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Sean O'Grady: Also-ran has so far confounded all his critics

Only a short but eventful year ago, George Osborne was no one's idea of a chancellor. He routinely trailed Vince Cable and Alistair Darling in polls of the City, the public and business for competence. Mervyn King told the US ambassador he was worried by his lack of experience. Peter Mandelson identified poor George as the Tories' "weakest link"; dark rumours circulated that he would be replaced by the apparently full-of-mojo William Hague.

Yet now Mr Osborne has confounded his critics and emerged as the most formidable operator in the Government, and it is fair to acknowledge that (though some of us rated him in opposition a bit higher). He does not exactly bestride the British political scene today, but then again nobody does.

In any case the eyes of the world will be elsewhere today – on Portugal, whose government may topple if its austerity budget is not passed today, in which case the eurozone could be plunged yet again into existential crisis. The UK's sovereign debt trauma never arrived. Mr Osborne calls this "the absence of war", and much of it is down to him. Quite an achievement for "the weakest link".