George Osborne eyes chance of taking IMF top job
Last Modified: 03:28 PM, Wed Jul 03, 2019

Chris Giles, Economics Editor 03 July 2019
Former UK chancellor seeks backing to replace Christine Lagarde

George Osborne would like to fill the vacancy as head of the IMF, telling friends that he is perhaps best placed to win support from Europe, the US and China.

Having recently backed Boris Johnson to become prime minister, the former UK chancellor of the exchequer — who now edits London’s Evening Standard — also has high hopes of winning the support of a British government led by the former foreign secretary.

A European has held the top position as IMF managing director for all of its 75-year history, but no UK national has taken the role. Government officials have indicated Britain is likely to make a play for the job to show that Brexit has not dimmed its internationalist ambitions.

Mr Osborne knows that receiving an early nomination for the role is often pivotal in success, having been the first person to back his friend Christine Lagarde for the job in 2011 and creating an unstoppable force behind her at the time.

The vacancy at the fund arose early after Ms Lagarde was nominated on Tuesday to be the next president of the European Central Bank; a successor will be chosen by the IMF board, which represents the largest economies.

Mr Osborne has told friends that it was a fascinating job to have at a challenging time for international institutions and the current climate required a “skilled political communicator and operator . . . not a technocrat”.

One technocrat who is also qualified for the role — and holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenship — is Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England. Ironically, Mr Osborne appointed him to Threadneedle Street in 2012.

Mr Carney is very well known at the IMF, having chaired the Financial Stability Board and given the fund’s flagship “Camdessus lecture” in 2017, named after the former IMF managing director. The BoE declined to comment on whether Mr Carney wanted to be considered for the role.

One significant challenge for Mr Osborne would be to gain European support following what many in the eurozone saw as the former chancellor’s unhelpful attitude to its crisis in 2011 and 2012.

Unusually, he is likely to find it easier to gather supporters in the US, where he has many friends in the Republican party, and in China, where he prioritised economic relations with Beijing and raced to support it in establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in 2015. These two countries have the largest individual weight in votes on the IMF board.

In a carve-up which has survived since the founding of the Bretton Woods institutions after the second world war, the IMF managing director’s role has traditionally gone to a European, while an American has taken charge of the World Bank.

Given the unanimous endorsement of David Malpass as the new president of the World Bank in April this year, Europe is unlikely to relinquish its right to nominate for the IMF job. And, after bruising talks over top jobs in the EU this week, many disappointed candidates are also likely to be seeking to replace Ms Lagarde.

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Article Info
Organization: Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Bank of England, International Monetary Fund, Financial Stability Board, Evening Standard Ltd., Government of China, European Central Bank, Republican Party US, European Union, International Monetary Fund
Location: China, Europe
People: Christine Lagarde, George Osborne, Boris Johnson, Mark Carney, George Osborne, Chris Giles
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Global Economy, Economy, World