Osborne – this is no farewell

George Osborne Image copyright AFP

Maybe not quite the five stages of grief, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer has certainly been on a journey since the voters of the UK rejected his exhortations to vote Remain last Thursday.

Speaking to those close to him, that journey has been something of a knackering, stomach churning roller coaster.

But now, a possible destination is becoming clearer, in his mind at least. And it's not the one many expected.

First, those stages.

It started, I am told, with despair. The "My God, what have we done?" stage.

Then there was anger. "Well, this is what Leave want, they can sort it out."

Maybe that was an understandable reaction, as it sank in that Britain had voted to overturn a significant chunk of its post-war history despite the economic warnings of one George Osborne.


But, governments are there to do things, not sulk, and Mr Osborne followed anger with work, ringing other G7 and European Union finance ministers on Friday and over the weekend.

He also contacted large investment funds to offer reassurance about the state of the UK economy.

Don't forget, one of his closest friends is Peter Davies, of the hedge fund, Lansdowne Partners.

Finally, this week, came acceptance - and the start of a plan.

This morning on the Today programme, the chancellor told my colleague Nick Robinson that he would not be running for the soon to be vacant post of leader of the Conservative Party and, slightly more importantly, Prime Minister.

Those close to Mr Osborne say that he realises that although he has heavyweight support in the parliamentary party - including Sajid Javid, Amber Rudd, Michael Fallon and Nicky Morgan - he would struggle to convince the more Eurosceptic Conservative party at large that he was the man to "heal" the divisions of the last few months.

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Media captionGeorge Osborne: "We are equipped for whatever happens"

But although Mr Osborne has ruled himself out of the present contest, this is no farewell.

As Chancellor of the Exchequer for the last six years, Mr Osborne believes he has waded through some enormously rough waters in an attempt to fix the public finances.

He still has ambitions, couched in his own words as serving his country "right or wrong".

Couched in his allies' words, that can be read as "Don't write me off."

Mr Osborne is 45 years old, still pretty young in Westminster terms.

He still craves the major offices of state - whether that's the Treasury or the Foreign Office.

Many thought - including me, frankly - that Mr Osborne would have to quit if the referendum was lost.


But, a different picture has emerged.

With David Cameron going, as far as some investors are concerned the chancellor is one of the few big beasts left on the "reassurance" ticket.

His approach to cutting the deficit and, ultimately, starting to tackle Britain's substantial debt position has received significant business support.

Those around the chancellor believe any candidate to be the next Prime Minister - whether Theresa May, Boris Johnson (who has lost a lot of pro-EU City support) or another - could see the member for Tatton as useful ballast.

I am sure Mr Osborne did consider quitting after the referendum - a referendum he argued against before the 2015 election as he believed it both let the Labour Party make a "pro-business, pro-EU" argument and one possible outcome was a clear and present danger to the UK economy.

But, as the fog of defeat has cleared, Mr Osborne's mind has cleared.

Not leader, not this time. But this is certainly no farewell.