How Os­borne shed his skin... and slid back to his old hunt­ing ground

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Michael Dea­con

Do you know how long it is since Ge­orge Os­borne left Par­lia­ment? A mere seven months. No, I can’t be­lieve it ei­ther, but I’ve just looked it up, and ap­par­ently it’s true. Seven months. It feels like half a life­time ago.

In my mem­ory, at least, the former chan­cel­lor be­longs to a sim­pler, qui­eter, more in­no­cent age: an age in which, for want of any­thing more mo­men­tous, TV news bul­letins would lead night af­ter night with a pro­posed tax on Cor­nish pasties.

Those of us who pine for those hal­cyon days were given a spe­cial treat yes­ter­day, as Mr Os­borne re­turned to Par­lia­ment as the guest speaker at a press gallery lunch.

“Well,” he be­gan, a ser­pen­tine leer slith­er­ing across his face. “It’s good to be back.”

These days, among too many other jobs to list here, Mr Os­borne ed­its a free lo­cal news­pa­per, the Lon­don Evening Stan­dard. Much though he was en­joy­ing his new life, he said, it did feel “good to get away from Fleet Street, where all peo­ple do is carp from the side­lines, and to come to the place where there’s real power, and the real de­ci­sions are be­ing made about Bri­tain’s long-term fu­ture.”

He paused and glanced down at his notes. “Oh, sorry, this is my speech to Goldman Sachs to­mor­row…”

It’s hard to be­lieve now, but, back in those far-flung days of seven months ago, the con­sen­sus among jour­nal­ists was that Mr Os­borne would quickly tire of work­ing in news­pa­pers. As it turns out, though, he gen­uinely does ap­pear to love it. Com­pared with the tightly wound coil of venom that used to rear up and hiss at the dis­patch box, this new ver­sion of Mr Os­borne – tie­less, open-col­lared, jacket un­but­toned – seems al­most re­laxed. And it’s ob­vi­ous why: jour­nal­ism has freed him. As a politi­cian, he could only trash his op­po­nents. But as a jour­nal­ist, he can trash his own side, too. Par­tic­u­larly those on his own side who sup­port what he calls “a hard Brexit”. Yes­ter­day he set about Tory Brex­i­teers with happy aban­don. He scorned them for their pur­suit of “fan­tasy trade deals”, ac­cused them of touch­i­ness (“The rebels have be­come the Es­tab­lish­ment, and they don’t re­ally like it up ’em”), re­called with plea­sure the time Ge­orge W Bush threat­ened to ex­e­cute a young Boris John­son (“A bro­ken promise, un­for­tu­nately”), and scoffed at Theresa May’s travails in Brussels.

“There are sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween pol­i­tics and news­pa­pers,” said Mr Os­borne, eyes glint­ing, tongue flick­er­ing. “Like ‘giv­ing it away’: that’s both the com­mer­cial policy of the Evening Stan­dard, and the ne­go­ti­at­ing policy of the Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment.”

The Tory party in gen­eral, he de­clared, would strug­gle un­til it took a leaf out of his book, and em­braced “mod­ern Bri­tain”. But for all its cur­rent faults, he added nobly, he wasn’t go­ing to “walk away” from “the party I helped build”.

I didn’t re­alise Mr Os­borne was 200 years old. In pol­i­tics, time re­ally does fly.

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