New Evening Standard editor Osborne criticised for remaining as MP

(c) Sky News 2017: <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/george-osborne-named-editor-of-london-evening-standard-10804646">New Evening Standard editor Osborne criticised for remaining as MP</a>
 

Former chancellor George Osborne has been criticised for saying he will stay on as an MP after being appointed as editor of the London Evening Standard newspaper.

The shock move, announced on Friday, will likely raise questions over conflicts of interest when he begins the role in the middle of May.

The former frontbencher, 45, will succeed Sarah Sands, who is joining the BBC to become the editor of Radio 4's Today programme.

But politicians and journalists reacted with bafflement to the announcement, with some questioning how he will edit the paper an average of four days each week as well as balancing the needs of his constituents.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called the decision a "joke".

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: "George Osborne's appointment as editor of the Evening Standard is yet another example of the Establishment revolving door, a closely-knit clique who are holding back the British people.

"The appointment makes a mockery of the independence of the media. It takes multi-tasking to a new level and is an insult to the electors he is supposed to serve."

The spokesman added they were looking forward to a by-election in Mr Osborne's constituency of Tatton.

Constituents were critical and urged him to spend more time focusing on them.

David Bennett, manager of Redwood Hire hardware store in Knutsford, told Sky News: "He has just taken a job in America, he has now got this one and he thinks he is representing us but he can't - it is just impossible.

"You look at his previous job as chancellor and you can't think what he will bring to a newspaper - perhaps he will just put the price up."

Rob Rathbone, who runs a security firm in the town, said: "He should be spending more time on local issues.

"I wouldn't be letting someone else do it and I just don't think it works. He has got a job as an MP and he should stick with it."

But Patti Goddard, president of the Tatton Conservative Association, said: "The fact he's editing the Evening Standard in the weekday mornings won't affect that at all. After all, being chancellor was a 24/7 job."

Former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband wrote on Twitter (Frankfurt: A1W6XZ - news) : "Breaking: I will shortly be announced as editor of Heat magazine..."

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron wrote: "I guess I should apply to edit Viz then?"

Labour MP Jess Phillips wrote: "Everybody in my office has a 'WTF' expression on their face about the George Osborne news.

"Flooded with offers of writing and media to comment on Osborne, the answer is no, I can't do anything til 8pm as I have a job to do as an MP."

Angus Reilly, chairman of the Tatton Constituency Labour Party, said Mr Osborne should step down as an MP.

In a statement on the branch's Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB - news) page, he said: "The news today has only proven what the people of Tatton have known all along: George Osborne's focus is not on the people of Tatton, where it should be."

Martin Bell, the former war correspondent who was replaced by Mr Osborne as Tatton MP in 2001, told the BBC: "It sounds like fake news to me. Are you sure it isn't?"

But there were also well-wishes, with London mayor Sadiq Khan writing: "Congratulations to @George--Osborne - the new editor of the @EveningStandard. Covering the world's greatest city #LondonIsOpen."

The role will satisfy a long-held ambition for Mr Osborne, who was rejected by The Times and The Economist when he tried to break into journalism after graduating from university.

A source at the Standard (Other OTC: SNDH - news) told the Press Association that staff were "shocked and stunned" by the announcement.

Earlier this month, it was revealed the Conservative politician has already earned £800,000 for speeches since being replaced as chancellor last July.

Mr Osborne has also declared he is earning an annual salary of £650,000 to advise investment firm BlackRock (Xetra: 1005182.DE - news) - a role which only requires 48 days' work a year.

He described joining the newspaper as a "great honour".

He said: "I am proud to be a Conservative MP, but as editor and leader of a team of dedicated and independent journalists, our only interest will be to give a voice to all Londoners.

"We will be fearless as a paper fighting for their interests. We will judge what the Government, London's politicians and the political parties do against this simple test: is it good for our readers and good for London? If it is, we'll support them. If it isn't, we'll be quick to say so."

Evgeny Lebedev, proprietor of the newspaper, said: "In George, we have appointed someone of huge political achievement, and economic and cultural authority.

"Once he put himself forward for the position, he was the obvious choice. (His) political viewpoint - liberal on social issues and pragmatic on economic ones - closely matches those of many of our readers."

Mr Osborne is now seeking the advice of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments on his new role. The committee does not have the power to stop him from accepting the job.

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