He let a smile curl un­der his nose like a wisp of cigar smoke

An un­ruf­fled Os­borne hears MPs moan about his news­pa­per job

Daily Mail - - News - Quentin Letts

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

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