Spectator, 2013. (https://www.spectator.co.uk/2013/08/the-next-tory-leadership-battle-is-boris-johnson-vs-theresa-may-and-its-already-started/)
In Theresa May’s first cabinet reshuffle of her new reign as Prime Minister she sacked the then Chancellor George Osborne; relegating him to the backbenches in the process. In April of this year, he resigned from his position as an MP to better pursue other projects such as his new role as editor of the Evening Standard. Since taking up this role Osborne has been vocal about his dislike for May and her trajectory as not just the Tory party leader but also PM, this was no clearer than during the election run in this June.
Last week saw the conservative party conference taking place in Manchester and Wednesday saw the ‘main event’, a speech by May herself. While there were numerous policy announcements, May taking responsibility for the loss of seats in the General Election and further talks about Brexit what the speech will be best known for is not the content. May seemed to struggle her way through the speech with a persistent cough that at one point resulted in one of her fellow cabinet ministers giving her a throat lozenge mid-speech to help her out, pieces of the stage falling off behind her and at one point a member of the audience who was allowed to freely approach her with a piece of paper. That piece of paper, a P45 followed by a comment that Boris wanted her to have it. Osborne clearly took some satisfaction from this tweeting out the following in the aftermath of the speech:
In fact, if we look through the headlines he has tweeted out about Theresa May since he started his editor role we see a similar pattern of attack and undermining, so we’re doing just that. Below are the highlights of some of the Evening Standard’s front pages since Osborne joined. It’s clear that he’s not her biggest fan.
To start with, 2nd Edition from June 26th.
Then there this one, a mere day before voting took place in June’s General Election.
Remember the backlash against the Free School Meals policy amendments?
And of course, his first edition in his new role which unceremoniously pointed out that Brexit talks weren’t going as smoothly as one would hope.
Coupled with all this Osborne has made numerous interview and TV appearances but perhaps none more telling or indeed famous than this still, taken just after the exit poll came out in June’s election predicting that May had indeed lost seats.
It’s not fun to kick a dead horse while its down and you do have to feel for May after some of the disastrous events around her speech, saying that I do know one person who is perhaps not too disappointed with how it went. I have never been the biggest fan of Osborne, I just don’t really align with him politically but in a twisted way, it is almost refreshing to see someone taking on a new sense of vigour. His post MP days have seen him become less of a headline focus for newspapers instead directing them in certain directions. He clearly has a dislike for May, or at the very least the current state of the Tory party. Whether you like him or not Osborne is enjoying the material he has to work with at the moment and he’s not hiding his agenda.May has gotten a lot of flak recently and the fact that the Tory party conference received little attention in the media until Boris laid out his speech is a testament to how things seem to be failing. I remember listening to her initial speech the day she became PM and actually finding myself excited about the prospect of a government who tried to look out for all. I still have a dislike for Osborne but the more I see his editorial direction with May I can’t help but feel two things.
Firstly, May’s days are numbered. She has consistently underperformed since the general election, in fact, her saving grace was the summer break from parliament but now that things are in full swing again Boris is more and more likely to challenge her position as leader. In fact, he could probably sit on the sidelines for the next few weeks doing nothing and he would still become the primary focus of anything Tory party related. It’s interesting to me as a Labour supporter to imagine the prospect of a general election in the future revolving around both Boris and Corbyn bumbling through speeches and PR nightmares. Similar perhaps to a certain election from last November, as scary as that thought is. Imagine a debate between Corbyn and Jonson around the tensions between Trump and North Korea…
Secondly, Osborne seems to have made his life purpose at the moment one that is dedicated to removing May from power. He seems like a child desperate to talk about her missteps, one who is jumping at the chance to tell us his thoughts whenever her name is raised, just bursting to rant about her. The issue of fairness in the media is another question for another day but for better or worse, May seems to have made a powerful enemy the day that she ousted him. The above are just a few examples of a Tory party member attacking his own party. Osborne used to be second in command, groomed to replace Cameron before the disastrous fallout of last years referendum and look at him now, you can’t say he doesn’t have a vendetta. Let us just look at that face one more time.
That is the face of a man who knows what he is doing.