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.
On one hand I agree with you.
But on the other, it's more complicated and indirectly raises a question which ought to be discussed wider.
For 6 years George was Chancellor. Ignoring what you thought of his policies, that's a job which needs even more time than editing a regional newspaper. Yet no-one ever said, how can he be Chancellor and a local MP at the same time? And here in Crewe, ET has been a minister for several years, and the question has also never been asked. He doesn't live here and just calls in briefly for surgeries and photo-ops. I wrote him a letter a few weeks ago with some specific concerns and got a pro forma response from a flunky who hadn't read it properly. What is clear is that ministers cannot be full time MPs as well, they use assistants paid for by their allowances to do most of the job. So if George uses his considerable private income to fund the assistant then his constituents won't be any worse off. True that for most of the time their interests will be looked after by someone who wasn't elected but that was what happened for 6 years anyway. So my big question is, if an MP is appointed to a ministerial post that takes up most of the time should there be some formal appointment of a nominated stand-in for constituency matters?
As for "you can't be a an editor if you haven't been a journalist", that's crap on two grounds. First the job spec of editor will vary from one paper to another. If the job is setting policy, meeting commercial targets, appointing and overseeing managers then being a journalist isn't especially relevant. Only if the editor is required to be leading the front line journalists and actually doing some reporting does that skill come into play, Which is where we reach the second problem, too many current "journalists" are actually clueless and not really suited to the basic job. They sit there trawling through press releases and twitter, occasionally stealing bits from other publications (which may have been cobbled together by someone no better). Having spent a number of years hacking together part stories and getting a large percentage of output wrong can hardly be described as basic requirements of an editor.
Whilst George remains as editor and MP the questions of who is actually doing the day to day work in many constituencies, and where is the UK news industry going, may get the airing they need. If he quickly resigns they will won't.
But I do think he's taking the piss holding onto the recent banking appointment as well.
The system is corrupt and so are its administrators and propagandists.
So what's noo on this beautiful Sunday?
As if to reinforce my views on journalistic standards I've noticed that the Crewe Chronic-le website has a story about the appointment and double jobbing. It doesn't concern this constituency and appears to have been copied from or dumped there by the Mirror. And it claims the London job is 140 miles from the constituency. Two problems with that, if he didn't have the job and sat in his office in the Commons he'd be no closer to the constituency. And the distance is closer to 190 miles and could easily have been checked. Crap editing, crap reporting. Any fool can do the jobs......
What this and the previous Rifkind revelations demonstrate is that a lot of politicians seem to be having a rather easy time . Constituents do not need the MP’s surgery as much any more because they have options such as Googling for information or submitting a Freedom of Information request. Even if you contact your MP there is no guarantee they will be able or willing to help you as our colleague Steve has pointed out.
Why not reduce the number of MP’s in the Commons by half, pay them double and make second or third jobs illegal? Perhaps they would then be less vulnerable to the type of tempting inducements that damage our democracy. Or even a 90% drop & ten times salary increase.
Sadly this is the sort of radical improvement that would be difficult to achieve.
How about a referendum on that? Ah but no, we don’t like referenda any more do we?
BTW , Hi Mr SE.
Get real, guys.
His will just be the name attached to the job - it is a celebrity appointment. The editorial team will just be working that much harder, and his deputy will be the one who will get a kicking when things go wrong.
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