Obama Confused U.K.’s George Osborne With R&B Star Jeffrey

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

George Osborne, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, left, listens with David Cameron, U.K. prime minister, second left, Stephen Harper, Canada's prime minister, second right, as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks, right, ahead of a working session on the second day of the Group of 20 (G20) Cannes Summit at the Palais des Festivals, in Cannes, France, on Nov. 4, 2011. Close

George Osborne, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, left, listens with David Cameron,... Read More

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Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

George Osborne, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, left, listens with David Cameron, U.K. prime minister, second left, Stephen Harper, Canada's prime minister, second right, as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks, right, ahead of a working session on the second day of the Group of 20 (G20) Cannes Summit at the Palais des Festivals, in Cannes, France, on Nov. 4, 2011.

For U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, the chance to give a presentation to Barack Obama was an exciting one. So it may have hurt all the more that the president repeatedly called him “Jeffrey.”

After Osborne had finished addressing leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized countries at their summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, on June 18, Obama realized his mistake, according to the Financial Times, and explained that he’d got the finance minister confused with “my favorite R&B singer.”

Jeffrey Osborne, whose career began in 1969 with the funk and soul group Love Men Ltd., later went solo and had hits including “On The Wings Of Love.” A young George Osborne joined a different all-male band: Oxford University’s Bullingdon Club. His catchphrase as chancellor when defending his austerity program has been: “We’re all in this together.”

“One unexpected breakthrough from G-8,” George Osborne wrote on his Twitter Inc. feed today after the incident was reported. “Offer to sing with legend Jeffrey Osborne. Jeff you wouldn’t suggest a duet if you’d heard me sing.”

Jeffrey Osborne, a native of Providence, Rhode Island, made the offer in an interview with Sky News. “Tell the chancellor that when I come over that way we’ll have to hook up and we’ll do a duet of ‘On the Wings of Love’ or something,” he said. Asked about Obama, he replied, “I was not aware that he was such a fan of mine.”

Lyndon B. Johnson

The confusion may have been especially galling as Osborne is a devotee of American politics, one of the band of British politicians who love Robert Caro’s series on biographies on Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the U.S.

Obama went on to greet Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as “the better-looking part of the coalition,” the Sun newspaper reported today. Clegg laughed the remark off.

“These things happen -- it was just a passing comment,” the deputy prime minister said when asked about the incident in his weekly phone-in question-and-answer session on LBC Radio today.

Clegg said he was sure listeners would agree that of him, Prime Minister David Cameron and the U.S. president that the one who “looked the coolest” was Obama.

To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net; Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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