After George Osborne was announced as the new editor of the Evening Standard on Friday, there was uproar across the House — with Labour writing to the Cabinet Office to complain about the appointment while Tory MPs took to their WhatsApp threads to sulk.
Today the drama moved into the Chamber thanks to an Urgent Question from Labour’s Andrew Gwynne. Asked about the ministerial code relating to Osborne’s latest job, Ben Gummer — speaking for the government — said the advisory committee on business appointments has received a letter from George Osborne about his appointment as editor of the Standard. The minister for the Cabinet Office said the committee were ‘considering’ the request and would publish a decision in due course.
Matters were’t helped particularly when Osborne got up to speak. Striking a jovial tone, the MP for Tatton appeared to purposefully troll his colleagues when he quipped that he was disappointed the urgent question had missed the print deadline for the Standard:
‘When I heard that this urgent question had been granted I thought it was important to be here, although unfortunately we have missed the deadline for the Evening Standard.
In my view, Mr Speaker, this parliament is enhanced when we have people of different experience take part in our robust debate and when people who have held senior ministerial office continue to contribute to the decisions we have to make.
But I will listen to what my colleagues have to say in this debate. I’m interested to hear.’
Labour MPs went on to raise numerous concerns over Osborne’s suitability to be an MP, advisor to Black Rock, and editor of a daily all at the same time. Lucy Powell asked what she should say to constituents who think that MPs are giving up on the Northern Powerhouse, while Kerry McCarthy suggested Osborne should make his main contributions in the Commons.
It was striking that no Tory MP spoke out against their colleague in the session. Instead Andrew Mitchell, Michael Gove and Oliver Letwin all rallied to his defence. Michael Fabricant went so far as to use a point of order to thank Labour for uniting Tory MPs behind the former chancellor.
The paper’s proprietor Evgeny Lebedev claimed over the weekend that Osborne would provide a stronger opposition to the government than Corbyn. Judging by today’s response, he could be left disappointed — the government has no desire to start a fight with Osborne. But if you want to know what George really thought about today’s debate, you may be better waiting for tomorrow’s Standard.