After its use as an instrument of propagandist cheerleading, first under the editorship of Veronica Wadley and then under her successor Sarah Sands, London’s Evening Standard championed formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, whose legacy of waste and neglect will be with us for many years to come, and millionaire failed politician Zac Goldsmith. From these endeavours, its reputation lay diminished.
This photo is (c) Natalie Rowe
But, although the Standard, now a free sheet, had become most notorious for the amount of waste paper that now has to be cleaned out of Underground and commuter trains in and around the capital of a night, things could not get any worse. Or maybe they could: with Evgeny Lebedev, another of those proprietors with little knowledge of the real world, in charge, the chance of a wacky choice for the paper’s new editor was always possible.
Ecstatic Standard hacks greet their new editor
And so it has come to pass, as the BBC’s Amol Rajan, until now best known for his display of less than perfect courage when leaned on by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre over the Whittingdale revelations, has revealed to the world that the Standard’s new editor is to be none other than Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet.
The resulting headline
Having encountered Osborne briefly during the Crewe and Nantwich by-election campaign, I can confirm that he is a singularly unimpressive presence, but like any good high Tory, was reassuringly expensively tailored, and wore unfeasibly shiny shoes, that last being the mark of the real Ruling Class (the heir to the throne shares that attribute - it’s a sign of having a chap to do that sort of thing for you).
Osborne has more or less zero journalistic experience, but in London nowadays this seems not to matter: business freesheet City AM is now edited by the appallingly sniffy Christian May, whose CV includes being a spinner for the IoD. What makes Osborne’s appointment different, though, is that he will continue as a bank advisor - and as MP for the luckless constituents in Tatton, who will just have to lump it.
As for the Standard’s staff, they will just have to get used to being even more the objects of ridicule, not just for having a failed politician as editor, but one whose past includes several sources all too ready to relate his relationship with Charlie, and liking for the kind of discipline that may not be fiscal in nature, but certainly featured a three-line whip.
Was the announcement serious? Was it intended to spike the Tories’ Spring conference? What about the Northern Powerhouse? And how was the Standard going to be a vehicle for promoting his own part of the country? But then, Lebedev has, in the retelling, described Osborne as “London through and through”, which is total bullshit. You won’t see him slumming it on the Tube or bus, or otherwise mixing with the Hoi Polloi.
We now live in such a looking-glass world that when Ed Miliband Tweeted “Breaking: I will shortly be announced as editor of Heat magazine”, some had to stop and think before knowing that he was exhibiting some considerable cynicism.
Still, there is one good thing about this appointment: Osborne becomes the only editor to have voted for the full implementation of the Leveson recommendations. I’m sure he’ll be completely consistent on this one. Or maybe not.