Magazine article The Spectator

Should Osborne Start Planning a Second Career in Soft Furnishings?

Magazine article The Spectator

Should Osborne Start Planning a Second Career in Soft Furnishings?

Article excerpt

I've come up with a slogan to revive flagging Conservative canvassers - and an encouraging report from the doorsteps. My man in the housing estates of suburban York, of which I wrote two weeks ago, told me 'the Labour vote is collapsing' two days before reporters started using that phrase on Radio 4. He also said he was still meeting large numbers of 'don't knows'. So there's everything to play for. But no one could say the Tory campaign has gone according to plan - and that fact is adding new venom to criticism of George Osborne, who is the campaign's director as well as would-be chancellor. Wondering how much of the venom emanates from sources close to Lord Mandelson, I have been conducting my own canvass about Osborne in the financial world - and I'm sorry to say I haven't found a single respondent in the past ten days who wholeheartedly endorses him. Almost all describe him as too inexperienced, too cocky, too eager to grab a headline. One senior City figure emailed, 'A fast learner so will probably be OK, ' only to ring later with, 'On second thoughts, he's got to go.' The most balanced assessment was, 'Put a gun to the average trader's or fund manager's head and ask who they want as chancellor out of Osborne, Cable the moralising windbag or Darling the ditherer, and I suspect the answer would be Osborne.'

I also asked what they thought of his deputy, Philip Hammond, whom Westminster watchers see as a coming man. 'Measured, cogent, knows his stuff, but not a leader, ' would be a fair summary, with a significant minority saying, 'No idea, don't even know what he looks like.' As to whom they would really prefer as chancellor, the answer is the same as I suspect it would be from most of those flagging Tory canvassers: either Ken Clarke, if he'd do it, or William Hague. The inescapable conclusion of my survey is that, even if the Tories squeak a win, Cameron's right-hand man should sooner or later start thinking of a second career in Osborne and Little, his family's successful wallpaper and furnishing fabrics business. In short - here's the slogan at last - it's curtains for George.

The Townshend saga The deaths of Marquess Townshend, the aristocratic founder-chairman of Anglia Television, and Lord (Alex) Bernstein, second-generation head of Granada, are a reminder of the wide variety of visionary entrepreneurs who created British commercial television in the 1950s and 1960s, and how high their aspirations were.

Broadcasting to the farming communities of eastern England, and with two Cambridge colleges among its first investors, Anglia made its name with the natural history series Survival.

Granada, originally a cinema chain led by Alex Bernstein's showman uncle Sidney, had successes with World in Action and University Challenge as well as Coronation Street. The founders were moneymen and dealmakers but they also genuinely wanted to broaden viewers' horizons, rather than drive public taste relentlessly downwards in pursuit of fading ad revenues like their desperate successors today.

Incidentally, the 93-year-old Townshend was also notable for a deal concocted before he was born: his parents' marriage contract. In 1905, his eccentric and impecunious father, the sixth marquess, having failed to find himself a rich American wife, agreed to pay £2,000 to a government clerk named Dunne for an introduction to a barrister, Thomas Sutherst, who would pay off the marquess's debts if the latter would marry his daughter Gladys. …

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