George Osborne: Ex-chancellor considers replacing Christine Lagarde as head of IMF

Former UK chancellor said to have political and communication skills to win over both US and China, according to reports

Olesya Dmitracova
Economics and Business Editor
Thursday 04 July 2019 16:07
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George Osborne: 'The only break-glass in-an-emergency option that exists is to revoke Article 50'

George Osborne would like to succeed Christine Lagarde as head of the International Monetary Fund, according to reports.

Friends of Britain’s former chancellor and now editor of London’s Evening Standard said he was giving the newly vacant position “serious thought” last night, the Daily Telegraph reported. The Financial Times said Mr Osborne had told friends he was perhaps best-placed to win backing from Europe, the US and China.

The Evening Standard, owned by the same company as the Independent, declined to comment.

The vacancy opened up earlier in the week after Ms Lagarde was nominated by national EU leaders as the next president of the European Central Bank. Her appointment still needs to be approved by the European Parliament.

The IMF, based in Washington DC, is best-known as a global lender of last resort, ready to provide loans to its 189 member countries if they run into problems.

Ms Lagarde’s replacement will be picked by the IMF’s executive board, where the US, Japan, China and, if taken as a group, Germany, France and Britain hold the biggest shares of the total vote.

The Daily Telegraph quoted a source close to Mr Osborne as saying he is “uniquely placed” to win both US and Chinese support at a time the two countries are at loggerheads over tariffs.

“The current climate needs a skilled political communicator and operator able to deal with the likes of Trump and Xi – not a technocrat,” the source said.

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Getting approval from France and Germany may be trickier. Despite being one of the leaders of the Remain campaign in the 2016 EU referendum, Mr Osborne has recently thrown his support behind ardent Brexiteer Boris Johnson in his bid to become Britain’s next prime minister – a bid that is likely to succeed.

The reports drew a flurry of comments questioning Mr Osborne's possible candidacy, for different reasons.

Jeremy Corby, leader of the opposition Labour Party, tweeted: "George Osborne, architect of UK austerity, and the IMF, leading global enforcer of austerity, would be a dangerous combination."

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, tweeted: “Hey, why not? If Trump is nominating people who got everything wrong about monetary policy for the Fed, why not someone who insisted that austerity is expansionary for the IMF?”

To enter the race for the top job at the fund, Mr Osborne will first need to be nominated. This is usually done by directors on the executive board who are elected by member countries or groups of countries.

Asked whether Theresa May would back an Osborne bid for the position, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: “That would be a recommendation for the next prime minister.”

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