Wednesday, May 11, 2005

 

Howard keen on young blood

Osborne and Cameron to the rescue — Michael Howard's appointment of George Osborne and David Cameron to the Shadow posts of Chancellor and Education indicates a desire to favour the next generation of political talent. It seems as if these two personable young politicos are perceived as the Conservatives' Blair and Brown; two tyros who can project the party into future orbit as Labour's was. However, this is not a wholly reliable course to take.

William Hague was only 36 when made leader and proved to be too gauche and uncharismatic to make any impact. It was different in the days of Pitt the Younger, the eighteenth century stripling who became Prime Minister at the ridiculous age of 23.Incidentally William Hague's biograhy of another precocious lad, is a gem.

I met and heard Osborne speak last October at the Politics Assocation conference in Manchester and he seemed very charming (a box which has to be well ticked these days) and affable with a relaxed manner and ready wit. He also seemed intelligent and his talk was absorbing. But did he strike me as a future Prime Minister in the 'sooner rather than later' future? Not really, on that showing.

Would Blair have done any better at that stage in his career? I genuinely think he would. Blair has always had a fierce desire to obtain and hold political power and this intensity has illuminated his speaking style. And George has taken on a formidable task: besting the most successful Chancellor arguably since before the last war. It could be, like Hague and then Letwin, Osborne will find the going a bit too tough and the decision to promote him to the very front of the front line against New Labour will prove to have been premature. On the other hand the economic pages tell us that the British economy is headed for stormy waters, so maybe the ground on which Osborne is going to fight is changing to his advantage. Even then it will take a formidable talent and a degree of ruthlessness, neither qualities which the nice Mr Osborne obviously seems to possess.


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