Public Affairs: Soap Box - Chris Bose, deputy head of public affairs, Lansons Communications

Few politicians excite Westminster watchers as much as George Osborne. In every sense a politicians' politician, the Chancellor possesses an enigmatic quality rare in top flight figures.

Indeed, at the Liberal Democrat conference last weekend there were concerns that Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander had fallen under the Chancellor's spell.

In large part, the Chancellor's reputation is due to what Tory watchers describe as Osborne's 'submarine strategy'. Despite his pervasive influence right across government, Osborne operates below the surface of British politics. Rarely more visible than he needs to be, Osborne is not the Government's stand-in-front man.

He builds his image and reputation through meticulously controlled set-piece events such as the Budget and Autumn Statement. These set-pieces have dispelled some of the earlier concerns about Osborne's suitability for the great and imposing office he inhabits.

Osborne's standing with fellow MPs is also very good. MPs talk approvingly of his accessibility and willingness to listen. The same is true of the media, with which Osborne is careful to curry favour.

In PR terms this looks like well-executed reputation management in a hostile environment, yet there is one crucial constituency that Osborne is some way from winning round - the public.

The aristocratic lineage and public schoolboy looks will always be two barriers to Osborne's ability to connect with the public. As a Chancellor, those barriers can be managed. However, if he is ever to be party leader and win the hearts and minds of the public, Osborne needs to address this reputational weakness and appeal well beyond the Tory shires.

With his abundant political acumen, Osborne will know that the difficult decisions he must announce in the Budget will help define his public image - for better or for worse.

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