George is on the up, no question. Facing no one of equal political calibre in his own party (many note how much of a diminished figure Boris cut in the Commons as his rival to replace Dave had his crowning moment), and having tied Labour up in knots over his latest budget, many in Westminster wonder whether Osborne has Number 10 locked down.
Where the Conservative Party is concerned, one should never take such things for granted; there is always someone from crazy town who poses a threat. You can never discount a John Redwood or Owen Patterson emerging from the wings, particularly in the wake of an EU referendum bound to ruffle some feathers. But for now, let’s just say Osborne has conquered his own party: what kind of prime minister would he be?
Comparisons with Gordon Brown may at first seem frivolous. The two men are politically chalk and cheese. But if George gets the top job he will, like Brown, have been chancellor for a very long period of time, one during which he managed to stamp his authority on the job. Like Gordon, Osborne is more noted for his behind the scenes cleverness than his inspiring oratory style.
In terms of importance to a premiership, Brown demonstrated relatively recently why the latter on the list in the last paragraph is so vital. Whatever his faults, David Cameron is good at the public facing stuff; he’s good at convincing the nation he’s their leader. Osborne could fall prey to what felled Gordon Brown in the end: while the British voting public were very happy to have him handle their money, they wanted someone else to represent their country.
Having said all of that, here’s the thing: I’ve doubted Osborne before and lived to regret it. After the Omnishambles budget from which it didn’t look like he could return. The 2015 general election campaign, after which the hubris on his part seemed apropos. The guy’s political genius is now beyond doubt, something you have to admit whether you think he’s the greatest liberal thinker of our age or Margaret Thatcher’s slightly more satanic offspring. But I can’t get the following image out of my mind: George standing in front of oak panelling, holding some white papers in his hand to look all ministerial-like, while some posh, young budding commercial television director tells him, “You look fab, G. But I need you to smile even more”. They roll again, George annoyed at having to do a fourteenth take of this silly YouTube video his SpAds told him would take ten minutes out of his day. George turns to the camera and grins his face off, trying to look warm but actually looking like a vampire, a video in the making destined to solidify the notion that while he made a great chancellor, he doesn’t have the prescence required to be prime minister.
Just like Gordon Brown.