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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 December 2014
Janan Ganesh's biography of George Osborne, now out in a slightly expanded paperback edition, has been rightly praised for its style, research and sharp analysis. And yet, and yet... at the end of reading it I still feel a big disjuncture between the the George Osborne in the book and the George Osborne who wants to cut public spending massively further without a penny of tax rises after 2015.

Ganesh is sympathetic to Osborne without ever being sycophantic and unsurprisingly paints a much kinder picture of him that Labour politicians do. That's not the puzzle, however.

The puzzle is that Ganesh's picture is one of an arch-pragmatist, someone who is a centrist who could easily have ended up in New Labour: "The Tory party was, ultimately, a default recourse for a broadly centrist budding politico at a time when Labour was unelectably left-wing. Had Osborne been born a decade later and grown up in the mid-1990s, he might now be a Blairite MP striving to catch Ed Miliband's eye for a frontbench promotion".

Moreover, in Ganesh's account Osborne's initial political experiences confirmed his centrist, pragmatic approach: "In the period between Britain's exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) in 1992 and the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith as Leader of the Opposition in 2003 ... the Tories were a bitterly riven and splenetically detested party... Osborne was there for almost all of this period.... His time as a back-room adviser was an unremittingly brutal education that shaped the politician he became: pugilistic, averse to vote-losing ideology and almost neurotically fixated on public opinion".

Yet look at Osborne's tax and spend plans for a 2015-2020 Conservative government and they seem a long way away from this. How to explain this? Has Osborne tripped himself up with his enthusiasm for political games and attempts to set traps for other parties, backing himself into such an extreme 'no tax increases' position (and a dangerous one too given the likelihood of a hung Parliament requiring any Conservative Chancellor to abandon that line with just as much political risk as when the first President George Bush abandoned his 'read my lips - no new taxes pledge)? That certainly fits with Osborne's baseline view of politics - that what a government sets out as its future fiscal policies is what the policies of the opposition get judged against and therefore boxes them in.

Or is Ganesh just too kind to Osborne, who is really rather more of an extreme character than the book paints?

There are certainly hints in the book that politics rather than economics dominates Osborne's outlook, with a habit of picking economic policies for their political impact on opponents: "The bookshelves in Osborne's Tatton home are dominated by biographies, not works of political theory or economics. The second of his laws of political success ... is to get inside an opponent's mind and soul".

Ganesh does to an extent put the case both for and against Osborne simply being a pragmatist without deep beliefs, citing Michael Howard's praise of Osborne for his inner ideological consistency and pointing out how in 2009 Osborne didn't go for the easy option of sticking with copying Labour's fiscal policies but instead argued for unpopular austerity, yet also pointing out how many other contemporaries had a different view.

Of course Ganesh also has the classic biographer's problem when writing a book mid-career. But it all means that in the end the book is rather less than the sum of its excellent parts, for these different views of Osborne are not resolved.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 31 January 2013
An enjoyable biography of one of the most powerful chaps in Britain, this is a favourable but fair book that's intelligently written and easily digested.

Osbourne comes across well, as incredibly bright, very driven and not unpleasant in his dealings with his staff. The book focuses more on politics and economics than personality, and that suited me just fine. It also serves as a recent history of the Conservative party, and the author makes some salient points.

It's quite unusual (for me, anyway) to read a biography of someone so young and of events that have barely gone. How will history judge Osbourne and Cameron? TBC, as they say. But this is a good, readable book for politicos.
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on 20 January 2015
really enjoyed this book. Ganesh is sympathetic to Osbourne, and portrays him as such, but i feel I have a much more nuanced understanding of him now. and good update too.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2013
This is a really good account of the current chancellor. I read this book out of interest and not out of being a big supporter, and it is impressive. The book, whilst of course being in the main about Osborne, sees the author, especially from the second section onwards, managing to give a great overview of the political sphere of elections from '92- '10, lacing Osborne in amongst the various ups and downs and tactical moves. The book shows Osborne as still something on an enigma in his thoughts, tactics and ambitions.
It sounds somewhat sad to categorically state that I thought that a political book about George Osborne was a genuine 'page turner', but that is indeed what it was. The author's style of writing, whilst containing copious words that one often does not see in writing these days [a good thing](I needed to frequently refer to a dictionary lol), keeps the reader engaged, and whilst obviously with a right of the spectrum bias, not overbearingly so.
Wholly recommended.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 3 January 2013
Ganesh's first major book is an excellent account of George Osborne's rapid ascent into one of the most powerful jobs on the planet. It is a must read for followers of current affairs in the UK.

The author's interviews with the Chancellor, his advisors and Cabinet colleagues makes for a compelling - and at times humorous- insiders account of his life to date.

The formative years section is like a case study of how a privileged upbringing and family connections can give someone such a fabulous head start in life. However, this is far from a 'silver spoon' story. The Chancellor's hard work, determination, good judgement and appetite for taking calculated political risks are all articulated as key ingredients in his recipe for his prodigious rise up the political ladder. The author does touch on - but not in as much detail as he could have- the Chancellor's personality traits (and evident self-awareness of) such as his perceived smugness.

Enviably the book focuses on Osborne's response to the financial crisis whilst in Opposition and then in Government. At times this reads as more of a political historical account of the last few years rather than an overly forensic look at Osborne's specific role. Ganesh gently outlines rather than probes the pertinent questions. These include why as Shadow Chancellor he didn't consider the possibility of economic growth falling, why he didn't have a plan for increasing growth when in power or indeed why the Conservatives didn't get a full majority at the polls in 2010.
Much like the biography a young Michael Gove published on Michael Portillo in 1995 the author is, at still only 30, a rising star of the right. This might explain a reluctance to be too harsh on Osborne, who after all, may well challenge for the Leadership of Conservative party toward the end of the decade. This will be dependent on the Austerity Chancellor's economic plan succeeding.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is a fascinating biography of a man who I admire. Anyone interested in British politics will enjoy this book!
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2013
Being an avid watcher of the Sunday Politics show which I really enjoy, it was said that one of the shows political commentators, Janan Ganesh had written a book about George Osbourne. I enjoy listening to what Janan Ganesh has to say and also the way that he says it, so I decided to purchase the book.

The contents of the book was in my view, superb; well researched and 'thought out'. I read quite a lot of books from different genres but this book was the best book that I have read in a very long time.

Apart from being factual, it is the way that Mr Ganesh writes that held my attention. I sincerely hope that this author writes another book soon, his way with words should really NOT be confined to only one book.

So come on Mr Ganesh, write again, soon.

10/10
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on 3 August 2015
very pleased with item and delivery
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on 10 August 2015
all as advertised
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2015
Janan Ganesh is political columnist for the Financial Times. He has produced a useful study of Cameron’s Chancellor.

Osborne “privately describes himself as a ‘neo-conservative’ and supported Blair’s military activism, including the invasion of Iraq.” His strength is in tactics not strategy, campaigning not creating.

Ganesh looks at the economy the coalition government inherited. He claims that under Thatcher, “Decades of economic upheaval were giving way to consistent growth …” But in the real world, our GDP has grown more slowly since 1979 than in the previous decades. He claims, “the painful structural reforms of the 1980s had helped to make Britain a more dynamic and less class-based society.”

Ganesh notes, “Major’s ultimate service to his country, though, was rendered in Europe. He kept Britain out of the single currency, the continent’s most ruinous misadventure since the war …” William Hague called the single currency a ‘burning building with no exits’.

Osborne claims that government debt not the collapse of growth is the gravest threat to Britain. But Osborne has got it exactly wrong. So growth has collapsed and debt has grown. His policies benefit the beneficiaries of past growth, the stockholders, the asset-holders, at the expense of the future growth of the real economy.

As Heiner Flassbeck and Costas Lapavitsas have pointed out, “A lot of political energy has been devoted in the euro-zone over the last few years to the problem of stocks, be it bad loans, apparently unsustainable government debt or savings deposits. Much less political enthusiasm has been invested in turning around flows, namely income (growth), investment and consumption. This is exactly the wrong tactic. Because future stocks are the result of today’s flows, priority has to be given to today’s flows, even if this inflicts some pain on the holders of today’s stocks.”
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