George Osborne's 'crashingly poor judgment'

Even if George Osborne didn't solicit donations from Oleg Deripaska, accepting holidays from obscenely wealthy hedge fund managers and consorting with Russian billionaires shows very poor judgment.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne was fighting for his reputation this week after his erstwhile friend, the hedge fund manager Nathaniel Rothschild, alleged that Osborne had solicited funds from Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska while holidaying with him at his family villa on Corfu this August, a claim Osborne denies.

We will probably never know whether Osborne "actively sought" a political donation from Deripaska, says The Independent. Despite Rothschild's claim of an independent witness the US fund manager James Goodwin this matter is unlikely to end up in court as "no one involved has an interest in rocking the boat to that extent". In the absence of further revelations, the row comes down to one man's word against another's. But it is Osborne who emerges as the "most compromised figure". Osborne was the source for the story in which Peter Mandelson another of Rothschild's summer guests supposedly criticised Gordon Brown at a dinner in Corfu, before his recall to cabinet. Other stories followed. The Sunday Times published a piece about Mandelson's stay on Deripaska's yacht, the Queen K, saying it looked inappropriate given that Mandelson was still EU Trade Commissioner at the time, and, said the newspaper, had acted twice to cut European aluminium import duties, saving Deripaska's company, Rusal, tens of millions of pounds.

It was "unwise, to put it mildly", for Osborne to use confidences gained as a guest of Rothschild to attack a "political bruiser as formidable" as Mandelson, said Jeremy Warner in The Independent. Rothschild's letter may have been revenge for Osborne's indiscretions he broke the rich man's code that what happens on holiday stays on holiday but he must also have been angry at seeing Deripaska's name "splashed" over the UK press in connection with Mandelson. According to the Daily Mail, Rothschild's "wealth has been accrued in his role as the adviser" to the Russian oligarch. Allies of Osborne claim that Mandelson is behind this campaign, and the row has "conveniently overshadowed" new claims that Mandelson had known the Russian for "far longer than he implied", said James Chapman and Michael Seamark in the Daily Mail. But a source close to Rothschild said that while Mandelson was "obviously pleased" the row had erupted, he insisted that he had no hand in it.

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Even supposing Osborne has done nothing wrong, accepting holidays from "obscenely wealthy" hedge fund managers and consorting with Russian billionaires displays "crashingly poor judgment", says Peter Oborne in The Daily Mail. "Osborne's job is to stand tall for ordinary, decent British working people against a corrupt and tax-grabbing new Labour government and their super-rich cronies." He's just made his job a lot harder, said Alice Miles in The Times. "The last thing Cameron's Conservatives need is for voters to be reminded of their exclusive backgrounds through the imagery of yachts and billionaires." If Mandelson does nothing else for Labour ever again, "giving the press an excuse to publish that picture of George Osborne posing with the Bullingdon Club will be service enough".

Emily Hohler

Emily has worked as a journalist for more than thirty years and was formerly Assistant Editor of MoneyWeek, which she helped launch in 2000. Prior to this, she was Deputy Features Editor of The Times and a Commissioning Editor for The Independent on Sunday and The Daily Telegraph. She has written for most of the national newspapers including The Times, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, She interviewed celebrities weekly for The Sunday Telegraph and wrote a regular column for The Evening Standard. As Political Editor of MoneyWeek, Emily has covered subjects from Brexit to the Gaza war.

Aside from her writing, Emily trained as Nutritional Therapist following her son's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 2011 and now works as a practitioner for Nature Doc, offering one-to-one consultations and running workshops in Oxfordshire.