Steve Jones examines the reasons behind the appointment of George Osborne, the former chancellor, as the new editor of London Evening Standard. With the Brexiteers increasingly in control of their party, the Prime Minister, and the government, it is clear that the liberal wing of the capitalist class is looking to “take back control” for themselves.
The shock announcement on Friday 17th March that former Tory chancellor George Osborne was to become the new editor of the London Evening Standard was greeted with gasps of amazement by many. Once checks had confirmed that the date was not in fact 1st April, people could be seen pouring through the pages of the Standard to see if there were any clarifying announcement that this might either just be a joke or some sort of celebrity one-day guest edit. However, it seems that the announcement was genuine and that Osborne is indeed becoming the editor of London’s only evening paper.
Of course, there are plenty of examples of former-journalists becoming politicians and even government ministers – Michael Gove and Boris Johnson are just two recent examples who spring to mind unfortunately. However, for a politician to go the other way is unusual to say the least, and to become an editor of a national title is unheard of, not least because Osborne has no serious journalist experience to call on. After leaving university and failing to get a place as a trainee for The Times, Osborne used his Tory connections to get a job for a while as a freelance reporter providing copy for the political gossip column in The Telegraph. Thereafter he worked solely in politics, first for the Tory machine and then as a member of parliament. What next for George? A job as a brain surgeon or maybe an airline pilot?
Finance’s man on the inside
What has made this appointment even more controversial is that a week earlier Osborne had accepted a high paying part-time job for investment giant BlackRock. What is BlackRock? According to Wikipedia: “BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager with $5.1 trillion in assets under management. BlackRock operates globally with 22 investment centres, 70 offices in 30 countries and clients in 100 countries. Due to its power, Blackrock has been called the world’s largest shadow bank.” So not a small operation then.
It seems Osborne will be paid a whopping £650,000 a year for “working” one day per week for BlackRock. When workers are being told to take pay cuts, this flagrant display of unearned and unjustifiable income will rightly provoke anger. It seems there is no austerity for George, one of the key architects of the Tory government’s austerity programme. In fact, the former chancellor thinks he can still continue as one of our “hard-working” (as they like to call themselves) members of parliament.
So what does the deal with BlackRock involve for George? BlackRock whistleblower Lillian told LBC radio a few days ago:
“I can assure you that I’ll never see George Osborne in the office. I can tell you he won’t be in the office and I can tell you won’t be sitting at a desk for one day a week.
“He’s being paid because these are people of influence and… if he wasn’t in this role, he wouldn’t be attractive.
“This is for organisations to have access to the inside of government, so they have a sense about economic and policy decisions as they’re going on.”
Pushing the liberal bourgeois agenda
This perhaps provides us with the first clue as to why Osborne has obtained such an important media job. Although the paper is a shadow of its former self, and is now pushing through proposals to further cut staff and editions, it is still a major press player, with a free circulation of over 850,000 copies per issue. NUJ members facing uncertain futures and falling living standards will be wondering how this has happened.
So what is going on here?
Ex-education secretary Nicky Morgan hit the nail on the head when she told ITV’s Robert Peston at the weekend:
“George is very much about being the voice of the liberal Conservative Party. When you’re fired as we all were last summer, what did they expect…? That we all just going to disappear?”
“No, we are going to make our voices heard, whether it’s me writing articles, whether it’s George being editor of the Evening Standard.”
“There’s a liberal Conservatism point of view to be talked about and we’re going to do that.”
The millions of workers who have suffered as a result of Osborne’s austerity regime may wish to take issue with this “liberalism”, which has cost them so much in terms of jobs, pay and public services. However, the thinking here is clear. The Russian owners of the Evening Standard are happy at present to ally themselves with this so-called liberal Tory wing of the Establishment and, like BlackRock, see Osborne as a figurehead to push their agenda forward. No doubt a real journalist will be employed to do the actual work of editing the paper while Osborne slips in and out of his nice new plush office making smug announcements.
Former Prime Minister and New Labour founder, Tony Blair, joined Nicky Morgan in defending Mr Osborne’s appointment, telling BBC One’s Andrew Marr:
“I don’t know whether having those jobs is doable or not, but I think it is a great thing for the Evening Standard. Why not? He is a highly capable guy and it should make politics more interesting.”
Blair also represents this wing of the Establishment and is happy to defend his Tory chum. Party lines mean nothing for these people – defending their class, the class of the rich elite, is everything. In any case, Blair knows quite a bit about getting huge pay checks for doing similar such “work”, so he sees little problem here.
Two camps of the capitalist class
The various wings of the Establishment, represented by the bitter divisions within the Tory Party, are gathering their forces for the battle ahead. The stormy waters of Brexit will soon be lapping at our shores. The “Brexit Ultras” (as former PM John Major has called them) are demanding a clean and total break with Europe and are increasingly in control of the party, the Prime Minister, and the government.
The serious capitalists, however, are terrified by the prospects of being hurtled out of the single market by the reckless brass-necked Brexiteers. They are doing everything they can, therefore, to “take back control” for themselves. In other words, what we are seeing – like with the EU referendum last year – is nothing more than a battle between two different reactionary wings of the ruling class.
Osborne will be representing that camp of the Establishment and the capitalist class who did not want Brexit and are now demanding a deal that will preserve their European-based interests and markets. He is the City of London’s man. He will be “working” for a reactionary rag which has constantly backed the Tories in elections, opposed strikes, defended big business interests and, most recently, attacked Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader at every possible opportunity.
If nothing else, this dodgy appointment serves to remind us that the press is only really “free” to the people who own them. The voices of the masses are never heard. Certainly this was, is, and always will be true of the Evening Standard and the rest of Fleet Street.
In this ever-more vicious struggle within the Establishment over Brexit there will be nothing for the working class who, whichever way this battle plays out, will end up suffering for the crimes of capitalism. These shenanigans may be “interesting” for the likes of Tony Blair. For workers, however, the only answer to this rottenness and corruption is to fight the whole system with a socialist alternative.
Images by HM Treasury, Conservatives/Paul Toeman, and UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor. All CC by-NC-ND 2.0