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May campaign ‘no more than a slogan’ – Osborne’s first day at Evening Standard

Prominent Remainer has a go at own party’s election campaign.

George Osborne has taken a swipe at Theresa May’s handling of Brexit on his first day as editor of the Evening Standard, as the paper issued a call for her to spell out her plans in greater detail.

Warning that General Election victory will not provide the mandate the Prime Minister wants for withdrawal negotiations unless she spells out her intentions, the Standard told Mrs May in an editorial: “If you ask for a blank cheque, don’t be surprised if later it bounces.”

As he took up the helm at the London newspaper, it emerged that the former chancellor has been handed a two-year ban on lobbying former ministerial colleagues on behalf of his new employers, and told he must not discuss the issue of press regulation with the Government.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments also said Mr Osborne’s contract at the Standard must be amended to make clear that he cannot draw on information obtained as a minister for his journalistic work.

And the watchdog said he broke its rules by signing the contract before receiving its advice, admonishing him: “It was not appropriate for you to do so.”

Arriving at the title’s offices at 7am with newspapers tucked under his arm, Mr Osborne – a prominent leader of the Remain campaign in last year’s EU referendum – said it was “very exciting to be starting in the new job”.

“It’s a really important time in our country, when people are going to want the straight facts, the informed analysis, so they can make the really big decisions about this country’s future,” he said.

“The Evening Standard is going to provide that and it is going to entertain along the way.”

Hours later his debut front page carried the splash headline “Brussels twists knife on Brexit”, over a story detailing European Parliament negotiator Guy Verhofstadt’s use of Twitter to lampoon the Prime Minister’s “strong and stable” slogan.

In an editorial, the Standard branded Brexit “an historic mistake” and said that accounts of Mrs May’s dinner with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker show “how unrealistic were the claims made about the strength of Britain’s hand”.

While a majority voted for EU withdrawal on June 23, the electorate was not asked whether it wanted to leave the single market, cease co-operation on science and security or to provide subsidies to farmers to replace those from Brussels, said the editorial.

“No-one should assume that the referendum gave a mandate to the Government to answer any of these questions about Britain’s future. It did not,” said the editorial.

“A General Election victory for the Conservatives could provide more of a mandate, but only if the Prime Minister and her colleagues spell out in much more detail what their intentions are.

“It’s early days, but that is not happening, thanks in part to the failure of the desperately weak Labour leadership to offer a proper opposition.

“There’s nothing wrong with repeating election campaign slogans; the problem comes when the election campaign amounts to no more than a slogan.

“If you ask for a blank cheque, don’t be surprised if later it bounces.”

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