The real George Osborne

Guest post from the World Development Movement

‘New online comedy series about George Osborne,’ a colleague of mine said to two briefcase-clutching gents last week as she handed them a flyer outside the Treasury. ‘Ha, yes, we need that at the moment,’ replied one. ‘Just watch parliament TV, that’s a comedy featuring George Osborne,’ said his friend ruefully as the pair hurried up the stone steps.

Quite. But perhaps these two civil servants took a little light relief in the online comedy series ‘The Real George Osborne’ ( The series stars Rufus Jones, who recently played Monty Python’s Terry Jones in the BBC 4 film Holy Flying Circus. Each episode is only 2-3 minutes long and the 14 part series follows Jones’s Chancellor takes street-dancing lessons, struggles with fad diets, and broadcasts Westminster secrets on his webcam after over indulging at the Bankers’ Ball.

The three-week online mini-series, which airs its final episode on Friday, is the latest campaign tactic being used by anti-poverty campaigners at the World Development Movement to draw attention to the role of investment banks and hedge funds in driving up global food prices through financial speculation.

Research shows how a dramatic rise in speculation in commodity markets has driven food prices up, and increased volatility, resulting in sharp spikes in the cost of staple foods like wheat and maize. In the last six months of 2010 alone, rising food prices pushed an extra 44 million people into extreme poverty.

In the series, George, with the help of his long-suffering adviser, attempts to win popularity and usurp Boris Johnson as ‘the most recognised Tory’. He is torn between wanting to be seen by the public to ‘do good things’ such as regulating financial speculation on food prices, and wanting to appease his banker pal Nat by leaving the banks unregulated and free to carry on reaping billions of pounds from speculation

Nat is played by Will Smith from the BBC’s political comedy, The Thick of It and in episode 10 ( Nat threatens to withdraw his support for George’s political career unless the Chancellor abandons the idea of curbing food speculation. The slightly sinister tone of this episode particularly highlights the power of the financial lobby. The European Commission announced its proposals for regulation in October, and the coming months will see a series of debates, votes and plenty of horse trading before the rules are put into force. But the Conservative-led government, with its ear to the City of London’s lobbyists, has so far trenchantly opposed effective regulation.

The US has already moved to regulate food speculation through the Dodd Frank Act, passed last year – though Wall Street, like the City, is doing all it can to prevent the rules coming into effect. Strong regulation in Europe is essential to winning the battle on both sides of the Atlantic, since the absence of controls in Europe could see speculation simply shifting into the least regulated market.

The opportunity to tackle food speculation is now. Without political and moral pressure from the public and the opposition, this Government will be allowed to stand in the way of this vital regulation.

We’ve been campaigning long enough to know that producing evidence of the problem isn’t enough to change policy in the face of heavy lobbying from the financial sector. But we hope that making a topical and humourous comedy will help us to spread the word, send a message that the UK public won’t tolerate the banks gambling on food at the expense of millions of hungry people and make it a bit more difficult for the government to block the regulation that’s desperately needed.

George, we’re watching you.

Catch up on the whole series here

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