SIMON LINCOLN READER: Monstrous unlikeability of George Osborne was huge weight on Theresa May
The civilised world’s political cup of unlikeable personalities runneth over.
In the Republican campaign of 2016, Ted Cruz stood out as being unlikeable. Former Independent Democrats Leader Tim Farron is most unlikeable. The EU has Jean-Claude Juncker, Guy Verhofstadt (who is monstrously unlikeable) and Martin Schulz, and before Juncker, there was Herman van Rompuy.
But none of these people come close to George Osborne, the former UK chancellor of the exchequer and now editor of the Evening Standard.
Make no mistake, had the result in the UK’s general election witnessed a group of north London left-wing maniacs charging to Downing Street to enact upon the British economy the promises they made during their campaign, you would have probably heard the glass smashing from Pretoria.
There were many things Theresa May got wrong.
She allowed her reportedly belligerent aides to compile the controversial social care policy that repulsed the Conservatives core vote. In an age where the political class has never felt more inaccessible, she skipped a television debate. And in their manifesto, the Conservatives hinted at a repeal of the fox hunting ban. From the dumb to the irrelevant, both the strategy and the document reeked of complacency.
But they were always on a hiding to nothing with the legacy of George Osborne, tied like a limping mongrel to May’s waist wherever she went.
During his early years as chancellor, Osborne was perceived as an object of sympathy — a lesser toff of the toffs who occupied David Cameron’s Conservative-lite chumocracy. I was always quietly alarmed at this misconception; the first time I laid eyes on him I imagined him as a child and saw a vindictive little bastard who would forsake a summer holiday in the Mediterranean to visit a Bavarian castle so he could ghost around the corridors smirking. It is this irreversible image that endures today — the posh, sadistic executioner, blissfully adrift from financial anxiety — who pleasured in his own vision of budget cuts.
There was delight at his axing in 2016. To substantiate his position that Britain should not leave the EU, he applied some mathematical trickery to a forecast and was caught out by The Spectator magazine. The incident prompted wide ridicule and marked the beginning of his end as chancellor.
When Osborne accepted a job at Blackrock in 2016 that paid £650,000 for four days’ work a month, he revealed what the public always suspected; that his true political master wasn’t the higher calling of public duty, but, in their words, "predatory capitalism".
Ordinarily, politicians seek their vengeance against their own party the old fashioned way, through books, and these are published strategically close to a party conference. But prospect of having to wait clearly didn’t appeal to Osborne. So when his oddball Russian friend Evgeni Ledbedev offered him to the opportunity to buy his ink by the barrel at the helm of the Evening Standard, he leapt.
Jeremy Corbyn might detest the West but I can’t imagine he would have been particularly pleased to note that an idiot like Andile Mngxitama was retweeting his campaign statements in SA. Corbyn is principled, however smelly and discredited his principles are, but it wasn’t his worship of the likes of Hugo Chavez that saw Labour’s share of the vote increase. It wasn’t even his own voting record — something which includes dignified opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Labour’s campaign was an easy-to-draft list of proposed corrections that opposed everything George Osborne represented. If you see politics as consecutive arcs of poisonous relationships, then the party’s manifesto was nothing more than brazen opportunism. But opportunism thrives in environments suffering uncertainty; attending a school meeting to discuss how you plug a huge shortfall in your local council’s funding from government, courtesy of austerity, is something any reasonable person would describe as "uncertainty".
It has been a peculiar week. Labour’s celebrations are continuing for two reasons: first, the faux left — the Blairites — are politically dead, possibly (hopefully) forever, and second, those to whom Corbyn appeals — the urban young who feel they are owed something but can’t quite identify what it is — feel like they’ve sauntered into a members-only club and landed a hook on one of Osborne’s rosy cheeks. Sadly for them his sniggering is likely to continue; even in these peculiar times, coming gloriously second still doesn’t mean you win.