How indiscriminate in their viciousness are Tory cuts! Last week we learned that one of the superintendents of austerity has himself been forced to join the ranks of the ‘just about managing’.
Before last Friday, poor George Osborne already held down five jobs. He represented Tatton in Parliament for the derisory sum of £74,000 per year (plus expenses). He thought for a think tank — the McNasty Institute — in return for a poxy annual stipend of £120,000. For one day and just 13,000 smackers each week, he also toiled as a shadow adviser to what is often called a shadow bank.
Moreover, Osborne chaired his very own micro-enterprise — the Northern Powerhouse Partnership — and with the help of the Washington Speakers Bureau he traipsed across the global gig economy for small potatoes. Not even a hefty share in Osborne & Little — the tax-dodging wallpaper company owned by his father, the 17th Osborne baronet of Ballintaylor and Ballylemon — could make ends meet for the former chancellor.
Desperate to secure a decent education for his children — Gideon himself was considered an ‘oik’ at Oxford for having attended the lowly St. Paul’s School — Osborne has taken on a sixth post. This hack manqué will shortly become the editor of the London Evening Standard, which is majority-owned by a Russian oligarch and has the fourth-highest circulation of any British daily. Beggars can’t be choosers, as they say.
At any rate, Osborne’s appointment by Evgeny Lebedev, whose own father was a colleague of Putin’s in the KGB, has not been well-received. One loss-making rival paper has gone so far as to declare that it is ‘bad for the press, for politicians and for democracy.’
It must be said that such a view strikes one as slightly melodramatic. After all, it’s only ‘bad for the press’ if you don’t already understand that media corporations ‘serve, and propagandize on behalf of, the powerful societal interests that control and finance them’. It’s only ‘bad for politicians’ if you belong to that sliver of the population which hasn’t yet registered and become exasperated by the insatiable greed and venality of our elected ‘representatives’. And it’s only ‘bad for democracy [sic]’ if you believe that constituents in one of the safest Tory seats around are worthy of your sympathy. The men and women of Tatton could at least have waited for the stink left by Neil Hamilton to disperse before returning to Westminster a 30-year-old Buller boy who cut his fangs in the Conservative Research Department. They went on to elect Osborne thrice more over the years, and would doubtless do so again if they only got the chance. They deserve, then, every second of attention that “Six Jobs” is able to spare them.
In any case, while we are right to consider Osborne’s a parodic example of the shamelessness of ‘our’ politicians, we must not forget that he did far darker things as chancellor. Last November, the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled Persons found that the barbaric scheme of welfare cuts and sanctions pursued by Osborne and the Department for Work and Pensions had led to ‘grave and systematic violations’ of disabled people’s rights. The evisceration of welfare and low and falling incomes meant that Trussell Trust foodbanks provided more than a million three-day emergency food parcels in 2015-6 alone (as against just 40,000 in 2009-10). And public investment as a percentage of GDP collapsed by more than half under Osborne, who of course proceeded apace with the destruction of a National Health Service that neither he nor those colleagues of his with links to private healthcare firms have any proper use for.
It should also be noted, by the by, that Osborne’s seat is one of those that will likely be done away with next year under Boundary Commission proposals. The man who was sacked with such pleasing alacrity by Maybot is surely acting with this in mind; he’s making hay while the sun shines, and it would be no great loss to him if, in the end, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments combined with public pressure to prise him from office.
Perhaps in the event of his departure, the dirty underside of this scandal might finally come to light. Sarah Sands, whom Osborne will replace at Northcliffe House, is all set to assume the editorship of Today, BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme. Sands, formerly of the Sunday Telegraph, is notable for having hauled the Evening Standard even further to the right during her spell in charge, and it was under her watch last spring that the paper waged a racist smear campaign against Labour’s mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan. Indeed, a year ago the Media Reform Coalition was moved to state that the capital’s foremost daily rag ‘appears to have been operating as the mouthpiece of the Conservative party.’
Those naïfs who continue stubbornly to hold that the BBC is objective and impartial can set to work reconciling Sands’ appointment. But the rest of us know what’s coming. The institution’s demonstrable bias against Jeremy Corbyn will grow more virulent, and Tory election fraud — excused as a ‘mistake’ by Laura Kuenssberg and subsequently buried — will be jammed a little further down the memory hole.