Tories must confront leadership issue, says George Osborne | Politics


George Osborne has said the Conservatives need to confront the issue of Theresa May’s leadership after she lost her majority at the last general election.

The ex-chancellor, now editor of the Evening Standard, said the matter could not be ducked and that it dominated conversations with his former cabinet colleagues.

Speaking at a Spectator event in conversation with Andrew Neil, he said: “I don’t think you do a service to the party that I’m a member of – and I’ve been a member of for 25 years of my life, working for and promoting – by pretending there aren’t some very serious challenges that the government faces and the leadership faces.

“You’ve got to have a clear plan and attempt to lead in pursuit of that plan and that is what the Conservative government needs to do. It’s no good the Conservatives saying: ‘Well I wish we would stop talking about it.’ You can’t talk to a member of the cabinet without talking about it and so we’ve got to confront that.”

Last week party whips outed Grant Shapps, a former co-chair of the Conservatives, as a ringleader of a plot to oust May. Shapps claimed to have around 30 colleagues signed up to the idea of removing May from power.

May’s position has been weakened over the autumn by a disastrous party conference speech and interventions by her foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, setting out his own plan for Brexit. Relations have also deteriorated with her chancellor, Philip Hammond, who is accused by Brexit supporters of not being sufficiently enthusiastic about leaving the EU.

At the Spectator event, Osborne said he had decided to quit as an MP and become a newspaper editor because the Conservatives had moved away from positions they had previously championed and in which he believed.

He said: “The question for me, at the age of 46, is: do I go on staying in the political system fighting for these things, when, frankly, my party has moved away from the positions that I think are most likely to succeed, or do I try something new in life, that it turns out that editing a newspaper is both challenging and fun.”

Reflecting on his time in the cabinet, Osborne said the party had not done enough to promote a stance he believes had kept the Conservatives attractive to voters.

“If I had a regret it’s not that we didn’t manage the immigration system properly, it’s that we were, I think, too intimidated to make the arguments about the benefits of immigration, and Conservatives usually win when we’re positive about our country’s future,” he said.

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