George Osborne was ‘obvious choice' for Evening Standard editor, says proprietor
The Tory MP will still contribute in parliament 'after the paper goes to print'.
George Osborne has been named as the new editor of the London Evening Standard, in a move that prompted the collective dropping of jaws throughout Westminster and Fleet Street.
The former chancellor will succeed Sarah Sands and take up his role in early May, after apparently applying for the job.
As the journalists and politicians were left reeling by the extraordinary appointment, Labour leader Ed Miliband suggested he would be editing Heat magazine next.
But Evening Standard proprietor Evgeny Lebedev said of Osborne: "Once he put himself forward for the position, he was the obvious choice."
The appointment raises questions about how Osborne can possibly fulfil his duties as Conservative MP for Tatton while editing a national newspaper, with the Evening Standard saying that Osborne would "continue to vote and contribute in Parliament in afternoons after the paper goes to print".
Speaking to London Live, Osborne suggested it would be fine because "this paper is edited primarily in the morning; parliament votes in the afternoon".
The news has also sparked concern about how the Standard can now claim to be politically objective.
But Osborne insisted: "As editor and leader of a team of dedicated and independent journalists, our only interest will be to give a voice to all Londoners. We will judge what the government, London’s politicians and the political parties do against this simple test: is it good for our readers and good for London? If it is, we’ll support them. If it isn’t, we’ll be quick to say so."
Osborne, who has been an MP since 2001 and was chancellor for six years, addressed the paper's staff at lunchtime today.
He failed to get a place on The Times' trainee scheme after graduating from Oxford University in 1992 and was briefly a freelance reporter on the Daily Telegraph's diary column. Since leaving frontline politics, the former chancellor has become a visiting fellow at a US university and an adviser to US fund manager BlackRock, for which he is being paid £650,000 for four days work a month.
“So much is now at stake about the future of our country and its capital city. I will remain in Parliament, where that future is debated,” said Osborne.
“I was elected by my constituents in Tatton to serve them and I intend to fulfil that promise. I remain passionate about the Northern Powerhouse and will continue to promote that cause. Right from the first speech I gave about the North of England, I’ve said that London needs a successful north and the north benefits from its links to a global city like London. It’s not a zero-sum game, but quite the opposite.”
Lebedev said: “In George, we have appointed someone of huge political achievement, and economic and cultural authority. Once he put himself forward for the position, he was the obvious choice. I am proud to have an Editor of such substance, who reinforces the Evening Standard’s standing and influence in London and whose political viewpoint - liberal on social issues and pragmatic on economic ones - closely matches those of many of our readers.”