Posted by: secretperson | October 22, 2008

Will Osborne Go?

Following reports suggesting he may have tried to solicit a donation from a foreign (and therefore ineligable) donor, shadow chancellor George Osborne has admitted a donation was discussed but claims it was offered and not asked for. No donation was made.

This follows on from suggestions that Peter Mandelson met the same Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska, at the same time and later made concessions on Russian aluminium exports to the EU in his role as Trade Commissioner.

Osborne has recently been under attack for his handling of the economic crisis, being largely anonymous and ineffectual. So although he is one of Cameron’s closest friends and allies, maybe he will step down to ‘avoid embarassing the party’ while any investigation takes place, allowing Cameron to bring in a big hitter as shadow chancellor, just when the economy is the main issue.

As to who could replace him, there is no one stand out candidate. Iain Dale has previously plugged Ken Clarke but his pro-EU views have lost him two leadership elections and this wouldn’t be a popular choice with the grass roots. John Redwood chairs the Economic Competetiveness Group, and certainly has plenty of economic experience, but when capitalism seems to have taken a hit, this unreconstructed free-marketeer, who was always a bit of a joke, likely to go down well with the public? He may well be given some advisory role soon though. David Davis is a big name, but seems to have resigned himself to not returning to the cabinet, despite his civil liberties campaign having faltered, so probably won’t be called on by Cameron.

Well the only other real ‘big hitter’, that is someone who is experienced, recognisable and more than able to hold his own in a debate, seems to be William Hague. Unlike Redwood’s vulcan image and Welsh anthem miming, Hague has outgrown his baseball cap days. He has proved a knowledgeable foreign secretary, a talented Commons performer and would be popular within the party.

But would he want the job? He has said before he harbours no ambition to lead the party again and had to be encouraged strongly to return to cabinet at all. There have been persistant rumours that he is planning to leave, having become disenchanted with Cameron’s leadership. Maybe an even bigger job will not be on his agenda.

This is all premature, Osborne has yet to go. But in politics, where image is everything, he probably won’t survive this controversy for long.


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