Here in the UK, a sitting MP, and a member of the party in office, is the editor of London’s only newspaper. It becomes an almost farcical situation when one considers that London, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, is the most Labour supporting region in the UK. It’s about to have its only local newspaper read like pages from ConservativeHome. The plot sickens.
I seriously doubt that the Standard’s political editor will be pitching a story about the Crown Prosecution Service currently reviewing the Conservatives’ electoral spending, amid the growing evidence of serious electoral fraud, any time soon.
Oh hang on, wasn’t Osborne one of the key strategic masterminds behind the general election? The same Osborne who regarded the UK social security budget – in particular, the financial safety net that supports disabled people – as disposable income for his equally privileged millionaire peers? He was only forced to climb down over his proposed 4.4 billion of spending cuts to disability benefits after the surprising resignation of the hard faced Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who also likes to abandon sinking ships.
Osborne is so hated in London and elsewhere that he was booed by crowds at the Paralympics when handing out medals.
Any suggestion that Britain is still a great bastion of first world liberalism and democracy makes me laugh until I cry these days.
Osborne was widely criticised for his decision not to quit his Tatton seat in north-west England since it was announced that he would take up the position as editor of the Evening Standard. He has already rattled the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) – which is an ethics committee that aims to decide whether job roles for former ministers present a conflict of interest – by announcing the appointment before they were given any time at all to review any potential conflict with his duties as MP and his former role as chancellor. Ex-ministers are supposed to submit their requests and then wait for the committee’s guidance before accepting something and announcing it to the public.
The committee assessing Osborne’s post-ministerial roles is usually given at least a month to carry out research into what contacts a former minister had in his or her department that could constitute a conflict of interest in any new role, but it is understood that some members of the committee were informed less than an hour before Osborne’s appointment was made public. They are now expected to give advice within two weeks.
It’s understood that the committee will be actively considering a call for the former chancellor to delay or decline the role.
Osborne defended his new job on Monday, telling the House of Commons that parliament benefited from members bringing in experience of different sectors alongside their constituency work. He was responding to an urgent question from Labour’s election co-ordinator, Andrew Gwynne, over a potential conflict of interest.
Osborne facetiously remarked “I thought it was important to be here, though unfortunately we have missed the deadline of the Evening Standard
In my view, Mr Speaker, this parliament is enhanced when we have people from all walks of life and different experience in the debate and when people who have held senior ministerial office continue to contribute to the debate.”
He’s not exactly a man that cares much for integrity. He seems to think we have forgotten that it was under his chancellorship that the UK lost the Moody’s Investors Service triple A grade, despite Osborne’s pledges to keep it secure. Moody’s credit ratings represent a rank-ordering of creditworthiness, or expected loss.
The Fitch credit rating was also downgraded due to increased borrowing by the Tories. In fact they borrowed more in 4 years than Labour did in 13. Now they have borrowed more than every single Labour government ever, combined.
Osborne was rebuked by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) for telling outrageous lies that Labour left the country “close to bankruptcy” following the global recession. However, the economy was officially recovered and growing following the crash, by the last quarter of 2009. Osborne, the high priest of austerity, put the uk back into recession within months of the Coalition taking office.
It’s remarkable that despite Osborne’s solid five-year track record of failure, the Tories still mechanically repeat the “always cleaning up Labour’s mess” lie, as if Labour increasing the national debt by 11% of GDP in 13 years, mitigated by a global recession, (caused by bankers and the finance class), is somehow significantly worse than Osborne’s unmitigated record of increasing the national debt by at least £555 billion. Osborne has ironically demonstrated that it is possible to dramatically cut spending and massively increase debt.
Who could forget in September 2007, ahead of the publication of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, Osborne pledged that the Conservative Party would match Labour’s public spending plans for the next three years. He promised increases in public spending of 2% a year,calling Labour charges that the Conservatives would cut public spending “a pack of lies”. He also ruled out any “upfront, unfunded tax cuts.”
Then there were the expenses scandals, he even had the cheek to claim £47 for two copies of a DVD of his own speech on “value for taxpayers’ money.“
Gosh, what, with Osborne being so conservative with the truth, I can really see the Evening Standard taking a credible objective turn.
Sorry, that was a sarcasm typo, I meant authoritarian turn.
However, it has to be said that it’s not as if Osborne will be editor of a left leaning paper. Who could forget the Evening Standard‘s headlines during the London Mayoral campaigns: Exposed: Sadiq Khan’s family links to extremist organisation – the front page story about Khan’s former brother-in-law once coincidently attending the same rally as a hate preacher – and Why Sadiq Khan cannot escape questions about extremists, a hit and sneer piece that only just stopped just short of accusing Khan of being a terrorist. But I seriously doubt Osborne will have a liberalising impact on the screaming headlined nonsense of this tabloid.
Among the Tory MPs defending Osborne in the Commons was his former cabinet colleague and Times columnist Michael Gove, a former journalist who himself has been tipped as a potential future newspaper editor. He said: “Is it not the case that we believe in a free press and that proprietors should have the right to appoint who they like to be editor, without the executive or anyone else interfering with that decision?
And isn’t it also the case that who represents a constituency should be up to its voters, not the opposition or anyone else?”
Osborne’s appointment will be subjected to wider scrutiny. On Tuesday, the economy committee of the London Assembly will be considering whether the appointment could “affect the neutrality and objectivity of news coverage in London”.
In addition, Osborne will face questioning by his constituents in Tatton, Cheshire, on Friday, when he is expected to attend his local Conservative Association’s annual general meeting. A petition signed by more than 175,000 people was delivered to his constituency office on Monday, calling on the MP to “pick one job and stick to it”.
Andrew Gwynne amongst others in the Labour party, have called for an inquiry. Gwynne wrote to John Manzoni, the permanent secretary to the Cabinet Office, urging him to examine whether there was a breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct (which was amended yet again last year by Theresa May, following the previous editing in 2015.)
In his letter, he said former ministers must refer any new jobs to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) to “counter suspicion” and ensure ministers are not “influenced” by private firms while in government.
Gwynne, Labour’s national elections and campaign coordinator, added: “Disregarding these rules deeply undermines public trust in the democratic processes and does a disservice to those Members that ensure they follow the rules laid out on these matters.”
Politics and Insights is proud to join other independent media journalists, writers, collectives and organisations across the UK to condemn the appointment of George Osborne as the new editor of the Evening Standard.
Independent media includes any form of autonomous media project that is free from institutional dependencies, and in particular, from the influence of government and corporate interests.
We are not constrained by the interests of society’s major power-brokers.
“For an effective democratic system, we need a vibrant public sphere fuelled by varied independent broadcast and print media. We do not need the ex-Chancellor benefitting from the editorial control of a free London daily which benefits from city-wide circulation to publicise the divisive rhetoric of a right-wing government. When a crisis of representation, fed by a culture of nepotism already plagues so many establishments, Osborne’s appointment is a step in completely the wrong direction.
We write this as independent journalists, committed to holding the powerful to account. We will continue to fight for better representation and healthier political analysis in our media channels, and we will continue to produce the journalism that is missing from the corporate-owned outlets which dominate our newspapers and televisions today.”