Politics

In a surprise move, former British politician becomes editor of a major UK newspaper

george-osborne.jpg

Former chancellor George Osborne listens during a Northern Powerhouse Partnership think tank meeting at Manchester Town Hall in Manchester, Britain September 16, 2016.

Credit:

Phil Noble/Reuters

Former British finance minister George Osborne on Friday was appointed as the surprise new editor of The London Evening Standard newspaper.

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Osborne, 45, said he was "thrilled" to take on the job and wanted to make the daily "the definitive voice of the world's most exciting city."

Osborne, a conservative lawmaker, was the chancellor of the Exchequer in prime minister David Cameron's 2010-2016 government, dealing with the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

He was a prominent Remain campaigner in last year's referendum on Britain's membership in the European Union.

About 60 percent of the eligible voters in London wanted Britain to remain in the EU, but the UK as a whole voted for Brexit.

"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," Osborne said.

Osborne reportedly never saw eye to eye with Theresa May, and when she became prime minister in July after Cameron resigned in the wake of Brexit, she replaced him with Philip Hammond as finance minister.

Social media mockery

The Standard has the fourth-largest circulation of any British daily newspaper, at nearly 900,000 copies.

The freesheet's Russian owner Evgeny Lebedev said Osborne was someone of "huge political achievement, and economic and cultural authority".

His "political viewpoint — socially liberal and economically pragmatic — closely matches that of many of our readers," Lebedev said.

Osborne will remain the member of parliament for Tatton in northwest England.

He will edit the paper an average of four days out of five, working at the newspaper in the morning and in parliament in the afternoon once it has gone to print.

Last week it was announced he had secured a post as a global economy adviser for US asset management giant BlackRock worth £650,000 ($800,000, 750,000 euros) a year.

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour party, said Osborne's newest appointment made a "mockery" of media independence.

It was "yet another example of the establishment revolving door, a closely knit clique who are holding back the British people", he said.

Some on social media mockingly questioned Osborne's qualifications for the job, announcing their candidacies for unlikely posts.

Before entering politics, Osborne briefly did some freelance work for The Daily Telegraph, in 1993.

The Standard, Britain's biggest-circulation evening newspaper, is typically available at transport stops in London for commuters heading home.

The paper stopped charging a cover price in 2009, shortly after Lebedev and his Russian businessman father, Alexander, took it over.