Ex-Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has defended George Osborne’s appointment as Evening Standard editor, warning cabinet ministers fired by Theresa May will have their “voices heard”.
Mrs Morgan, who lost her job after Mrs May became PM, said sacked ministers are not just going to “disappear”.
The rules on MPs taking second jobs are to be discussed by a government watchdog on ethical standards.
The committee will meet on Thursday in the wake of Mr Osborne’s appointment.
But Mrs Morgan said if the Committee on Standards in Public Life is going to ban MPs from having outside jobs, “we’re going to have to stop MPs being ministers”.
‘We will be heard’
She claimed Mr Osborne had been “a very good constituency MP while he was chancellor”, which she described as “the ultimate second job”, adding: “We want talented, interesting people to take on these big jobs.”
But she told ITV’s Robert Peston: “George is very much about being the voice of the liberal Conservative party. When you’re fired as we all were last summer, what did they expect, the government? That we all just going to disappear?
“No, we are going to make our voices heard, whether it’s me writing articles, whether it’s George being editor of the Evening Standard.
“There’s a liberal Conservatism point of view to be talked about and we’re going to do that.”
‘Taking on too much’?
Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair also defended Mr Osborne’s appointment, telling BBC One’s Andrew Marr: “I don’t know whether having those jobs is doable or not, but I think it is a great thing for the Evening Standard. Why not? He is a highly capable guy and it should make politics more interesting.”
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But Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson told the same show: “I thought well ‘he’s a better man than me’ – because I spent 10 years as a journalist and six years as a politician and I’m not sure I could combine them both… so I’m not sure you can do both at the same time, if I’m honest.”
Former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who writes a column in the Evening Standard, told the BBC’s Sunday Politics he had not spoken to Mr Osborne about his new role, but warned “he’s taking a lot on”.
“He’s not only wanting to be an editor, he wants to continue being an MP in the north of England, to be a jet-setting academic in the United States, to earn a lot of money in the city… I suspect something will give.
“Even by George Osborne’s self confident standards in his own abilities, I suspect he’s taking on a little too much.”
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock told ITV’s Robert Peston: “When I first read this I thought it was fake news and sort of choked on my cornflakes.
“I think it’s completely unsustainable. One of the worrying things is: ‘will the Evening Standard become the propaganda arm of the Conservative Party?’ Conflicts of interest all over the place.”
But Conservative MP for Wimbledon, Stephen Hammond, defended Mr Osborne as “an extremely talented individual”.
“I think it is a surprise to a lot of people, but against that, we in London need as many people in London to stand up for us as we can – and I think George will ensure that’s true,” he said
Mr Osborne also faces criticism for not getting Cabinet Office approval before taking the post.
More than 100 MPs currently declare additional employment, ranging from lawyers and doctors to farmers and dentists.
But Lord Bew, who chairs the committee, said it would discuss whether the rules needed to be changed following the announcement on Friday that Mr Osborne was going to edit London’s free evening paper.
As well as being MP for Tatton, Cheshire, his latest job is in addition to his work as:
- An after-dinner speaker in the US
- Chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership
- Adviser to fund management firm Blackrock
- A fellow at the McCain Institute
Lord Bew, whose committee advises the prime minister on ethical standards for people in public office, said of Mr Osborne’s editorship: “We had something that, up to a degree, worked. It now seems to be getting into rockier waters.
“Unless someone sleeps two hours a night, that’s the only way I can see how this is not [too much].
“This is not personal to George Osborne. But [his case] raises the issue of how much time MPs have to devote to their parliamentary work.”
Polling suggests public attitudes have hardened against MPs taking second jobs – but there is also a desire for fewer career politicians. Since 2010, as a compromise, MPs have had to tell voters if they intend to hold a second job when elections are held.
But now, in light of Mr Osborne’s workload, Lord Bew has told the BBC that his committee, which suggested that compromise, will later this week debate whether MPs should be allowed the option of a second job at all.
The editorship announcement also came before Mr Osborne had received approval from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, or Acoba.
The body, within the Cabinet Office, is responsible for approving jobs taken by former ministers up to two years after they leave office.
Labour MP and shadow minister Andrew Gwynne has written to John Manzoni, the permanent secretary to the Cabinet Office, urging him to examine whether there was a breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.