Theresa May has defended George Osborne’s decision not to quit as MP for Tatton as he takes up his role as editor of the Evening Standard. The shock appointment of the former chancellor, who May sacked on her first day as prime minister, has drawn criticism for the potential conflict of interest and the extra demand that the new role would place on Osborne’s time.
His duties as MP and editor are just two of six jobs Osborne now holds following his departure from the Treasury. He also earns £650,000 a year as an adviser to the US investment firm BlackRock, chairs his Northern Powerhouse Partnership thinktank, is a Kissinger fellow at a US university, and has an after-dinner speaking contract with the Washington Speakers Bureau.
Speaking to reporters on a visit to Saudi Arabia, May said many MPs had demanding jobs outside politics and that brought different sets of experiences into the House of Commons. “MPs throughout time and continuing now have often had other roles and responsibilities and jobs as well as being an MP,” she said.
“We have doctors, dentists, nurses; we have reservists, special constables in the House of Commons. That brings a breadth of experience into the House of Commons. I think generally a breadth of experience in the House of Commons is a good thing.”
The Conservative former minister Dan Poulter is a practising GP, Labour’s Dr Rosena Allin-Khan does shifts at St George’s hospital, and the Tory MP Sir Paul Beresford is a dentist.
May’s comments appeared to rule out any action to remove the Tory whip from the former chancellor, which some MPs had urged to avoid conflicts of interest.
Osborne is set to take up his Evening Standard job on 2 May and has said he will edit the evening paper in the morning before heading to the Commons in the afternoon.
In the wake of the appointment, the committee on standards in public life said it would review 2009 guidance which says additional employment is allowed within “reasonable limits”. The findings will be reported to MPs in June.
The former chancellor has been rebuked previously by the advisory committee on business appointments, the body that advises former ministers on conflicts of interests with new roles, for failing to wait for its advice before announcing his Northern Powerhouse project, and similar criticism is likely to be levelled in this case.