Osborne under fire from Parliament’s standards chief
by Sam Tobin
GEORGE OSBORNE’S appointment as editor of the London Evening Standard could prompt a rethink on MPs taking second jobs, the chairman of the committee of standards in public life said yesterday.
The former chancellor will join Russian billionaire Evgeny Lebedev’s free newspaper in May but said he will remain as MP for Cheshire constituency Tatton, 190 miles from the capital.
But Lord Bew, chairman of the standards watchdog, told the Sunday Times that his appointment raised the “issue of how much time MPs have to devote to their parliamentary work.”
The committee would discuss whether the rules on second jobs need to be changed, he added.
“We have not ruled out MPs having second jobs, quite deliberately, up until now, but we now have to look again at our rules.
“We had something that up to a degree worked. It now seems to be getting into rockier waters.
“Unless someone sleeps two hours a night, that’s the only way I can see how this is not [too much].”
SNP MP Tommy Sheppard, who sits on the committee, told the Sunday Telegraph: “You cannot edit the Evening Standard and represent your constituents in any meaningful sense.
“How many votes would you miss in the Commons, for example? It beggars belief.”
Mr Osborne’s latest appointment has triggered calls for an examination of whether he broke Whitehall rules by failing to clear the appointment with the advisory committee on business appointments, the watchdog that has the job of ensuring that relatively fresh ex-ministers and civil servants don’t exploit their government contacts, having only submitted his application four days before his unveiling as editor.
He has already sparked fury by accepting an advisory post with US asset management fund Black Rock at £650,000 a year for working just one day a week and has raked in in more than £780,000 in speaking fees since leaving office.
The millionaire MP has also picked up £120,000 for a fellowship at the Washington-based McCain Institute think tank and continues as unpaid chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.
But Mr Osborne’s appointment was welcomed by New Labour warmonger Tony Blair.
He told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I think it is a great thing for the Evening Standard. Why not? He is a highly capable guy and it should make politics more interesting.”