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Is George Osborne really more influential than Cameron?

Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-11-29 at 13.27.05 According to GQ, yes. The Chancellor gets the number one spot in the magazine's annual list of The 100 Most Influential Men.

I'm tempted to dismss the decision as a publicity stunt. This list believes, after all, that Guido Fawkes, God bless him, is more influential than Ed Miliband. That Matthew d'Ancona is more influential than Fraser Nelson or Osborne's close confidant, Daniel Finkelstein (perhaps because MdA is a GQ contributor?) and doesn't even mention Oliver Letwin or Francis Maude (the two ministers who make the government machine work)... but does put Ed Vaizey in the top 50.

Despite these reservations there is something to the Osborne/ Cameron ranking:

  • This government will be judged on its progress on the economy and George Osborne is Mr Economy. Talking to a leading aide to the government last week I learnt that US politicians are much more interested in Osborne than Cameron. While Cameron is much more involved in economic policy than Brown allowed Blair to be, Osborne makes most of the big calls according to all good sources.
  • Although Cameron has the ultimate power to sack his Chancellor, 10 Downing Street is more of a spectator than it could or should be. Partly because of strife inside Number 10 the power of Steve Hilton is in decline. The Big Society and Happiness agenda items lack real bite. There is also the growing power of key ministers. IDS, Gove, Lansley and Pickles, for example, are enornously powerful Cabinet ministers and are pursuing their own paths - within Treasury, yes Treasury, limits.
  • Osborne's other key asset is his team. He has built an incredibly loyal, able kitchen cabinet (notably Greg Hands, the hugely-tipped Rupert Harrison and Ramesh Chhabra) and cadre of ministers - within the Treasury and beyond. The public perception is, of course, that Cameron is the warm, friendly one and public perceptions rule in politics. The truth is that, on a personal level, Osborne is the chattier, more accessible of the two men who have led the Conservative Party since 2005. He also, says one Cabinet minister, is "a much, much, much better listener".

PS Returning to the list's veracity, poor Nick Clegg is only number ten; three places below Simon Cowell.

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