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Osborne and Lammy, titans of our time

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SOMETIMES it’s the small things in life that add a spring to your step. Patting a dog’s head, hearing birdsong in the city, or perhaps reading something by George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Since vacating 11 Downing Street, the industrious Mr Osborne has seen more jobs than a job centre in Liverpool. Talented doesn’t begin to describe his broad range of abilities which have seen him employed variously as editor of the London Evening Standard, adviser at BlackRock, holder of fellowships at the Hoover Institution and Stanford School of Business, partner at 9Yards Capital, partner at investment bank Robey Warshaw, chair of the northern Powerhouse Partnership, chair of the investment management company Lingotto – it’s a dizzying roster of employment. One can only imagine that with such an impressive hinterland, his CV is now available in paperback.

Oh, I almost forgot, chair of the British Museum, yes, the one that recently announced that up to 2,000 treasures needed to be re-classified as missing, damaged or stolen.

It appears that leaving politics was very much the making of him. With such a capacity for multi-tasking one can only wonder why he was cruelly constrained to one ministerial portfolio whilst an MP.

His business and political acumen is obviously very much in demand, and he has been touted as a possible future chair of the BBC. All that is missing is an appearance on Strictly to cement his place in the pantheon of ex-MPs seeking salvation and forgiveness for their past transgressions.

One can safely assume him, with such an impressive track record, to be an astute judge of character, able to identify wheat from chaff.  Which in a circuitous way is how we come to David Lammy, Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs.

In the current Spectator, Mr Osborne writes about speaking at a conference on transatlantic relations with former US national security advisers Condoleezza Rice and General H R McMaster. But it was the following passage that drew my attention.

‘Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy was at the conference, and I noticed all eyes on him as the coming man. Power is where power goes.’

Yes, I had to read it again too as I thought there must be some mistake.

This is the same David Lammy who in 2009 appeared on Celebrity Mastermind making the wrong sort of impression by delivering some true howlers during the general knowledge round. 

Garnering a somewhat underwhelming five correct answers in the general knowledge round, the MP for Tottenham thought Red Leicester cheese accompanied port, Henry VII acceded to the English throne after the death of Henry VIII,  the 2003 Rose Revolution took place in Yugoslavia and that Marie Antoinette won the Nobel prize for physics. He did impressively identify Chris Martin as the leader of Coldplay and that it was William Hague who claimed to have downed 14 pints of beer in a day whilst working as a delivery man’s assistant.

This woeful display reminded me of the phrase widely attributed to Abraham Lincoln (and Denis Thatcher): ‘Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.’

Lest we forget, this is the ‘coming man’ who gave an TV interview to the BBC in 2018 after a spate of horrific crime in the capital, where he earnestly protested that: ‘It feels like neighbourhood policing has vanished, it’s not around you. We haven’t seen police in a while, and I’ve been here for quite a while now.’ This admirable sentiment was rudely undone by a policeman heaving into view directly behind him. The resultant memes on social media were a rich source of well-deserved mockery.  

After his appointment to one of the top jobs in the shadow cabinet Mr Lammy commented: ‘At a time when Britain is recasting itself on the world stage, I look forward to setting out Labour’s vision for a values-led foreign policy based on co-operation and internationalism.’

I can hardly wait. As the old phrase goes, ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’.

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Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin is a retired media executive who worked across domestic and international media.

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