Days after losing his job as chancellor, George Osborne spoke to a City audience in the Guildhall. He was delivering the annual Thatcher Lecture and set out the areas that he felt defined his legacy: economic recovery, the Northern Powerhouse and the pursuit of social reform.
He also took the opportunity to reassert a belief in Britain's role in the world. “We should always remain a global power,” he said, “interested in shaping the world rather than being shaped by it.” It was in this context that he described the 2013 vote by the House of Commons against military intervention in Syria as “the worst decision it made in the 15 years I've been an MP.”
The former chancellor returned to this very theme yesterday, addressing the Commons during an emergency (though painfully futile) debate on the humanitarian crisis gripping the Syrian city of Aleppo. “I think we are deceiving ourselves in this Parliament if we believe that we have no responsibility for what has happened in Syria,” he said, before slamming the “vacuum of Western leadership, of American leadership, British leadership”.
It was a confident speech and it won plaudits from Tory colleagues and Labour opponents. It also demonstrated that Osborne has no intention of fading quietly into the night. He may have hit the international lecture circuit – reportedly earning a cool £500,000 since leaving office – but he seems intent on maintaining his political profile at home, too. He has resisted the urge to pen his memoirs, perhaps reasoning that such a move would signify his retirement. Instead, he's working on a book about “the crisis in democracy and capitalism”.
He says “my book is about the future” - his own future, perhaps. At the end of his Thatcher Lecture in July, he told the audience that he has “more – much more – to contribute to our national discussion”. He will, of course, always have his critics. Many feel his role in the referendum campaign, including the embarrassingly over-egged predictions of economic turmoil, has damaged his reputation and his standing among Tory MPs. But if yesterday's Commons performance is to go by Osborne is settling in to life after the Treasury and, to borrow a phrase from the new Prime Minister, he intends to make a success of it.