He is the Member of Parliament for Tatton, Cheshire. He was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Conservative government of David Cameron and, as such, was the architect of the debilitating austerity measures imposed on low income British families in an inequitous effort to reduce the national debt. To many he is as arrogant as he was slippery when in charge of the government’s financial planning for the nation.
I speak, of course, of George Osborne, or, as he was named at birth, Gideon Oliver Osborne (he decided at the age of 13 that, with the approval; of his mother, he wished to be known as ‘George’ – he never liked Gideon!).
It was recently announced that, despite disappointments in earlier career aspirations in journalism (turned down for appointments with The Times and The Economist), George Osborne has become the editor of the London Evening Standard, at an estimated annual salary of £250,000.This is on top of the £75,000 he receives as a Westminster MP!
But, hold on, these are only two of the five jobs that Mr Osborne currently holds down. It seems that George Osborne is also a £650,000-a-year advisor to the City firm Blackrock, a £120,000-a-year fellow at a university in the United States of America, and a £230,000-an-hour public speaker. These figures come to a total of £1,095,000 per annum – without including his fees for his public speaking engagement and, with his going rate for such engagements, he would likely accept as many of these as were offered to him! Not bad for someone who once flaunted himself at the House of Commons despatch box.
It will be recognized that much of George Osborne’s income is, therefore, earned at least 200 miles from what should be the centre of his political gravity – Tatton in Cheshire. It would seem however, that financial interests rather than political now form the centre of gravity in Mr Osborne’s universe. This not without precedent for, in 2009 and 2011, Mr Osborne was severely criticized from within the House of Commons for his expenses claims as an MP.
The former Chancellor, as well as a former member of Oxford University’s infamous Bullingdon Club, is not without his critics. Indeed, the wind he has sown with all of these financial dealings now seems to be reaping something of a whirlwind. Similar to the biblical injunction, “Choose this day whom you will serve”, ‘George’ Gideon Oliver Osborne is being asked to make a choice between politics and an alternative career.
A poll taken in Tatton found that 66% of respondents think that George Osborne should choose between editing the London Evening Standard (which is delivered free of charge to the public) or being the MP for the Tatton constituency. Almost as many (63%) said that Mr Osborne was “wrong” to take the newspaper job in London.
A fellow MP (Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, East London), said: “It’s time George Osborne did the decent thing and resigned as an MP. Pretending he can edit a major newspaper for Londoners while properly representing his Cheshire constituency is an insult to the people he represents, and MPs who take the job seriously.” Seemingly, there are those at Westminster that would prefer to, or already, see Mr Osborne as the erstwhile MP for Tatton.
In a Survation poll of 500 Tatton voters for the pressure group 38 Degrees (a citizen’s network supported by this writer), 59% said that Mr Osborne had a “moral obligation” to them to be just an MP. This petition was started by a Tatton constituent, Diana Simkins, who said: “Who else could take another job, work half the hours and keep their full salary? He needs to pick one job and stick to it.” These, or similar, sentiments have been echoed by numerous Tatton constituents, as well as by Mr Osborne’s aforementioned fellow Westminster MPs.
Despite all of the above, Mr Osborne has insisted that his constituency work would be “unaffected. So too, somewhat surprisingly and disappointingly, it would seem that a third of his constituency don’t seem to care if George “rakes it in” whilst trying to adequately represent them.
It is the view of this writer that being a constituency representative in national politics is a full-time vocation. To represent the political aspirations of a section of the British public should be seen as a vocation in the same way and with the same expectations and accountability as any of the professions. Many of the present MPs at Westminster have put on hold careers as lawyers, medical practitioners, teachers, trades unions leaders, etc., in order to represent a constituency and are satisfied with their remuneration for doing so. For these MPs, financial gain has not been a motivating factor when entering political service.
In relation to this, one national newspaper put the matter succinctly when it stated: “MPs should be banned from selling themselves to the highest bidders.”
The choice is the same for George Osborne as it is for any other MP. Will he serve the people of Tatton in the manner that they deserve from their elected representative, or does he intend to help himself in accepting whatever big-paying posts that take his fancy? He can’t do both.
So too, it would appear that the time has come when there should be a firm understanding, if not the implementation of the appropriate legislation, that prevents MPs from using their public positions, especially when they are front-bench MPs, to advance their private finances. This would not only remove the temptation for personal aggrandisement, it might also result in less corrupt, more efficient and open government.
Bring it on – not only for the citizens of the Tatton electorate, but for us all.