Osborne: My new haircut a cover-up
Published 01/10/2013 | 15:36
George Osborne has admitted that his much-discussed new hairstyle is a bid to cover up the fact that he is going bald.
The Chancellor joked that the brushed-forward image was an extension of his economic policy - because he had "turned it round to stop the recession".
In a highly personal appearance at Tory conference, Mr Osborne also explained why he cried at Margaret Thatcher's funeral, described his efforts to maintain a normal family life while living in Downing Street, and revealed that his parents had voted for Labour and the Liberals.
The details emerged during an interview with Channel 4 News's Gary Gibbon at a fringe event in Manchester.
Mr Osborne told of his "comfortable London upbringing" as one of four sons of Baronet Sir Peter Osborne.
He said he "felt fortunate" that his parents were still together and his father's wallpaper firm, Osborne and Little, was successful.
The Cabinet minister, who like David Cameron has often been mocked for his privileged upbringing, went to top independent school St Paul's in the capital before Oxford University.
"Part of what motivates me in politics is I don't see why having a good education should be regarded as a privilege," he said.
"I do not think it should be extraordinary that someone can set up a business and it should be a success.
"That should be something for everyone."
Mr Osborne said growing up in the 1970s and 1980s his family had "always been in one sense political", in that "we talked about what was going on in the news".
"But it was not very partisan," he added. "Neither of my parents were members of political parties.
"So far as I know my parents vote for different political parties."
Mr Osborne said his mother Lady Felicity had backed both Labour and the Conservatives in the past, while his father had voted Liberal. He stressed they were now Tory supporters.
The Tatton MP spoke of a conversation with his mother that led him to change his name from Gideon to George when he was around 13 years old.
"I said again for the 100th time 'why did you give me this name'? And she said 'well, if you don't like it, change it'."
Mr Osborne denied the switch was made because even at that young age he was plotting a career in politics.
"I genuinely was not thinking, hmm, what is the best name to have as Chancellor of the Exchequer?" he said to laughter.
He said he still sometimes complains to his parents - who were in Manchester for his keynote speech to conference yesterday - about the name because he is asked about it so often.
Mr Osborne said his son and daughter, aged 12 and 10 respectively, were having an "extraordinary" childhood living in their grace-and-favour flat in Downing Street.
He said he was concerned to "create some space" so that they can "do their own thing".
"What I and (wife) Frances do is try to create some space, to say 'look, I know your father is in the newspapers a lot. Sometimes not particularly nice things are written about him. Quite often, actually.
"'But don't worry, that's what he does. He goes out and does the job'.'"
Mr Osborne suggested that party leaders today were obliged to open up more of their family life to public gaze, insisting he did not "remotely criticise" Mr Cameron or Ed Miliband for being photographed with their children.
The Chancellor said he had been "nervous" about moving his family into Downing Street, and waited for a year to do so after the coalition came to power.
One of the things that finally persuaded him was speaking to Lord Lawson's children at a birthday party for the former chancellor. They had told him that growing up there was a "fantastic experience".
Mr Osborne insisted that the vitriol directed at him from some quarters over the Government's austerity measures had never shaken his resolve to keep doing the job.
That remained strong even in the aftermath of last year's Budget, which he admitted was a "political miscalculation" and resulted in rows such as Pastygate and a series of U-turns.
"I can honestly say that there has not been a day doing this job where I haven't woken up and wanted to get up in the morning and get on with it," he said. "Every day I say 'aren't I incredibly fortunate to be doing such an interesting and challenging job'."
Mr Osborne revealed that he relaxes in the evening by watching television with his wife - and they were currently viewing the latest series of ITV's Downton Abbey.
Asked about images of him apparently in tears at Lady Thatcher's funeral in St Paul's Cathedral in April, Mr Osborne said it had been an "incredible occasion".
"Because of my job I was right at the front, very close to the coffin," he said. "There was a moment when the Bishop of London was giving his eulogy and he talked about all these incredible achievements of this prime minister, and then he turns his hand to the coffin and there she lies, Margaret Hilda Roberts.
"Suddenly I welled up a bit because in the middle of this whole service, which was a celebration of her life, there was actually a dead body, as there is at funerals."
Mr Osborne said he had "no idea" that his emotion had been caught by TV cameras, and had to rush straight to the airport for a trip to America.
As he boarded the plane, messages started arriving on his phone from aides saying "we need a line on you crying at the funeral".
The new hairstyle displayed by Mr Osborne earlier this month has been widely noted, with some even suggesting it is an effort to revive his chances of succeeding Mr Cameron as Tory leader.
But Mr Osborne laughed off the idea, saying Education Secretary Michael Gove was the "only person who has spotted what is really going on".
"He said, 'you have applied your economic policy to your hairstyle. You have turned it around to stop the recession'.'"