After the prime minister the chancellor of the exchequer is the highest government office in the land. Most citizens would wish this extraordinarily responsible position to be occupied by men and women of unimpeachable integrity and moral standards – in this case someone not cut from the same cloth as ex-chancellor George Osborne.
To fill the role of chancellor we look for men and women who cannot be influenced in their lives by expensive baubles dangled in front of them or by being drawn into private powerful commercial concerns. By accepting £650,000 per annum from Black Rock and the editorship of the London Evening Standard, Osborne has driven a coach and horses through such principals. His selfishness has yet again besmirched political life in Britain today. Is it any wonder that so many of the electorate look upon Westminster with disgust and contempt?
When I last looked Black Rock was a fund management business. What does our ex-chancellor know about that? He would no more know how to run an ETF than drive a grand prix car. Actually, as Channel 4 reported this week, Osborne’s financial probity is currently under scrutiny for allegedly having a hand in encouraging state-owned RBS to cut back the balance sheet by pushing scores of SMEs into the now notorious Global Restructuring Group (GRG) and then onwards into the “bad bank”.
The only possible reasons for Black Rock’s eagerness to have him climb aboard is (1) to exploit his political connections and (2) shelling out £650k in relation to a fee income is miniscule (that old question “yes but where are the clients’ yachts?” comes to mind). Even that hotbed of political back scratching, the EU, got very angry indeed when José Manuel Barroso flew into the arms of Goldman Sachs. Why aren’t we just as angry over Osborne’s appointment?
There is of course the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), which was set up to approve, or not, posts applied for by ex-government ministers and senior civil servants. Clearly Osborne thinks Acoba can be treated with contempt (he might be right as it approved the Black Rock appointment) as he hasn’t even bothered to seek permission for his appointment to the Evening Standard’s editorship.
As Private Eye observed he has delivered an “unequivocal two fingers to them”. Indeed Osborne has form here with his Northern Powerhouse chairmanship, when Acoba noted “The Committee wrote to Osborne about his appointment with the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, noting that it is unable to offer retrospective advice on applications that have already been announced”.
Appointing Osborne as editor of a major newspaper is akin to appointing Len McCluskey editor of Vogue magazine. It is an insult to its professional journalists and must leave much of its 1.7m readers wondering if they have entered an Alice in Wonderland novel. Again surely such an appointment can only make sense on the basis that the Standard’s owners expect Osborne to exercise effective political influence on their behalf?
Is it ethical or morally right that an ex-chancellor can fall into such positions or are we descending into the ways of a Banana Republic? Time for the Mother of Parliaments to bring its home grown children back into line.
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