According to the Daily Mail, George Osborne has been trying to persuade senior Liberal Democrats to defect to the Tories. The paper has claimed that no fewer than three MPs have been the subject of these approaches.
The way the Mail tells it, our MPs hardly dare enter their offices for fear of the shadow chancellor leaping out from behind the umbrella stand and trying to suborn them. “We’ll find you a safe seat,” he cries. “I can even arrange for you to meet Malcolm Rifkind.”
And it’s getting worse. Only this morning I found Osborne crouching amongst the yoghurts in my fridge. To be brutally frank, gentle reader, if you have not been approached by him, you are not quite such an important member of the Liberal Democrats as you thought.
But do not worry. The Tory press was full of stories about Lib Dem MPs changing parties a year ago when we were having our - how shall I put it? - eventful leadership contest. They turned out to be nonsense then. I am sure they are nonsense now.
So let’s forget these rumours and think instead about one of the great English novels. William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair was published in instalments in 1847-8. One of its central characters is a certain George Osborne. And there is something familiar about him:
“He would say it was a warm evening , or ask his partner to take an ice, with a tone as sad and confidential as if he were breaking her mother’s death to her, or preluding a declaration of love. He trampled over all the young bucks of his father’s circle, and was the hero among those third-rate men.”Young George is not irredeemably bad, but he is snobbish and far too pleased with himself. He lusts after the spirited Becky Sharp but is married to the soapy Amelia Sedley. An army office, he fights at Waterloo and Thackeray ends his account of the aftermath of the battle with the shocking words:
“Amelia was praying for George, who was lying on his face, dead, with a bullet through his heart.”Perhaps he had been trying to persuade one of Napoleon’s generals to defect to Wellington’s side?