Osborne bashes Boris and Bercow in joke-heavy speech at journo dinner
The chancellor was on top form at the annual Westminster Correspondents’ Dinner.
George Osborne skewered a host of his fellow Tory MPs as he spoke at the annual Westminster Correspondents’ Dinner last night.
Addressing dozens of political journalists and their other halves, the chancellor aimed several jibes at his potential Tory leadership rival Boris Johnson.
He also ribbed Commons speaker John Bercow for having a large ego and teased cabinet colleague John Whittingdale over his former girlfriends.
Labour MPs including Chris Bryant did not emerge unscathed either, while the Commons catering department also displayed a sense of humour. By serving up Eton Mess for dessert.
Osborne began by saying it was an honour to speak at the Westminster Correspondents Dinner - just days before the “far smaller and less glamorous” White House Correspondents Dinner is set to happen. He then name checked a trio of lucky lobby journalists:
“We all know where we’d rather be, don’t we? They’ve only got George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. When we’ve got Chris Hope [from the Telegraph], Harry Cole [from The Sun] and Brendan Carlin [from the Mail on Sunday].”
The Osbo diet
There were a few touches of self-deprecation, including when Osborne joked that Chancellors have always had a difficult relationship with food. He said that Nigel Lawson published his own diet book and Gordon Brown "binged on Kit Kats". And now he could reveal his own nutrition plan.
"It’s called the 5:2. After 2 out of every 5 budgets I eat my own words. And recently I have also had to sample a dish which neither Matt Hancock or I even know existed – humble pie."
The Chancellor got plenty of laughs as he revealed his disappointment at learning his leadership rival wouldn't be executed by George W Bush.
Osborne told the story of how he and the London mayor met President Bush – and the president noticed that Johnson was wearing a watch adorned with Che Guevara's face. He said: "Boris with typical fortitude and courage looked down at his watch with the famous print of Che Guevara and said: ‘err, it’s my sisters’."
Bush told then Johnson that in Texas they execute people who wear Che Guevara watches. Osborne added: "Unfortunately, it turned out that George Bush was bluffing."
He also took a swipe at Johnson’s popularity with Tory MPs, by noting that the dinner was being held in the Members' Dining Room. "Or as Boris calls it, Strangers'."
Skewering the Speaker
In another well-received barb, Osborne simultaneously skewered the press pack and Commons speaker John Bercow:
“I doubt there’s been a bigger collection of egos in one room since John Bercow dined here alone.”
One of the best gags of Osborne’s speech came when he mocked recent revelations about a senior cabinet colleague’s private life.
John Whittingdale recently hit the headlines after he admitted dating a woman who later turned out to be an escort. The chancellor said:
“The referendum means we’re all arguing amongst ourselves. The Canadian model. The Albanian model. The Ukrainian model. And that’s just John Whittingdale’s table.”
Whittingdale roared with laughter as the chancellor delivered the punchline.
Taking down Truss
Environment secretary Liz Truss enjoyed an honourable mention as Osborne alluded to the speech she would rather forget.
"Don’t worry Liz Truss. I’ve checked with the chef and I’m assured that any cheese is English. Because if it were not… THAT WOULD BE A DISGRACE!"
Uncork the Gauke!
Chief Treasury secretary David Gauke is variously seen by MPs as the government’s unsung hero – or the poor bloke who has to take the flak for Osborne when the going gets tough. The chancellor jokingly acknowledged that his colleague sometimes had to do a bit of heavy lifting:
"This isn't how I normally do things. Big speech in parliament, pressure on, you're baying for blood. I answer... uncork the Gauke!"
Osborne aimed more fire at his own colleagues than the Labour side, but he still had a few digs up his sleeve for those opposition MPs who attended the dinner. Not least for Chris Bryant – more than a decade after tabloids obtained a picture of the Labour MP posing in front of a mirror in his pants.
"We’re joined by the various factions of the Labour Party. Stephen Kinnock – the united front. Rachel Reeves – the popular front. Emily Thornberry – the less popular front.
"And Chris Bryant – the Y-front."
Photo by Yui Mok/PA Wire: Osborne delivers his speech at the Lord Mayor's Dinner in June 10 2015.