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Coffee House

Inside the mind of George Osborne’s newest adviser

30 November 2012

4:23 PM

30 November 2012

4:23 PM

Neil O’Brien’s appointment as a new special adviser for George Osborne has gone down very well in the Westminster bubble, partly because of the Policy Exchange director’s ability to look beyond that bubble. He has written a number of times for the Spectator, and as an insight into the man who will be advising the Chancellor, here are some of his key pieces:

In this week’s magazine, O’Brien points to the North’s growing detachment from Westminster, with ‘an almighty 83 per cent of northern voters’ believing that politicians do not understand the real world. He writes:

‘Westminster politicians have repeatedly promised to close the North-South gap, but failed because they ignored economic reality, and flushed our money away on stupid gimmicks. No wonder northern voters think politicians ignore them and don’t understand them. Unless we change direction, it’s going to become harder to refer honestly to ‘one nation’: because our country will steadily come apart.’

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In April, he wrote a piece arguing that London’s separation from the rest of Britain is becoming more and more pronounced every year, and criticising the ‘Londonitis’ endemic among politicians, civil servants and journalists, saying:

‘Polls show that Britain’s political class has reached a new peak of unpopularity in recent weeks. People don’t believe politicians understand them anymore, and think they all live in ‘another world’. They may be right: London has become another country.’

For his views on Europe, it’s worth reading his 2005 piece ‘How Europe betrays the poor’, which was about the WTO meeting in Hong Kong that December:

‘The EU also hits poor countries with higher trade barriers than rich countries. On average, the world’s poorest countries (such as most of Africa) face an EU tariff on their exports of more than 5 per cent, while rich countries (like Japan) face a tax of less than 1.5 per cent. Malawi, with a per capita income of less than £100 a year, pays an average 12 per cent tax on its exports to the EU. Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland face a staggering tariff of more than 20 per cent.’

O’Brien has also appeared on our View from 22 podcast. In August, he debated GCSE results with Fraser, while in May, he discussed the Tories’ progress in the north of England.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


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