Emily Maitlis Asks George Osborne If He's 'The Most Unpopular Chancellor Ever' On Newsnight

Fresh from introducing the Cookie Monster on Newsnight last week, Emily Maitlis was given a less prestigious role on Wednesday interviewing the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Speaking in China, Maitlis tossed a couple of medium pacers about the economy before hitting Gideon with a googly: "I guess there is a certain irony saying a Conservative chancellor who has slated his opposition for being socialist doing all these deals with communists."

Osborne shot back: "Well they are a lot more market orientated this lot than the British Labour Party are at the moment and you know you see in a company like Huawei, the world’s largest telecom provider, growing and expanding in all sorts of free markets around the world and indeed China, with Britain are the two countries who stand up most for free trade when these things are talked about around the table.

"So you know we have a huge shared interest, there is a very complex story of the Chinese Communist Party and how it came to run a very capitalist system but we have to engage with this country because it’s a fifth of the world’s population.”

Then the Maitlis off break: "Mathew d’Ancona cites a dinner in your early days in which you said ‘if I’m not the most unpopular chancellor ever in six months, I will have failed at my job’. Were you, did that happen?"

"I always knew taking on this task, after the economic calamity," replied Osborne, "when we were going to have to take really difficult decisions… to fix the hole in the public finances, I knew it was going to be a tough and not particularly popular job. In the end what is the point of doing this job. It’s to work for the British people."

Maitlis pointed out there had been a "personal vitriol" against the Chancellor, reminding him that he was "the only person to be booed at the Olympics", before asking "does it hurt you?"

"It’s not a popularity contest," Osborne countered. "You’re there to make tough decisions that are going to help the economy turn the corner. Of course I look back and say is there more I could have done with the banking system, indeed at the moment I'm looking at what we could do with the Royal Bank of Scotland. So of course there are things, you know, if I had my time again I'd say, perhaps we could have done more in banking. I mean I'm really impressed with what we've done China but we could have done more."