George Osborne, former Chancellor and now newbie editor, meets his newspaper staff at the London Evening Standard

Watch you don’t end up on the spike, George, says JULIAN COLE


SO, George Osborne is to edit the Evening Standard. Everyone’s a journalist these days. Anyone can write a column and put it online. And now anyone can edit a newspaper.

Newspaper experience? Some editors have written a lot of headlines in their time; this one, it appears, has had a lot of headlines written about him.

When did he find time to do his National Council for the Training of Journalists exams? Fitting in his shorthand must have been a nightmare, what with having to turn up ONE day a week to trouser £650,000 a year from US fund manager Black Rock plus making travel time to earn £800,000 in nine months making speeches to bankers and others in America.

Mind you, I am surprised the Tory MP for Tatton can even be bothered getting out of bed for his £75,000 parliamentary salary; perhaps he’ll end up not going to bed at all at this rate.

But no hard feelings. I even offer some handy hints for the novice editor:

HEADLINES are those big words at the top of the page. Those in the Standard usually support your lot, so you should feel at home, though should you feel tempted to attack Theresa May her short surname fits a headline well).

SPIKED stories, those that were ‘spiked’ or rejected  in times past, were impaled on spikes mounted in tins of once-molten lead. I wrote a novel in which an editor was murdered using one of those spikes; be careful.

An INTRO is the opening sentence of a story; a crosshead is a word that breaks up a column of type (although a crosshead may also refer to the incredulous journalists who can’t believe that you are now their boss).

And those are just for starters. It begs the question whether a full-time MP can possibly take on all this extra work but also suggs this latest job will actually be done by his deputy, allowing George a four-morning week after which he will pop off to Parliament later each day instead of being bogged down by ‘newspaper stuff’.

After all, HIS intro to staff was frankly revelatory: “I may have run the country but I’ve never run a paper.” Oh, I bet THAT had them rolling in the aisles.

And wondering if anyone had kept any of those old spikes.

Day One, Year Zero: a new editor’s first conference, by DAVID BANKS


Scene: Editors office, London Evening Standard.
Enter George Osborne bearing aloft a battered red despatch box.

OSBORNE: Morning everyone, don’t take a seat this can’t take long, I have a breakfast briefing at Black Rock in forty minutes, a photo session for the posters for my US speaking tour at 9am and the rest of the day I need to be watching my Ps and Qs at PMQs in the Commons in case Mother Theresa spots I’m missing. So how do I start the ball rolling? Let me see: good old Piers Morgan recommended shouting ‘Hold the front page!’
DEPUTY: No sir, it’s. . .
OSBORNE: Or was it ‘Stop the presses!’ perhaps. . .?
DEPUTY: Er, we only do that when we have to urgently replace the splash, sir.
OSBORNE: What is the splash?
DEPUTY: We were hoping that YOU would tell US, sir. The editor usually decides that.
OSBORNE: No, I mean what IS a splash?
DEPUTY: It’s the major story on Page One
OSBORNE: Oh goody! I always like a John Major story, ‘specially when he’s giving Brexit a biffing!
DEPUTY: Actually, sir. . .
OSBORNE: Good God, is that the time? Time I wasn’t here, you know what to do, right, er, whatever your name is? You might take a look at that ‘fake’ news President Trump is always banging on about; counterfeit cash a very dangerous commodity, could destabilise the economy overnight, got it? Now, I need a ride to the Ritz. Can do?
DEPUTY: Well, what happens is you take a black cab and reclaim the cost from accounts.
OSBORNE: How quaint. Well, if that’s all I’ll bid you good day and see you same time, same place — wherever this is — tomorrow. . .
DEPUTY: indeed, sir. By the way, talking of taxis. . .
OSBORNE: Taxes? Taxes? Not a word, man, that’s what cost me the Chancellor’s job in the first place!
DEPUTY: I was only going to say, sir, that if you need any help with your exes…?
OSBORNE: Why, what have you heard. Whatever they say I don’t know ANY of those women!
DEPUTY (sighs): Have a good day, sir. . .

Three cheers for the Standard! JACKIE KAINES-LANG has a laugh


It’s easy to revile and loathe George Osborne: greed for both money and limelight are not attractive, are they?

While you’re still considering the above question (not as easy to answer as you first thought, eh?) I’d like to take the opportunity to give credit where credit is due for this appointment that quite a few seem to have found jaw-droppingly surprising and perhaps a tad inappropriate.

Hip-Hip-Hurrah for the London Evening Standard, say I!

I congratulate you, O Mighty Voice of London, that you have not appointed any of those ne’er-do-well qualified journalists and editors who have worked tirelessly to deliver news to the general public for years and years on ever-diminishing salaries. Nicely done!

I give you three cheers for sidestepping the ludicrous idea of appointing a female editor or an editor from an ethnic minority. Far more sensible (and, dare I say, original?) to place the news into the un-ink-stained hands of a middle-aged white male educated at Eton. Someone who always wanted to be a journalist but never quite got around to training as one. Yay!

I salute you for netting a person who will deliver insider knowledge on politics and policy that no other candidate could possible deliver. Maybe a dual editorship with, say, Labour’s Yvette Cooper would have been more balanced . . . but, hey, what with being an MP and a mother I expect Yvette has her hands full. Besides, impartiality is a bygone notion. Get in!

I am in awe of a newspaper that has taken citizen journalism to a whole new level. Most papers are gleaning news, views and stories for free from the person on the street. This concept of paying an unqualified person to edit the news is sheer genius! Ker-ching!

Yes, Evening Standard, I do believe you have pulled off the PR coup of the year. Personally, I feel poor George is the innocent victim in all this.

After all, it wold have been hard to say ‘no’ to such a very tempting offer.

Dump the experts, give us amateurs! BERNARD TRAFFORD’s view


This is the age of the inexpert. It’s tempting, perhaps, to talk rather of the age of the glorious amateur.

But I’m not discussing amateurs here, rather people who seem to be winning highly-paid jobs for which they’re simply not qualified.

Take Donald Trump, the fabulously wealthy outsider elected President of the United States. He sold himself on a ticket of ignorance: characterising the political establishment as corrupt and dirty, he presented himself as the candidate to clean out that particular Augean stable. His total lack of experience in policy and government was presented as a virtue.

Back home there’s a similar fashion for decrying the expert. Remember Michael Gove, in particular, leading the charge against the “so-called experts” who were (sincerely, surely?) outlining the dangers of Brexit. Moreover, in contradiction of Gove’s recent journalistic statements, teachers never felt valued for their knowledge or experience when he was Secretary of State for Education.

There were fewer screaming headlines when another journalist, Sarah Sands, an experienced newspaper editor (of the Standard, indeed) but significantly unqualified in radio, was appointed to edit BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, that most listened-to, cutting-edge news broadcast.

Perhaps more crucial to our society, we should surely worry about former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne being appointed editor of the Evening Standard. What would possess that paper to appoint someone with next-to-no experience of journalism, I cannot think.

But I suspect his Cheshire constituents in Tatton, whom the champion of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is supposed to represent at Westminster, might be feeling shortchanged. Still, he’s already been earning a fortune doing one day a week for a merchant bank, so I guess they’re already accustomed to having only 0.8 of an MP.

It’s bizarre: maybe distrust of knowledge is just something prevalent at the moment, while fake news is trendy.

When the amateurs have messed up key roles, maybe we’ll look again for leaders who know what they’re about, possibly even possessing qualifications and/or relevant experience.

I sure hope so.


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