LONDON (AP) – Former British Treasury chief George Osborne has been appointed editor of the Evening Standard newspaper, touching off a torrent of criticism about whether a sitting lawmaker should be able to run a London-based daily.
The newspaper’s owner, Evgeny Lebedev, said Friday that Osborne put himself forward for the job and “was the obvious choice.”
Osborne indicated he would keep his job as a member of Parliament, together with a smattering of other advisory roles in private industry that are supplementing his income. But he said his role at the Standard would be to fight for the interest of Londoners, come what may.
“So much is now at stake about the future of our country and its capital city,” he said. “I will remain in Parliament, where that future is debated. I was elected by my constituents in Tatton to serve them and I intend to fulfil that promise.” Tatton is about 200 miles (320 kilometers) from London.
But campaigners for transparency in government cried foul. Robert Barrington, executive director of Transparency International U.K., described Osborne’s appointment as a clear conflict of interest, since the media is meant to hold government to account.
“It smacks of greed and the accumulation of power,” he said in a statement.
“A key role of the media is to hold politicians to account; to have a recent minister or an MP running the editorial line of a newspaper certainly calls into question whether this principle can be upheld.”
Osborne has been busy since being fired by Theresa May when she became prime minister following Britain’s vote last year to leave the European Union. Osborne was a leader of the campaign for Britain to stay in the EU.
He already has supplemented his parliamentary income by being an adviser on the global economy to the Blackrock Investment Institute, earning about 650,000 pounds ($800,000) a year. As a member of Parliament, his annual pay is 75,000 pounds.