I may disagree with George Osborne on the odd issue. Like Britain’s relationship with the EU, our trading future and the exercise of democratic sovereignty. And as a Conservative minister, I certainly sometimes wince at the criticism his paper directs at the government of which I’m proud to be a part. Indeed, wince is putting it mildly. But no one can deny that, in journalistic terms, he’s proving a brilliant editor of the Evening Standard. He’s made the paper talked about in a way it hasn’t been since Paul Dacre edited it in the 1990s. He’s produced some great front pages. And he’s put the paper at the heart of critical debates Londoners care about.
Some of my colleagues, understandably, do much more than wince in the face of his paper’s criticism of the government. They fume. They argue that George should show more loyalty to the Conservative party, to whose leadership he was once central. I get the emotional argument behind that feeling. But I disagree. Now that George is an editor, his first duty has to be to his readers, to be at their service, to call it as he sees it, to cover events in the way he feels they demand. Our free press is a precious thing. It depends on proprietors being able to appoint who they want, editors being able to say what they want and reporters being able to write what they want. Without them having to feel under any obligation to government. As George Orwell once pointed out, free speech doesn’t really mean anything unless someone is offended. And if the people offended are me and my colleagues then we need to accept that’s the price we pay for freedom.
Read Michael Gove’s diary in full here.