After the news last week that the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, had been gifted the editor’s chair at the Evening Standard by joke owner Evgeny Lebedev, another of those on whom the real world and the hoi polloi tend not to intrude, the question has been asked - exactly how does he continue to manage to remain an MP, do all the other jobs, and edit a weekday newspaper?
This photo (c) Natalie Rowe
The short answer is that he doesn’t, although this has not stopped many - none of them current or former editors themselves - from considering this to be no big deal, including former PM Tony Blair this morning on The Andy Marr Show (tm) and former Tory minister Nicky Morgan on ITV’s Peston on Sunday. There has been a muted reaction from some who are still part of the press establishment. But not all.
Also on the Marr Show, the paper review was briefly diverted to the demands of editing a newspaper, a subject on which two of those present are ideally qualified to comment. Marr himself is a former editor of the Independent, and the Daily Mail’s Glenda emeritus Amanda Platell, who has edited at the Mirror and Express titles. Both agreed that editing a daily newspaper was at the very minimum a full time job.
How much time editing a daily paper takes up can be seen when looking at the hours put in by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail: while acknowledging that Dacre has an obsessive streak, those claiming Osborne can combine the Standard job with all his other ones need to take on board that the Mail’s editor works days of between 14 and 18 hours. That is why Osborne is having a laugh.
Moreover, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer - and he had bugger all relevant experience for that office, too - had next to no track record in journalism, as former editor and BBC Daily Politics lead host Andrew Neil noted: “When made Editor of The Sunday Times I was criticised because I hadn't been an editor. Mr Osborne hasn't even been a journalist”. It was a full time job for him, and his paper only appeared once a week.
Worse, the idea Osborne can continue as an MP gives voters the impression that the job is not a full-time one, which will taint by association not just other MPs, but especially Tories in the North West. The opinions of Antoinette Sandbach, who represents Eddisbury, and Edward Timpson in Crewe and Nantwich, can only be imagined. Both are full-time MPs whom you do not just walk in to see and chat with.
To give an idea of how much time being an MP takes up, Ms Sandbach was a member of the Welsh Assembly when elected to Parliament in 2015, but resigned immediately after winning her seat. This underscores that an MP’s job is a full-time one, and that Osborne is taking the piss. Even though the Standard hits the streets just five evenings a week, he is already admitting he will only edit four of those five editions.
Moreover, it’s not as if Osborne needs the money. For his own credibility, that of his party, and those Tory MPs who don’t treat the job as a hobby, he should resign his seat, and do so in the next few days. The idea of the Tories losing Tatton right now (it’s not exactly a 1997 scenario) are not unadjacent to zero. Time to go, George.