The inscrutable chancellor捉摸不透的财政大臣The Osborne identity奥斯本身份之谜
As he prepares for his second budget, the chancellor of the exchequer remains a mystery to many in Westminster
NO OTHER office of state carries the mystique of chancellor of the exchequer, a job that comes with almost prime-ministerial power but only a rare duty to enter the spotlight. The next of these occasions comes on March 23rd, when George Osborne delivers his second budget. Coalition government has left him even less visible, and less understood, than he might have been: Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister, has become the second face of the coalition, alongside David Cameron, the prime minister.
Mr Osborne’s elusiveness would matter less, were the gap between his public profile and his influence smaller. His plan virtually to eliminate the structural deficit in this parliament is the government’s main task; the parallel project to reform the public services takes place within budgetary limits set by him. But his sway extends beyond the Treasury, where his seriousness and technical command have surprised civil servants who expected the neophyte of popular pre-general election caricature. Mr Osborne also does much of the government’s political thinking. He is often the dominant voice in the kind of strategy meetings—many of which Mr Cameron lets him chair—in which he first shone as a young adviser in the 1990s.
He had few allies in the Conservative Party in opposition, but a support base is now growing under him. His special advisers are the best in the government. There are “Osbornite” MPs, such as Matthew Hancock and Greg Hands. His stock has risen on his party’s right: many who once mistrusted his desire to move the Tories to the centre ground now see him as a more vigilant guardian of Tory views in the coalition than Mr Cameron.
None of this means that Mr Osborne is the “real” prime minister, as some maintain. Mr Cameron’s decisions ultimately carry the day. Neither is their relationship anything like as fraught as that between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Mr Osborne is ambitious but knows that any opportunity to lead his party or country is years away. He also knows that, as our pre-budget opinion poll demonstrates (see article), voters are yet to warm to him.