He let a smile curl under his nose like a wisp of cigar smoke
An unruffled Osborne hears MPs moan about his newspaper job
GEORGE Osborne (Con, Evening Standard Newsroom) arrived in good time to hear agitato exchanges about his newspaper job. Alas, he was not wearing a green eyeshade or the sort of shirt-sleeve clips once favoured by Fleet Street deskmen.
Anyway, a real journalist would have arrived late, collar askew, breathlessly to ask colleagues ‘have I missed any decent lines?’ Labour (and, one hears, Downing Street) are steaming about editor Osborne. VERY cross.
There has been envious grumbling about ‘Six Jobs’ George and the spondoolicks being hosed at him by the Evening Standard’s owner.
Mr Osborne, sitting two rows behind ministers, looked prosperous and pleased with life. He allowed a smile to curl under his nose like the trail of a decent Havana.
Speaker Bercow ruled that blatant rudeness about the ex Chancellor would not be tolerated.
This was meant to be a discussion about the official committee which advises recent ministers on their business interests.
Two members of that committee, Ladies Browning (Con) and Liddell (Lab) sat upstairs, watching. Two duchesses in a Reliant Robin. The attack on Mr Osborne was opened by Andrew Gwynne, Labour frontbencher.
Mr Gwynne may be many things but ‘polymath’ is not one of them.
Were he not an MP, it is unclear what he could do to scratch a living. Yet he has raised Mancunian moaning to an art form and expressed indignation that Theresa May had not herself hastened to the Chamber to answer his urgent question. Laughter.
Mr Gwynne wailed that Mr Osborne’s behaviour did a ‘disservice to MPs who spend every hour of their days fighting for their constituents’ interests’.
He spoke of the ‘ tragic low-standing of this profession’. Mr Osborne’s extra job was ‘impossible to defend’. Paymaster- General Ben Gummer, 16 going on 65, treated Mr Gwynne’s Mancunian lament with exquisite politeness.
He quite understood why Mr Gwynne had chosen to absent himself from Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘away day’ for the Shadow Cabinet, also being held yesterday. ‘I know he will be missing that with every single cell of his body,’ oozed the droll Gummer. This infuriated Roger Mullin of the SNP, who raged in Scots dialect that humour was misplaced on such a vital matter. Labour heckler to this bristling Pict: ‘Smile!’
MR Osborne adopted a Zen-like tone.
MPs should count themselves lucky to have him, he murmured, adding: ‘Parliament is enhanced when we have people of different experience take part in our robust exchanges and people who have held senior ministerial office continue to contribute’.
He regretted that the Standard’s deadline had passed, so these comments would not make the last edition. Forced joviality from some Hon Members. Stephen Pound (Lab, Ealing N), in what may have been a cunning pitch for a Standard column, said he wrote one called ‘Pound Notes’ for the Leftwing fortnightly Tribune.
Cheryl Gillan (Con, Chesham & Amersham) said the Administration select committee would investigate the Osborne affair – er, once it was back from an overseas freebie. Helen Goodman (Lab, Bishop Auckland) compared Mr Osborne to Cardinal Wolsey.
Mr Gummer sprang to Wolsey’s defence. Oliver Letwin (Con, W Dorset) pointed out Mr Gwynne had a second job as Labour’s elections supremo. Cue sarcastic mutterings. Liz McInnes (Lab, Heywood) fretted that Mr Osborne would contravene the EU working time directive. Michael Gove (Con, Surrey Heath), another newspaper scribe, said proprietors should be free to appoint whom they wished as editors. Hint hint.
David Winnick (Lab, Walsall N) feared the public would think all MPs were on the make.
Wes Streeting (Lab, Ilford N), wet as celery, said Mr Osborne had ‘no qualifications’ to be an editor. I often wonder if little Wes trained as a ladies’ hairdresser before entering Parliament. For Lucy Powell (Lab, Manchester C), as ever, it was all about ‘the North’. And Tom Tugendhat (Con, Tonbridge & Malling) nonchalantly thought it was quite normal for an MP to own land or write a book.
Could Labour’s scuttle-jawed Education spokesman, Angela Rayner, write a book? With words?
Relaxed: George Osborne in Parliament yesterday