George Osborne admitted being influenced by the Queen.
George Osborne has revealed how a bagpipe school escaped his cost-cutting austerity agenda after an intervention from the late Queen.
The anecdote, which featured in the former chancellor’s podcast he co-hosts with Ed Balls, faced an online backlash given the deep funding cuts to health, nurseries and other public services between 2010 and 2015.
On their Political Currency podcast, Osborne told Balls, his Labour opposite number during the austerity years, about how the Queen “directly interfered” with politics.
At a state dinner, Osborne says the late monarch asked him not to close the army’s Highland bagpipe school.
Osborne recalls: “I was like, ‘Of course not, your majesty.’
“So the next day I get into the Treasury, I said: ‘Is there a bagpipe school? And for God’s sake, tell me we’re not closing it down?’
“And the Treasury didn’t know, or my private office didn’t know immediately.
“And they scurried on, they said: ‘Yes, apparently there’s a kind of Highland music school as part of the army bands, and we are making some cuts to those.’
“And I said: ‘Well, we’re not anymore’.”
Osborne continued: “I immediately sent a message back to the palace that she could be reassured that the pipers of the British army would remain well trained.”
— Political Currency (@polcurrency) November 5, 2023
The British monarchy is supposed to stay politically neutral, with ruling carried out by the government.
Alongside then prime minister David Cameron, Osborne was the architect of the early 2010s Conservative austerity programme that saw government spending slashed to bring the country’s deficit under control.
The programme was criticised by a UN investigation in 2018 for inflicting “unnecessary misery in one of the richest countries in the world”. Osborne has recently defended the cuts, arguing that they helped Britain to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak.
On X, formerly known as Twitter, Osborne faced criticism for the decision.
At least the bagpipe school was spared. Shame there was no one as influential to advocate for SureStart, the youth centres, the working poor, the libraries, the NHS, the FE colleagues, the English language classes, the local councils, young people etc. etc. https://t.co/Qfd7xHFA7X
— Ben Kentish (@BenKentish) November 6, 2023
What a stupid embarrassment of a countryhttps://t.co/RWN1Xlu11t
— Bella Caledonia (@bellacaledonia) November 6, 2023
It’s a shame no one mentioned to HRH that disabled people were dying and children going hungry.
What a shameless piece of theatre. https://t.co/D6KRwywqfr
— Real Britain Ros (@realbritainros) November 5, 2023
Meanwhile dozens of Accident and Emergency units and more than a thousand Sure Start centres still got the chop https://t.co/GUUTN9skGy
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) November 6, 2023
I try to be good humoured about British politics but this is everything that’s rotten in the system: the architect of austerity saving money for the Queen’s hobby - and then having a jolly good joke about it on a podcast with the guy whose job it was to oppose him. https://t.co/ibWhOR79TE
— Frances Ryan (@DrFrancesRyan) November 5, 2023
This absolutely sums up Westminster...Tory and Labour ministers laughing with each other about the Monarch lobbying them to protect frivolous things while children starved. https://t.co/rNG6FV1YOW
— Ed Fraser (@egwfraser) November 6, 2023
Ah, bless, Osborne delivers another cozy fireside story about how inherited power was directing policy so its personal whims could be satisfied, while 330,000 of us died as a consequence of his austerity.
Roll out the bunting!! https://t.co/QFAUC9pGhC
— Russ Jones (@RussInCheshire) November 6, 2023