George Osborne addressing Evening Standard staff in London
London, March 18: The world of British politics has been left stunned by the appointment yesterday of former chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne as the new editor of the London Evening Standard.
Osborne, who is still only 45, was David Cameron's close ally and ushered in a policy of strict austerity as his chancellor from 2010-2016. It was generally assumed that in time he would succeed Cameron as Prime Minister.
However, Osborne's political fortunes vanished overnight when Theresa May took over from Cameron when he lost the EU referendum last year. One of her first actions was to sack Osborne unceremoniously as chancellor and pack him off to the backbenches.
But now as editor of the Evening Standard, a free newspaper which is picked up daily by an estimated million readers, Osborne is a position to make life difficult for the woman who humiliated him.
"We will judge whatever the government does....We will be fearless and we will be independent in our approach," he warned yesterday in his first mission statement after delivering a pep talk to bewildered Evening Standard staff.
The BBC's new media editor, Calcutta-born Amol Rajan, who broke news of Osborne's appointment with an exclusive tweet, commented: "I suspect the PM is about to find revenge is a dish best served in... a mischievous London newspaper with over a million readers..."
Osborne's appointment was confirmed with a series of tweets from the paper's Russian owner, Evgeny Lebedev: "I am proud to have an editor of such substance, who reinforces The Standard's standing and influence in London....and whose political viewpoint - socially liberal and economically pragmatic - closely matches that of many of our readers..."
The former chancellor, who has no experience as a journalist, is replacing Sarah Sands, who is joining BBC Radio 4 as editor of its flagship Today programme. Perhaps his real role will be to use his business contacts to organise "events" that raise funds for the paper.
The news was so unexpected that broadcaster Andrew Neil, former editor of The Sunday Times, admitted: "My threshold for being shocked just rose a little more: George Osborne new Editor of Evening Standard. And it's not even fake news."
Unlike other editors, who spend all their hours trapped in their offices, Osborne will edit the paper for four days in the week from 8am to 2pm. After that he will revert to life as a politician as Tory MP for Tatton, a constituency in Cheshire 190 miles from London.
His salary as editor is unlikely to be less than £300,000 a year. As an MP, he gets £75,000 a year. As an adviser to the BlackRock Investment Institute, a US asset management fund, Osborne picks up £162,500 a quarter for 12 days work. And as the Kissinger Fellow of the McCain Institute think tank in Washington, he receives £120,212 to cover stipend costs, and expenses for travel, accommodation and research support.
Since September last year, 14 speaking engagements have brought him £780,000, according to the MPs' register of interests.