George Osborne has issued a robust defence of his time as chancellor and said he believes the UK's best days lie ahead in a speech littered with attempts to define his own legacy.
In the annual Margaret Thatcher memorial lecture held by the Centre for Policy Studies, Osborne placed his achievements such as protecting the UK's commitment to spending two per cent of national income on defence and 0.7 per cent on international development, legalising same sex marriage, and laying the foundations for the northern powerhouse next to other great Conservative reformers such as the Iron Lady, Lord Salisbury and William Wilberforce.
The former chancellor was sacked by new prime minister Theresa May following her appointment last week, though Osborne also said he stands fully behind her and could think of no greater replacement at Number 11 than Philip Hammond.
Addressing the UK's relationship with Europe directly, Osborne said this evening: "As we negotiate our exit from the EU, I hope we seek the closest possible new ties with our European neighbours. They are, on the economy and on security, our friends not our foes.
"I hope we reach out to build stronger economic and trading ties now with our old allies like the United States, and our new partners like China."
Osborne, who was criticised by Leave campaigners for heavy-handed warnings of economic catastrophe if the UK left the EU, also hinted at a possible return to frontline politics, saying he had "much more to contribute to our nation's discussions in the years ahead."