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What a summer: George Osborne’s epic fall from high office

Christian May
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Conservative Party Conference Held In Birmingham - Day 2
In a tumultuous summer, Osborne fell from being one of the UK's most powerful men to a backbencher (Source: Getty)

At the end of July, former Chancellor George Osborne delivered the annual Margaret Thatcher memorial lecture.

Her legacy is mighty. What would his be? As he attempted to define it in front of a City audience in the magnificent Guildhall, he concluded that he had “much more to contribute to our nation's discussions in the years ahead.” The question now is, who's listening?

In a tumultuous summer, Osborne fell from being one of the most powerful men in the country to a backbencher whose parliamentary seat is set to be scrapped under the controversial boundary review. He has vowed to fight for a seat to contest in 2020, and hasn't ruled out challenging the review's conclusion, but the speed with which his fortunes have changed is quite remarkable.

Read more: George Osborne could be about to unveil a Northern Powerhouse think tank

Osborne didn't have a good referendum. He will be remembered for his massively overblown predictions of economic catastrophe if Britain voted to leave. He claimed that layoffs would begin almost immediately, yet this summer's figures show unemployment continuing to fall while firms across the UK report positive hiring sentiment. He claimed that an emergency budget would be needed to bring about £15bn of tax rises and the same amount in spending cuts, yet after the vote he talked of cutting corporation tax to 15 per cent and of the UK claiming the mantle as the most open and trading nation on earth.

His zeal for the latter position only served to highlight the absurdity of the former. He was subsequently sacked by Theresa May who then set about distancing herself from the Osborne era with a pace that bordered on cruel. His plans for achieving a budget surplus, a central element of his economic policy, may be dropped and his beloved Northern Powerhouse agenda was all but dismissed in favour of a new country-wide industrial strategy.

Read more: Osborne may earn more on the dinner circuit than he did running the economy

As City A.M. exclusively revealed on Tuesday, it is this agenda that Osborne now sees as the key to securing a legacy. He will go from the corridors of power to the pamphlets and policy papers of a new think tank. His political blood-brother, David Cameron, has left him to it and his party has moved on from the era he helped to define. They say it can be lonely at the top, but it may be even lonelier at the bottom.

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