George Osborne will be “more effective opposition” to the Government as editor of the London Evening Standard than Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, the paper’s owner has said.
Evgeny Lebedev defended his surprise choice for the role after criticism of the appointment from Labour and Conservative ranks.
Former chancellor Osborne is calls to stand down as the MP for Tatton, in Cheshire – 190 miles from the capital – amid claims of “conflicts of interest”.
He also faces questions from constituents over the time he will be able to dedicate to the job, given his five other paid and unpaid roles.
Lebedev said on Twitter: “Sad old commentariat. Wait and see his paper before judging.
“Tories saying he will criticise the Government now. Labour say he is a Tory stooge. So, which is it?!
“Frankly George Osborne will provide more effective opposition to the Government than the current Labour Party.
“And will stand up for the interests of London and Londoners.”
Fellow former Tory frontbencher Michael Gove, who himself combines working as an MP with a column and other writing commitments at The Times, said that he welcomes “high-quality recruits to the world of journalism”.
But Labour has called for an inquiry into whether he broke rules for former ministers by failing to clear the appointment with the official watchdog which vets new jobs taken by senior public figures.
Lord Bew, chairman of the committee on standards in public life, is to review the rules on MPs having second jobs as a result of Osborne’s actions. He said: “We have not ruled out MPs having second jobs, quite deliberately, up until now, but we now have to look again at our rules. We are going to discuss whether our rules on second jobs need to be changed in light of this. We had something that up to a degree worked. It now seems to be getting into rockier waters.”
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told The Sunday Times: “To be the editor of a popular London newspaper . . . and a Conservative Party MP with access to everything that goes on in the party is a clear conflict of interest.”
Announcing the appointment, the Standard said Osborne would edit the paper four days a week and would have time for his parliamentary duties in the afternoons once it has gone to print (at 11am).
Osborne said: “I am proud to be a Conservative MP, but as editor and leader of a team of dedicated and independent journalists, our only interest will be to give a voice to all Londoners.”
The Sun reports that Osborne had recommended former Sunday Telegraph deputy editor and Standard columnist Mathew D’Ancona for the job.
Many MPs reacted with incredulity to the claim that Osborne – who famously championed the Northern Powerhouse – could continue to represent the interests of constituents at the other end of the country.
Osborne has already faced controversy for accepting a post as an adviser to US asset management fund BlackRock for £162,500 a quarter for 12 days work, while racking up more than £780,000 in speaking fees since leaving office.
He also gets £120,000 from a fellowship at the Washington-based McCain Institute think tank while continuing as the unpaid chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.