Constituents of George Osborne in the Cheshire constituency of Tatton were largely critical of the former chancellor’s decision to take on the editorship of the London Evening Standard, arguing that it would make it hard for him to represent the seat.
Richard Page, whose mother, Beth, was on the selection committee that gave Osborne the party’s nomination, said: “I think it will be a great loss to the local political world. How can he do both jobs? We want someone who is fully committed to the area.”
His mother, he added, had supported Osborne’s selection because she “thought he was a man that was going places”. But he admitted he had always been sceptical about somebody who had been parachuted in from London. “They don’t have the same links with the area,” he said.
Others in Knutsford, an affluent town with cobbled streets and boutique shops, said it was “ridiculous” to have an MP with affiliations to a particular party at the helm of a newspaper, creating the potential for political bias. There was also the strong feeling that Osborne would become distracted as he dedicated four days a week to the paper.
Standing in front of the fresh blooms at her White Orchid florists, Jo Ashton was baffled by Osborne’s decision. She said: “How can he possibly do two jobs at the same time well? If you are a politician that is a full-time role as far as I’m concerned and he should concentrate on it.
“We don’t want someone who is dividing themselves like this. We want someone who is fully committed to this area. I mean, unless he is thinking about giving up sleeping I just don’t see how it is feasible.”
Meanwhile, 79-year-old David Floyd, who moved to the area when he was bombed out of London during the second world war, expressed fears for the future of his adopted home town in stronger terms. “I am absolutely disgusted,” he said.
Floyd, who did not vote for Osborne, said he had not once seen him out and about in the area. He added: “I’m not even sure if he exists. We only ever see him on TV. I have never seen him here.
“He is the MP for Tatton – how could he also be the editor of a paper in London? This was a safe Conservative seat so he was always going to get in but we want him to show that he cares about the local community.”
The local paper, the Knutsford Guardian, tweeted: “Just checked our work experience diary @George_Osborne, we’ve got space next Thursday?”
A smattering of people went against the local grain, saying it was good to have a “high-achieving” MP and the appointment should be celebrated.
David Mooney, who owns the Old Sessions House pub in the centre of Knutsford, and describes himself as apolitical, said: “I have just been reading about it and I have just gone on the local forums. Predictably enough, it is all: ‘He’s supposed to be our MP.’
“The guy is probably going to stand down pretty soon and looking to maximise his earnings potential, so good luck to him. He comes in here quite a lot. He’s a nice guy. He’s a local MP that spends money in a local business. Whatever colour rosette they pin on, I have no problem with that.
“I think something will have to give. It’s a hell of a schedule but if he wants to work 20 hours a day it’s up to him.”