked in October 2006 by Michael Martin, the Speaker of the House of Commons, 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 that would allow the Conservatives to discredit him without damaging David Cameron's public image. That month, Osborne faced criticism from some quarters for appearing to suggest that Brown was "faintly autistic". After Osborne spoke in an interview about his own ability to recall odd facts, a host suggested to him that he may have been "faintly autistic"; he 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, and said Labour charges that the Conservatives would cut public spending were "a pack of lies". He also ruled out any "upfront, unfunded tax cuts".

Deripaska claim

Osborne's school and university contemporary, financier Nathaniel Rothschild, said in October 2008 that 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'. Osborne denied claims he had attempted to solicit a donation from Deripaska and said that he had "made a mistake" by meeting with him.

"Run on the pound"

On 14 November 2008, in an intervention described by the BBC's Nick Robinson as "pretty extraordinary", Osborne publicly warned that the more the government borrows, the less attractive sterling becomes to hold. 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 a "scorched-earth policy" that 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."

Expenses

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 Liberal Democrats 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 had previously paid back £1,193 spent on chauffeur fares and overpayments on his mortgage 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". The report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards found that although 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, owing to his perceived unpopularity and the perception by both Liberal Democrat and Labour strategists that he was a "weak link".

Chancellor of the Exchequer (2010–2016)

George Osborne in China
George Osborne at an official visit to China in October 2013

Osborne was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer on 11 May 2010, and was sworn in as a Privy Counsellor two days later. 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. He also announced that he would end the universal entitlement to child benefit, and that from 2013 the entitlement would be removed from people paying the 40% and 50% income tax rates.

In February 2011 Osborne announced Project Merlin, whereby banks aimed to lend about £190bn to businesses in 2011, curb bonuses and reveal some salary details of their top earners; meanwhile, the bank levy would increase by £800m. Osborne's 2011 Autumn Statement was delivered to Parliament on 29 November 2011. It included a programme of supply-side economic reforms such as investments in infrastructure intended to support economic growth.

In 2012, Osborne cut the 50% income tax rate on top earners and figures from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs 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 caused by the new rate being more "competitive". In October 2012, Osborne proposed a new policy to boost the hiring of staff, under which companies would be able to give new appointees shares worth between £2,000 and £50,000, but the appointees would lose the right to claim unfair dismissal and time off for training.

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 when the Office for Budget Responsibility had halved its forecast for that year's economic growth from 1.2% to 0.6%.

Osborne announced on 16 May 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. The second Budget also increased funding for the National Health Service, more apprenticeships, efforts to increase productivity and cuts to the welfare budget. The July budget postponed the predicted 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 Osborne's 2016 budget he introduced a sugar tax and raised the tax-free allowance for income tax to £11,500, as well as lifting the 40% income tax threshold to £45,000. 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. Following the UK's vote to leave the European Union in June 2016, Osborne pledged to further lower corporation tax to "encourage businesses to continue investing in the UK". Osborne had already cut the corporation tax rate from 28% to 20%, with plans to lower it to 17% by 2020.

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