Confessions of a Political Animal

October 23, 2008

Isn’t this an untenable position?

Today’s Guardian reports (Update: and The Standard has much the same story) that the latest twist in the ‘When Toffs Fall Out’ saga involving George Osborne is that Nat Rothschild is

declaring a form of uneasy truce 

with the Shadow Chancellor. The newspaper reports that Rothschild’s friends are saying that

he did not at this stage want to escalate the public battle with his old friend. They said Rothschild had not intended to bring Osborne down by disclosing the shadow chancellor’s involvement in talks about raising money from Deripaska. Instead, the friends said, Rothschild had intended it as “slap on the wrist” because he was furious that Osborne had breached confidences in an attempt to damage Labour business secretary Lord Mandleson.

So, Osborne has been given some breathing space. But beyond the very serious questions that now hang over his actions and judgement, surely there is a very serious question of national interest arising here. Mr Osborne is very likely to be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer, yet if today’s papers are to be believed, his political career now hangs at the mercy of a member of one of the richest families in the world. According to the Guardian

a source close to Rothschild said: “If anything is put out that in any way contradicts what he has said, Nat will come back.” Rothschild has insisted that Osborne did solicit funds, contradicting the shadow chancellor’s account. The source added that Rothschild had written witness statements from two friends, including James Goodwin, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton.

In other words, Mr Osborne is now in the position of being potentially the victim of blackmail. My understanding is that when a new Prime Minister is drawing up their cabinet, Special Branch routinely provide them with details of any risk that a potential cabinet minister could be open to a blackmail attempt. And if Special Branch don’t too it, then the Chief Whip surely will. Historically, this would have been to prevent anyone who might have been the successful target of a KGB honey trap from placing national security at risk by attaining a cabinet position. But surely the same applies to those who have been the apparently willing victims of post-KGB money traps?

Can the country really risk having a Chancellor whose political career could be ended at any moment at the say-so of either Nat Rothschild or Oleg Deripaska? Is that a recipe for a Chancellor who could be guaranteed to always put the country’s interest first? And what would be Chancellor Osborne’s response if Rothschild or Deripaska said ‘jump’ on a matter of policy? I fail to see how in this situation David Cameron can continue to allow Mr Osborne to be his nominee for Chancellor of the Exchequer. Surely this raises questions about the party leader’s judgement as well?


1 Comment »

  1. […] obtained credit card and remorgatged debt. Or to quote Boris’ colleague, the man who is somehow still the real Shadow Chancellor, speaking in April David Cameron, myself, and many others warned that […]

    Pingback by Is this the most ridiculous Boris quote of all time? « Confessions of a Political Animal — October 30, 2008 @ 4:56 pm | Reply

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