Belfast Telegraph

Osborne at Standard 'will be more effective opposition' than Corbyn's Labour

George Osborne will be "more effective opposition" to the Government as editor of the London Evening Standard than Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, the paper's owner has said.

Evgeny Lebedev defended his surprise choice for the role after criticism of the appointment from Labour and Conservative ranks.

Former chancellor Mr Osborne is facing growing pressure to stand down as the MP for Tatton, in Cheshire - 190 miles from the capital - amid claims of "conflicts of interest".

He also faces questions from constituents over the time he will be able to dedicate to the job, given his five other paid and unpaid roles.

Mr Lebedev said on Twitter: " Sad old commentariat. Wait and see his paper before judging.

"Tories saying he will criticise the Government now. Labour say he is a Tory stooge. So, which is it?!

"Frankly George Osborne will provide more effective opposition to the Government than the current Labour Party.

"And will stand up for the interests of London and Londoners."

Fellow former Tory frontbencher Michael Gove, a columnist for The Times, wished Mr Osborne well in his new role, adding that he welcomes "high-quality recruits to the world of journalism".

But Labour has called for an inquiry into whether he broke rules for former ministers by failing to clear the appointment with the official watchdog which vets new jobs taken by senior public figures.

Shadow minister Andrew Gwynne has written to John Manzoni, permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, asking him to investigate whether Mr Osborne - who was sacked by Theresa May in June - had breached the ministerial code of conduct.

In his letter, he said Mr Osborne was required to refer any new job he intended to take within two years of leaving office to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) before accepting it.

"The rules on business appointments are established to counter suspicion that the decisions and statements of a serving minister might be influenced by the hope or expectation of future employment with a particular firm or organisation, and that an employer could make improper use of official information to which a former minister has had access," he wrote.

"Disregarding these rules deeply undermines public trust in the democratic processes and does a disservice to those members that ensure they follow the rules laid out on these matters."

Labour MP Clive Lewis said he would be writing to Acoba directly about the appointment.

"There are really serious questions about conflicts of interest," he said. "The rules are clear. Osborne has shown total contempt for those rules, and I am calling for them to be enforced without fear or favour."

Announcing the appointment, the Standard said Mr Osborne would edit the paper four days a week and would have time for his parliamentary duties in the afternoons once it has gone to print.

Mr Osborne said: "I am proud to be a Conservative MP, but as editor and leader of a team of dedicated and independent journalists, our only interest will be to give a voice to all Londoners."

Many MPs reacted with incredulity to the claim that Mr Osborne - who famously championed the Northern Powerhouse - could continue to represent the interests of constituents at the other end of the country.

Mr Osborne has already faced controversy for accepting a post as an adviser to US asset management fund BlackRock for £162,500 a quarter for 12 days work, while racking up more than £780,000 in speaking fees since leaving office.

He also gets £120,000 from a fellowship at the Washington-based McCain Institute think tank while continuing as the unpaid chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

In Tatton, some voters also questioned his move. Lee King, assistant manager at the Lord Eldon pub, said: "How can somebody work four days a week doing something and be an MP? It just doesn't make sense. It's madness."

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.