Former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Trump critic, and anti-Brexit campaign “scaremonger-general” George Osborne is being lined up as the next chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), according to reports.
The former Tory MP, whose position in former prime minister David Cameron’s administration was roughly equivalent to that of Secretary of the Treasury in the U.S., would be in line for an increased salary of £160,000 for the “3-4 days per week” role, with a source telling The Telegraph that government ministers may further increase this to up to £280,000 to get him to apply.
While the right-leaning newspaper reports that Boris Johnson is “understood to be very keen to appoint a Conservative to the role to counter a perceived left-wing bias at the corporation”, Osborne would hardly be a disruptive fit at the publicly-funded establishment broadcaster, having been one of the most strident, doom-mongering members of the anti-Brexit campaign during the EU referendum and sneeringly dismissive of the broader national populist movement as embodied by its global standard-bearer, Donald Trump.
“Frankly, Trump’s comments fly in the face of the founding principle of the United States,” Osborne had told Parliament in his British government role in 2015, after the then-candidate had said that there are “places in London and other places that are so radicalised that the police are afraid for their own lives.”
Denying that such no-go zones existed — contrary to the firsthand accounts of frontline officers, who agreed with Trump — Osborne insisted that London police have “fantastic relations with British Muslims” and that “the best way to defeat nonsense like this is to engage in robust democratic debate and make it very clear that [Trump’s] views are not welcome.”
He would go on to tacitly endorse Hillary Clinton’s presidential run in May 2016, telling television presenter Robert Peston: “We look forward to working with whoever the next President is, whoever she may be.”
This would be completely and utterly insane, the actions of a tone deaf government, I don’t believe it for a second. https://t.co/n0hAPRjJyG
— Darren Grimes (@darrengrimes_) October 16, 2020
Osborne was of course disabused of his belief that Clinton was a shoo-in for the presidency later that year — although not before another upset victory for anti-establishment forces terminated his political career with the vote to Leave the European Union.
Leave campaigners have expressed incredulity that the man who was arguably at the apex of the Remain campaign’s infamous Project Fear, issuing now disproven threats of 500,000 to over 800,000 job losses in the immediate aftermath of a Brexit vote, along with a savage “punishment budget” — which he was not around to implement, as it turned out — could possibly be considered for BBC chairman by Boris Johnson’s pro-Brexit administration.
“This would be completely and utterly insane, the actions of a tone-deaf government,” commented Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes on the news. “I don’t believe it for a second.”
Johnson has, however, pushed his former Bullingdon Club frenemy for prominent quasi-political positions before, reportedly lobbying President Trump — unsuccessfully — to back Osborne for International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director in 2019.
The former Chancellor, for his part, has displayed a voracious appetite for part-time, highly-paid roles since exiting the political arena, being reported to have netted as many as nine jobs in late 2018, including the editorship of the Russian-owned London Evening Standard — controversial among journalists, given he has essentially zero previous experience — and position at the BlackRock investment corporation which paid a reported £650,000 a year for a one-day work week.
The Telegraph said that some sources downplayed Osborne’s chances of getting the BBC chairmanship if he is persuaded to apply, however, and that other likely, high-profile applicants include Remain-supporting former Tory MP Nicky Morgan, Theresa May’s former communications director Sir Robbie Gibb, and former Equality and Human Rights Commission chairman Trevor Phillips.
Osborne declined to comment on his intentions when the newspaper approached him.
Doubtless Osborne will do for the BBC what he’s done for the Standard. Readership down 38 per cent in the latest figures. Piles of the paper unopened all over the city. People putting up signs asking for it not to be put through their letterboxes. pic.twitter.com/d38mjtmZ58
— Tim Walker (@ThatTimWalker) October 16, 2020