“I’ve got a girlfriend!” declared former Chancellor Of Exchequer George Osborne in an interview this weekend, sounding distinctly like a teenage boy desperately attempting to impress his mates over a sneaky Silk Cut behind the bike sheds. It’s the sort of bold claim that would frequently be followed by the disclaimer: “Oh, you wouldn’t know her. She goes to another school.”
The MP-turned-newspaper editor then went on to reveal that he’d “probably never been happier in my life” (which must have gone down well with his ex-wife Frances and the two children they have together...) before boasting of dancing with Hollywood actress Jennifer Lawrence at an Oscars aftershow party. Which happened to be at Madonna’s house.
It all smacked of a man trying a tad too hard to convince us - not to mention himself - that he was cool, a move that places him firmly in that hoary old midlife cliché: divorced men getting a makeover from their first post-divorce girlfriends. It’s a fate that has befallen all manner of famous males - from Coldplay’s Chris Martin to professional petrolhead Jeremy Clarkson, from sportsmen Shane Warne and James Cracknell to both MasterChef judges, John Torode and Gregg Wallace.
Still, Osborne, who turned 49 on Saturday, is certainly cooler than he used to be (even if he did feel the need to point out that “I am normal”). He is dating his 38-year-old former chief of staff, Thea Rogers - one of his closest advisors while he was in government and the woman who helped overhaul his image when he was in 11 Downing Street.
A full 13 years younger than his ex (ouch), Rogers is part-French (ooh and, if you will, la la), so national stereotype dictates she knows a thing or two about style. She has duly “metrosexualised” the Conservative Party’s austerity Chancellor, who is now more likely to be seen in New Balance trainers than brogues.
So what are the classic hallmarks of the new midlife girlfriend makeover? Here’s our spotter’s guide to the five telltale signs…
Sharp new ‘do
The most noticeable aspect of Osborne’s transformation. He used to sport a wispy, quiffy coiffure which, thanks to unforgiving camera angles in the House Of Commons, drew attention to his receding hairline. Rogers recommended a more flattering close-cropped style which gave him the air of a Roman emperor. Et tu, Gideon? Shorter is generally better for midlife men but it often takes a fresh pair of eyes to convince them to ditch the haircut they’ve been stubbornly sticking with for years. Osborne also appears to have developed a spray tan habit, or at least newfound affection for some tinted moisturiser. He’s lost that late-nights-in-Westminster pallor and nowadays sports a subtle perma-tan and, to set off that healthy glow, ultra-white teeth, another textbook midlife power move. Close your mouth, mate, the dazzle is hurting our eyes.
Domestic drudgery be damned. With his hip new lifestyle and liberated lady friend, midlife male is an altogether more relaxed father. Osborne hangs out with his children Liberty and Luke as equals, even watching Love Island with them. It’s a matter of time before he starts calling everything “awesome”, indulging in “top bantz” and describing Thea as a “peng sort”, while his teenagers cringe.
Bye-bye, beer belly
Slashing public spending while looking like a jowly, well-lunched fat cat did not make for good optics. Rogers suggested that Osborne lose weight with the 5:2 diet and high-intensity interval workouts. A few sit-ups with his feet hooked under the sofa were insufficient punishment. Daily runs around St James’ Park, trips to Barry’s Bootcamp and reduced calorific intake duly did the trick. Osborne reversed middle-aged spread, lost two stone and his jawline miraculously reappeared. MasterChef’s Wallace is another who lost several stone - although we could do without those shirtless selfies on social media, Greggy baby.
Sudden new interests
Freed from the pesky shackles of the family he left behind, there’s nothing a newly divorced midlife male loves more than embracing a new passion. Encouraged by his breath-of-fresh-air new girlfriend, who wants him to get fit and indulge his creative side, this might involve extreme sports, gourmet cookery, playing guitar or writing that long-gestating novel. Olympic rower James Cracknell signed up for Strictly Come Dancing and went back to university to study human evolution, as you do. In a bid to impress his younger paramour, midlife males might also find themselves magically drawn to such millennial-friendly interests as vegan food, yoga or the environment. NB: Jeremy Clarkson is, thankfully, the exception to this rule.
Clothes maketh the new man
Just as Shane Warne immediately morphed into a slimmed, styled and waxed “Shanebot” when he started dating Elizabeth Hurley, the more svelte Osborne was soon knocking ‘em dead at the dispatch box in Savile Row chic. Still a suit, obviously - we’re not animals, darling - but a well-tailored, slim-fitting midnight blue two-piece for a much slicker look. Now, he sports indigo jeans, cornflower blue open-necked shirts and (gasp) New Balance trainers. Something tells us this ensemble wasn’t entirely put together by his own hands, which is almost certainly for the best.