George Osborne’s decision to stand down as an MP is a sign of how impregnable Theresa May’s position is perceived to be. Osborne is the most politically formidable of the Tory sceptics of May’s Brexit plan, and his decision to quit the Commons suggests that he doesn’t think she’ll come unstuck in the next parliament.
Of course, Osborne has others things to occupy himself with: the editorship of the Evening Standard and his lucrative work for Black Rock. But one suspects that he’d have been prepared to brazen out the criticism over his multiple jobs if he thought there would be a political sea change in his wing of the party’s favour in the next parliament.
Osborne’s departure from the Commons will further denude it of experience. There’ll be no former Prime Ministers or Chancellors in the post-election House of Commons: that can’t be good for either parliamentary debate or scrutiny. His absence will be a reminder of how quickly the wheel of political fortune can turn.
Two years ago, Osborne was regarded by Tory MPs as David Cameron’s most likely successor. But the referendum campaign broke his relationship with the Tory party.
The Tory party should, though, remember Osborne’s role in its revival. He was crucial to the recovery of the party from the nadir of 2003 and in ensuring that coalition was the gateway to Tory majority rule. The party would do well to heed Osborne’s obsession with being, and appearing to be, forward looking.