Friday 8 October 2010

Never write off a shadow chancellor

I've just been re-reading some of the cuts from May 2005, when Michael Howard reshuffled the shadow cabinet for the last time, promoting two thrusting young guns: David Cameron and George Osborne.

These two were promoted to serve alongside other potential successors as the then Conservative leader effectively fired the starting gun for the leadership election. Although David Cameron would ultimately emerge victorious from this battle, it was the new shadow chancellor that attracted the majority of the attention from that reshuffle. The coverage was not favourable.

George was depicted as too young, too posh, too inexperienced, too awkward - and that was just from the traditional Tory supporting papers. At that time George faced a battle for survival on two fronts. First, he was shadowing Gordon Brown who had seen off a succession of previous shadow chancellors with his reputation intact. Second, George only had until December to make his mark to keep the job once the new Conservative leader was in place.

On top of all this he was David Cameron's campaign manager so effectively had three full-time jobs. His resources were tight. George's first proper interview was with Cathy Newman - then of the FT - conducted in his windowless room high above the Commons chamber. His team consisted of a press officer (me), a researcher and his secretary. George's first Commons performance was widely criticised and the write-up he received in that first FT interview was unfairly critical.

Slowly, through hard work, flashes of occasional brilliance, luck, support of a growing team of bright advisors, and a dogmatic insistence that whatever he did people would criticise him so he would just continue doing what he thought was right, the polls moved and Labour's economic competence was undermined.

That took an awful lot of time. I wonder if George remembers that first sweaty interview after his first shaky Commons performance? Alan Johnson may not hit the ground running, he may not ever be a successful shadow chancellor, but George Osborne was written off and look at him now.


1 comment:

  1. Yep - still too young, too posh, too inexperienced and too awkward...


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