George Osborne has recruited Neil O’Brien, the director of the leading centre-right think tank Policy Exchange, as an adviser. O’Brien will start work in the New Year with a particular focus on the next phase of coalition policy development. I also suspect that O’Brien will have a major influence on Tory thinking heading to 2015 and beyond. The Northern Lights report he commissioned at Policy Exchange is regarded in Tory circles as one of the most important assessments of the challenge facing the party in trying to win a majority.
I understand that Osborne has been impressed by the work that O’Brien has produced at Policy Exchange. At Policy Exchange, O’Brien has sought to craft a more economically focused centre-right agenda. The think-tank, which was in the vanguard of the modernising project, has in the last few years set about developing a policy agenda more suited to these straitened times with an emphasis on economic renewal, public service reform and a more hard-headed approach to welfare.
O’Brien has also done much work on how to revive the Tories in the north. His piece in this week’s magazine sets out what the thinks can be done about the north south divide. As a veteran of the campaign against the Euro and a former head of the Euro-sceptic think tank Open Europe, he’s also bound to have a view on how the Conservatives should approach the renegotiation of Britain’s terms of membership of the European Union.
For Osborne, this is the second impressive addition to his political team this month—following on from the recruitment of the BBC’s senior political producer Thea Rogers. I know that to those outside the Westminster bubble, the reporting of this kind of news must seem like the worst kind of political navel gazing. But the Chancellor’s continuing ability to attract talent is a sign that some of the sharpest minds in Westminster believe there’s plenty of life in this government and the wider Cameron project.
More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.