George Osborne has come in for a lot of flack for accepting the post of editor of the Evening Standard while remaining an MP. Those who think MPs should be social workers, devoting all their time to sorting out their constituents’ complaints about the local council, are, not surprisingly, infuriated that Mr Osborne has taken the job. But I doubt whether his new responsibilities will stop him doing the real work of an MP.
The Evening Standard, now a free newspaper handed out at underground stations and bus stops, is not a bad ‘paper. But it is nothing like it used to be when one was allowed to buy it. In those days there were several issues every day. It was remarkably good at getting the latest news on to the stands within an extraordinarily short time. All that has gone. Those who used to rely on it for news are now wired up to their electronic devices and get the news within moments of its breaking. They would think it very eccentric to expect the news to be brought to them in something so old-fashioned as a newspaper. As a result, the Standard has become a ‘paper produced many hours before it appears on the streets (and there is only one issue). The news element is now almost non-existent. What passes for news is a collection of stories from the previous day (most of which are in the national dailies).
The editor of the Standard is unlikely to have to be in the office after about 10 o’clock in the morning. Nothing that happens after then will get into the ‘paper. That is sad, but it is the way we live now. Mr Osborne’s duties as editor will not prevent him from taking part in debates in the House of Commons. I really don’t think it the end of the world that he has taken the job.
That is not to say that I don’t think it odd he has decided as he has done. Those who think MPs should be social workers are now in the ascendancy (Mrs May is one of them). It must be unlikely that they will ever forgive Mr Osborne. His chances of returning to the front bench must now be exceptionally low. I hope, for his sake, that he is to be paid an enormous salary.