Former UK Treasury chief takes job editing a free newspaper

george osborne

He used to run the world's fifth largest economy. Now he'll edit London's free evening newspaper.

Former U.K. Treasury chief George Osborne was named editor of the Evening Standard on Friday, an appointment that shocked Britain's political and media establishment.

The Standard is a free tabloid with a circulation of 900,000.

"I am proud to have an editor of such substance, who reinforces The Standard's standing and influence in London and and whose political viewpoint -- socially liberal and economically pragmatic -- closely matches that of many of our readers," proprietor Evgeny Lebedev said in a Tweet.

Osborne, who has little or no professional experience in journalism, said he will continue to serve as a member of parliament.

"We will judge what the government, London's politicians and the political parties do against this simple test: is it good for our readers and good for London? If it is, we'll support them. If it isn't, we'll be quick to say so," he said in a statement.

The appointment sparked an intense reaction on social media, where many observers lamented Obsorne's lack of qualifications for the job.

Osborne reportedly edited a student newspaper while studying at Oxford. But subsequent applications for positions at The Economist and The Times were unsuccessful.

Questions were quickly raised as to how Osborne would continue to serve his constituents while editing the paper. He holds a part time but lucrative position at the investing house BlackRock, as well as serving as chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, which promotes the interests of northern England.

There were also objections over potential conflicts of interest.

"It smacks of greed and the accumulation of power, undermining the government's intention to create a country that works for everyone," said Robert Barrington of Transparency International.

Evening Standard
The paper is handed for free to London commuters.

Wes Streeting, who represents a group of Labour politicians in London, said that Osborne "simply cannot continue as [member of parliament] while editing a daily newspaper." Osborne is a Conservative, but campaigned in favor Britain remaining in the European Union.

"His appointment raises serious doubts about whether [Labour politicians] will receive fair coverage under such an obviously partisan editor," Streeting said.

Osborne is not the only British politician with an interest in journalism. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson started his career as a reporter, and continued to write a weekly column for The Telegraph while serving two terms as the mayor of London.

Michael Gove, a member of parliament who formerly served as justice and education secretary, has also worked as a full time journalist. He still writes for The Times on a weekly basis, and landed a coveted interview with President Trump in January.

Related: BlackRock is paying top U.K. politician $16,400 a day

Sarah Sands, the current editor of the Standard, is leaving the paper to become the editor of the BBC's Today program on Radio 4.

Osborne was chancellor of the exchequer under former Prime Minister David Cameron.

He was recently hired by BlackRock Investment Institute to advise on European politics and policy, economic reforms in China and investment trends that affect retirement planning. Osborne is being paid £650,000 for just 48 days a year at the firm.


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