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In defence of George Osborne (by the Evening Standard’s departing editor)

21 March 2017

11:47 AM

21 March 2017

11:47 AM

So I am feeling a bit better about my lack of radio experience. These are exciting times for free movement of labour and with Westminster under the control of Tory and Labour cabals, lovely jobs outside Parliament are tempting. George Osborne is no more qualified to edit the Evening Standard than Tristram Hunt to run the V&A, but now art and antiquities scholars have dried their tears, that is turning out splendidly. The late Nick Tomalin pointed out that success in journalism requires only ‘ratlike cunning, a plausible manner, and a little literary ability’. The trade is temperament as much as technical skill and Osborne has a journalistic love of mischief-making. When I introduced him to the newsroom last Friday, I thanked him for livening up our day. As the email about his appointment flashed up on journalists’ screens there was a murmur of ‘What?’ that grew to a chorus of astonishment. It was a far greater shock to Downing Street.

It is moving to see newsprint suddenly revered again, but those of us who can still do shorthand must face the fact that the old skills are in flux. These days, citizen journalism is a virtue, and I don’t think newly famous Instagrammers pause to consider who, what, why, where and when. The premium now is ‘bearing witness’ and access to scoops. The new Evening Standard editor will be in a position to bring in some fantastic political and City stories. I am sure he will be bold enough to put them in the paper.


George Osborne’s appointment is viewed as representative of a new world order, but really it is reasserting an older tradition. Politics and journalism have long been intertwined, never more so than by a previous owner of the Standard, Lord Beaverbrook. He also controlled the Express — the biggest-selling paper in the world after the war — and understood more than anyone the press’s power. Evgeny Lebedev will enjoy a star editor who shares his fascination with power and influence. Mr Lebedev’s parties are celebrated and run late. Imagine what they will be like now. The good news is the working day at Northcliffe House starts so early that the new editor may as well go straight on.

Sarah Sands has been editor of the Evening Standard since 2012, and is a former editor of the Sunday Telegraph. This is an extract from her diary. The full article is available from Thursday in this week’s issue of the Spectator. 


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