George Osborne makes a splash at press gallery lunch
The former chancellor took aim at Theresa May… and Penny Mordaunt.
Addressing lobby journalists over lunch in parliament’s Churchill Room, George Osborne started as he meant to go on - with a pop at the weakness of the woman who he allegedly would like to see chopped up in bags in his freezer.
“It’s good to get away from Fleet Street…. and to come to the place where there’s real power and the real decisions are being made about Britain’s future,” said the former chancellor.
After a theatrical pause, he corrected himself: “I’m sorry, this is my Goldman Sachs speech.”
The politician-turned-Evening Standard editor also joked about the learning curve he had been on since swapping politics for journalism.
“I’m getting the hang of the differences in the jargon… it turns out that crosswords are competitions rather than cabinet meetings. And splash is the front page rather than an audition to join the cabinet.”
Osborne got more serious when talking about the state of the Tory party and Theresa May’s failure to stand up to the likes of Jacob Rees Mogg on Brexit.
“Those who say we should only listen to the 52%, that the 48% should put up and shut up, should be told they are making a huge mistake. A mistake we paid for heavily this June,” he said.
The former chancellor was then asked by one hack which would be worse for the UK: a Corbyn government or hard Brexit? Intriguingly, he didn’t choose Corbyn but sat on the fence instead:
“I'm a Conservative voter and I am hopeful that, long before we get to the general election, a Conservative government will be advocating a softer form of Brexit. I used to be a bit of an amateur chief whip and I don't think they've got the votes."
Asked about the Tory leadership, Osborne asserted with apparent relish that most Tory MPs wanted to see the back of May. It was just a question of how soon they would get their act together, he suggested.
“The essential question is going to be is there going to be a change of leader in this Parliament? The Conservative Parliamentary Party assumes there will be… I make the observation that it's the consensus view of the Conservative Parliamentary Party that the leadership should change so at some point something will happen.”
Did he regret privately saying that he would not rest until May was “chopped up in bags in my freezer”, one hack asked? The former chancellor’s admirably frank response suggested that his main regret was not speaking out but getting caught.
“It’s taught me a few things about editorial conference meetings,” he quipped.