A scoop for the Evening Standard. George Osborne, the paper’s editor and a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, is standing down as the MP for Tatton.
In a letter to his constituency association he says:
“I am stepping down from the House of Commons – for now. But I will remain active in the debate about our country’s future and on the issues I care about, like the success of the Northern Powerhouse.
“I want a Britain that is free, open, diverse and works with other nations to defend our democratic values in the world.
“I will go on fighting for that Britain I love from the editor’s chair of a great newspaper. It’s still too early to be writing my memoirs.”
“At the age of 45, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life just being an ex-Chancellor. I want new challenges.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to edit the Evening Standard. I’ve met the team there, and their energy and commitment to this great newspaper are positively infectious.”
He also promised his editorship would give the public “straight facts and informed opinion to help them to make the big decisions Britain now faces about the kind of country we want to be. That starts with the coverage of this general election.”
No doubt Osborne will have considered that he had little prospect of a return to the cabinet in a May administration. His support for the UK’s membership of the Single Market is very much at odds with the Government objectives in the Brexit negotiations. The General Election result is expected to secure a substantial Conservative majority and thus to strengthen the Prime Minister’s authority. Osborne puts in a reference to his departure being “for now” but he evidently could not envisage the prospects of a comeback any time soon.
Of course there was also plenty of criticism for Osborne’s earlier intention to combine his roles of editor of a London newspaper with being an MP for the north west of England. Paul had earlier reflected on this conflict of loyalties.
So Osborne’s decision to stand down from Parliament is perfectly understandable.
Yet it is also rather a pity for two reasons.
First of all it is a victory for those with the misguided notion that being an MP should be a full time job.
Secondly it means that one of the great politicians of our age will no longer be a member of the House of Commons. This is particularly unfortunate after the departure of David Cameron. It used to be the case that politicians who had achieved high office continued as MPs for many years later – Jim Callaghan, Ted Heath, Denis Healey, Enoch Powell, Tony Benn and so on. That greatly enhanced Parliamentary debate.
Osborne’s decision is part of a regrettable trend.