Drawing heavily on a cigarette, a familiar figure in casual attire ambles along a cobbled London street. Witnesses to George Osborne’s lone stroll – for it is the former Chancellor lurking beneath that baseball cap – report that he seemed pensive, as if carrying some weighty burden.
What could have possibly clouded his mood on such a bright spring morning, when everything in his world appears so perfectly aligned? Certainly not money worries. Since quitting frontline politics five years ago, he has made pots of it – at one point being dubbed ‘Nine Jobs George’.
Perhaps, then, it is the thought of turning 50 next month? But while some men might approach the milestone with a sense of ennui, Mr Osborne surely has only blessings to anticipate.
A few weeks ago he became engaged to 39-year-old Thea Rogers, his glamorous former Treasury chief of staff who helped ‘metrosexualise’ his image while he was in 11 Downing Street.
The announcement closely followed the news that the couple are expecting their first child, a boy, in the summer. A magnificent £1.6 million new home in Somerset completes their domestic bliss.
What could have possibly clouded his mood on such a bright spring morning, when everything in his world appears so perfectly aligned?
Outwardly, all is rosy, and yet friends of the couple have told The Mail on Sunday that not everything is as perfect as it seems.
Dismissing some of the more scurrilous rumours circulating in Westminster, the friends concede that there have been difficulties in the relationship, which one described as ‘tempestuous’.
It was said to have hit a particularly bumpy patch just before Christmas. Happily, things seem to be back on track. However, the dramatic life changes are said to have strained relations with Mr Osborne’s son, Luke, 19.
Luke, and his 17-year-old sister Liberty, are the children from the former Chancellor’s marriage to bestselling author Frances Howell.
They divorced in 2019 after 21 years, and Mr Osborne and his son later holidayed in Ibiza, visiting one of the island’s superclubs together.
It would not be surprising if Luke is unsettled, discovering in the space of a few weeks that he will soon acquire not only a stepmother but also a half-brother.
There has also been discomfit, shared by Frances, over Mr Osborne’s rather insensitive declaration last year that, ‘I probably have never been happier in my life.’ He added insouciantly: ‘Which is a big plus after recent years.’
Luke, who is at university, has removed a photograph of his father from his Instagram account. It showed them enjoying a drink on a beach during another holiday in happier times.
A few weeks ago he became engaged to 39-year-old Thea Rogers (pictured), his glamorous former Treasury chief of staff who helped ‘metrosexualise’ his image while he was in 11 Downing Street.
It is said that Luke has not particularly warmed to Ms Rogers, an Oxford graduate and former BBC journalist with a formidable reputation. She was once labelled a ‘pitbull’ by Treasury officials for her aggressive style and four-letter tantrums.
Her manner earned her comparisons with the fictional Malcolm Tucker in the BBC satire The Thick Of It, and an insider recalled Ms Rogers’s spell at the Treasury as ‘confrontational’.
Rarely, if ever, though, did she display this side of her character in front of her boss, in whose eyes she could do no wrong. The so-called ‘Austerity Chancellor’ awarded her a 42 per cent pay rise, which at the time was the largest among all the political special advisers working across Government.
It was Ms Rogers who was credited with convincing Mr Osborne to lose weight, which he achieved through the 5:2 fasting diet and high-intensity interval workouts.
And it was on her advice that he adopted a close-cropped Caesar-style haircut, the finishing touch to his ‘metrosexualisation’. It may have impressed Ms Rogers but it failed to further his prime ministerial ambitions, as a fellow Tory MP branded him an ‘arrogant posh boy who doesn’t know the price of milk’.
As Chancellor, his Budgets became notorious for embarrassing U-turns and mistakes. For example, he was forced to abandon plans for £1.3 billion-a-year cuts in disability benefits and he had to cancel his so-called ‘pasty tax’, which would have added VAT to heated takeaway meals.
The announcement closely followed the news that the couple are expecting their first child, a boy, in the summer. A magnificent £1.6 million new home in Somerset completes their domestic bliss (pictured)
These days Mr Osborne drives a Maserati and wears trendy clothes, and, despite the nicotine, his teeth are ultra-white, while a near perma- tan has replaced a fish belly pallor.
After leaving the Treasury, Ms Rogers joined food delivery firm Deliveroo, where she heads communications and strategy. She is now in line for a multi-million-pound payout, despite its London stock market listing this month being seen as flop by City experts and worries about the treatment of its gig economy delivery drivers.
Mr Osborne has also forged a lucrative career since Theresa May humiliatingly sacked him from the Cabinet in 2016, telling him he ‘ought to get to know the party better’. His friends said that put the Remainer on a revenge mission and that he reportedly said in private that he would not rest until she was ‘chopped up in bags in my freezer’.
Then, shortly before standing down as an MP, he started a role as an adviser at BlackRock, the world’s largest fund manager, earning £650,000 for a one-day week.
The former Tory MP for Tatton, Cheshire, has been a director of his family’s wallpaper firm Osborne & Little, and chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.
He was an adviser to venture capitalist 9Yards Capital and to Exor, the Italian holding company that owns Juventus football team and has had stakes in Fiat Chrysler and Ferrari. He was also a fellow at the US think-tank the McCain Institute, an honorary professor at Manchester University, and a visiting fellow at Stanford University in California.
He was surprisingly appointed editor of London’s Evening Standard and took on other academic and advisory roles. Last summer he was succeeded at the newspaper by his friend Emily Sheffield, who is David Cameron’s sister-in-law.
And he recently took a full-time role at the boutique investment bank Robey Warshaw, whose clients include Centrica, Vodafone and BP.
Outwardly, all is rosy, and yet friends of the couple have told The Mail on Sunday that not everything is as perfect as it seems. Pictured: George Osborne with Thea Rogers (right) in 2013
Just as Mr Osborne’s professional life has moved fast since he left the Government, so, too, has his private life. It was only a year ago that he confirmed what Westminster had long suspected: he was dating Ms Rogers.
But he declined to say at the time if they lived together. ‘I don’t want to get into all that,’ he told The Times in an interview. He was also coy over whether he might have more children or remarry.
Of his divorce, which was originally said to have been ‘long thought-out’, he has said only that it was ‘mutual’ and, by and large, say friends, it was also amicable.
For her part, widely respected author Frances, the daughter of former Conservative Cabinet Minister David Howell, has immersed herself in writing the story of the Victorian traveller and author Annie Brassey, who was the wife of an MP who had inherited the equivalent of £29 billion in today’s money. In 1873, after the death of her four-year-old daughter, Brassey commissioned the building of a 160ft steam-yacht, Sunbeam, in her memory, and voyaged round the world.
Frances is a regular speaker at festivals and institutions on topics inspired by the extraordinary women in her books, ranging from sex and scandal in the Edwardian era to issues facing modern women.
After the Osbornes’ divorce and the selling up of their £4 million Notting Hill townhouse, where the family lived, it is understood he held on to a £3 million chalet in the Swiss Alps resort of Verbier.
Mr Osborne has been recently dividing his time between Somerset and London, where he rents a house from a banker in West London. It is in a mews which featured in the Richard Curtis rom-com Love Actually and is not far from his former family home.
As the owner of a beautiful Georgian property in the picturesque Somerset town of Bruton, Mr Osborne is now part of a celebrity set that includes renowned actors, directors and designers.
He was surprisingly appointed editor of London’s Evening Standard and took on other academic and advisory roles. Last summer he was succeeded at the newspaper by his friend Emily Sheffield, who is David Cameron’s (pictured with Osborne in 2016)sister-in-law
His sumptuous house, which has five bedrooms and is set in three acres of grounds, is considered one of the most desirable in the town, and is just a few miles from the site of the Glastonbury festival.
Neighbours include theatre producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh, film director Sam Taylor-Johnson and Alice Temperley, the fashion designer. Actor Rhys Ifans has a house in the area, as do Caroline Corr, of the Irish group The Corrs, and Dominic Greensmith, of rock band Reef. The influx has led Bruton to be dubbed by Country Life magazine as ‘the new Notting Hill’.
Curiously, only Mr Osborne’s name – rather than jointly with his fiancee – appears on the deeds of the house that was purchased in November.
A neighbour said he last saw him three weeks ago walking his fox-red labrador puppy.
‘He was going beside the little brook which runs below his field,’ said the neighbour. ‘He looked a bit sheepish but I suppose it’s not a good time to be seen as a close friend of David Cameron.’