Boris Johnson pushes for George Osborne to be made IMF chief

Boris Johnson used a phone call with the US president, Donald Trump, this week to recommend the former Tory chancellor George Osborne for the job of managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

The vacancy at the Washington-based lender was created by the resignation of Christine Lagarde, who will move to Frankfurt to run the European Central Bank (ECB).

Osborne stepped down as MP for Tatton after being sacked as chancellor by Theresa May following the EU referendum in 2016 and accepting the editorship of the London-based Evening Standard.

He has taken up a series of other lucrative roles since leaving Westminster, including as an adviser to the world’s largest investment firm, BlackRock, and chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, a thinktank.

As the architect of austerity and a leading advocate of remain during the referendum campaign, Osborne remains a divisive figure, but he and Johnson appear to have buried the hatchet in recent months.

Names in the frame to be IMF managing director

Christine Lagarde’s nomination to run the European Central Bank has prompted speculation over who could replace her as managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

The former French finance minister is set to become president of the ECB from 1 November, should she win approval from Brussels. Her move will spark a round of international horse-trading over who should lead the global lender of last resort.

Here are some names in the frame:

Editor, Evening Standard

Suggested his candidacy to friends. The former UK chancellor is regarded as the architect of austerity in Britain, once favoured by the IMF but now out of fashion. Brexit could damage the chance of a Briton winning support from other nations. However, Osborne has close ties with China and the US and was a backer of Lagarde.

Governor, Bank of England

Canadian by birth, the Bank’s governor also has UK and Irish citizenship. Due to exit Threadneedle Street at the end of January, he has experience in international circles, having led the G20 Financial Stability Board. Highly regarded, he has moved to fight the climate crisis and his speeches chime well with the IMF’s outlook.

President, European Central Bank

The Italian economist could complete a job swap with Christine Lagarde when he leaves at the end of October. He was influential in preventing the breakup of the Eurozone. Aged 71, the IMF would need to change a rule that managing directors must be no older than 65.

Professor, Chicago Booth University

The former Indian central bank governor was previously chief economist at the IMF. Appointing him would prove symbolic: dismantling the tradition of a European leading the fund and recognising the rise of Asian economies. Rajan is also seen as a potential successor to Mark Carney at the Bank of England.

General manager, Bank of International Settlements

The Mexican economist is well regarded in international circles for his work at BIS, the central bankers’ bank. The unwritten code that a European leads the IMF could stand in his way. The former finance minister and head of the Mexican central bank has ruled himself out to succeed Carney.

Chief executive, World Bank

The Bulgarian economist was previously vice-president of the EU commission and currently runs the IMF’s twin institution, the World Bank, under its American president – David Malpass. A close connection to EU politics would help her candidacy. Richard Partington

David Blanchflower, an economist and former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, said: “I would prefer a random person picked on Oxford Street than slasher Osborne, who was the worst chancellor ever, who produced the slowest recovery in 300 years and third slowest in 600 after the South Sea Bubble and the Black Death.

“Failed reckless austerity lowered living standards and destroyed growth and ultimately was a major factor behind Brexit. Contrary to what Osborne claimed we were not ‘all in this together’.”

The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned recently: “George Osborne, architect of UK austerity, and the IMF, leading global enforcer of austerity, would be a dangerous combination.”

Johnson is expected to return to the subject of Osborne’s candidacy at this weekend’s G7 summit in Biarritz.

But the UK has little chance of influencing the decision. The IMF managing director is traditionally a European and the EU27 has already agreed to recommend Kristalina Georgieva, the Bulgarian chief executive of the World Bank.

The decision was made through several bitterly fought rounds of voting this month, after EU governments failed to reach a consensus about a candidate.

The IMF subsequently voted to lift a rule that puts an upper age limit of 65 on the managing director, to prevent the 66-year old Georgieva being barred from taking up the post.

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