It is not uncommon in this age of austerity, zero-hour contracts, and wage stagnation for individuals to have to juggle more than one job to make ends meet, but the regime must have hit godfather of Tory austerity, George Osborne particularly hard as he feels the need to have five other jobs alongside his role as Member of Parliament for Tatton.
The advisory committee on business appointments (Acoba) said it disapproved of Osborne’s decision to announce his job as editor of the London Evening Standard only four days after submitting his application for its advice. The Tatton MP is said to have broken Acoba’s rules before, when he accepted a £650,000 part-time role with the investment firm BlackRock. Osborne also made more than £800,000 in nine months from giving speeches to US banks, financial organisations and a university.
It raises the question, can we expect MP’s to properly serve their constituents if they are allowed to instead focus their attention on several different jobs? We need a discussion about the issue, and indeed it seems that the MPs’ standards watchdog will review advice about second jobs. Politics is a service to the public, a job of great importance, and MP’s should be giving it their full attention and not treating it as a hobby as Osborne seems to be doing.
His appointment also should also raise questions about the Tory dominance of the media, and the implications this has on democracy. Gone are the days of pretence when editors disingenuously claimed to cover the news objectively – in the current political climate, and with the opposition more intent on attacking their leader than the government, they no longer feel the need to hide their bias.
You can’t expect newspaper owners and editors to be free from political opinion, but they should certainly be independent of parliamentary politics. A free press, which holds power to account, is a fundamental part of a liberal democracy. The news stories the paper will publish will inevitably involve parliamentary colleagues and government policy, and how will Osborne be able to hold the government to account when still required to obey a three line whip? There is a clear conflict of interests in play.
The news has created an outburst of discontent, after all he has effectively taken another full-time job over 200 miles away from his constituency, but then again he was already neglecting his constituents so there’s no reason to suppose they’ll notice the difference.
His appointment at the London Evening Standard is bad for the press, for politicians and for democracy. But he cannot be allowed to keep his position as a constituency MP – he must resign with immediate effect, or be sacked: his constituents deserve better than a wealthy self-serving, passing hobbyist.
At least he has a good deal of experience at being out of his depth. From being a chancellor with no economics qualifications to a newspaper editor with no journalist credentials. This is a man of mediocre intelligence who repeatedly overestimates his own cleverness and relevance, one who was for a spell the de-facto number two in this country. Incompetence is seemingly no bar to advancement in the upper echelons, class privilege at its most prevalent – the system is broken ladies and gentlemen.