Friday 17 November 2017

'Anti-Brexit plot' claims as Osborne takes job as paper editor

Ex-chancellor George Osborne. Photo: Getty
Ex-chancellor George Osborne. Photo: Getty

Steven Swinford, Christopher Hope and Laura Hughes London

George Osbone was unveiled as the new editor of the London 'Evening Standard' yesterday in a surprise announcement that led to accusations that he is plotting to undermine Prime Minister Theresa May's plans for a clean Brexit.

The former chancellor was facing open calls from Tory MPs to quit parliament amid concerns about a series of conflicts of interests over the appointment.

Mr Osborne now has six jobs and will earn more than £1.5m (€1.73m) this year.

His appointment provoked fury in Downing Street and allegations from Mrs May's allies that he will use his "new power base" to "slam" the government's Brexit plans.

"It's all about establishing a power base. He lost the argument last year in the referendum, he lost influence in parliament," a senior government source said.

"Now he thinks he can start a new debate as the editor of a newspaper. As a major newspaper that represents the City and has a huge voice, you can kick up quite a stink and absolutely slam the government's Brexit plans. It's not subtle, he wants to keep Britain in the single market. He cannot stay on as an MP, it's absolutely disgraceful."

Fearless

Mr Osborne has warned Mrs May he is prepared to "fight" the government over Brexit issues, including access to the single market, free trade and immigration.

"We will be fearless as a paper fighting for their interests. We will judge what the government, London's politicians and the political parties do against this simple test: is it good for our readers and good for London? If it is, we'll support them. If it isn't, we'll be quick to say so," he said yesterday.

A senior Tory MP said: "He wants to use this to bring Theresa down, to oppose the referendum, to campaign relentlessly on the Remain ticket."

Philip Davies, a Conservative MP, said: "I am sure there are many newspaper editors who will be interested to know that their job is not a full-time job."

Former prime minister David Cameron described the appointment as a "great move" after he bumped into an 'Independent' journalist while shopping at an organic food store close to the 'Evening Standard' offices.

Mr Osborne has limited journalistic experience. After leaving Oxford University he failed to get a place on 'The Times' trainee scheme and worked briefly as a freelancer for the 'Daily Telegraph' Peterborough diary column.

Meanwhile, a poll for the 'Daily Telegraph' has revealed that Brexit is more important to voters than keeping the UK together. Almost two thirds of people agreed that Britain's EU departure mattered more than stopping the UK's break-up, while just 27pc disagreed.

Furthermore, a majority of respondents said they would still vote for Brexit even if they knew it could trigger Scotland's independence.

The results indicate that UK voters agree with Mrs May that no independence referendum should be held until Brexit is complete. It also suggests there is no "buyer's remorse" for pulling Britain out of the EU despite a dramatic week in which the UK's future has been called into question.

Mrs May yesterday pledged to fight "heart and soul" to keep the "precious, precious union" together after the SNP demanded a second referendum. She has rejected a demand from Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, for a vote before spring 2019, when Britain is likely to leave the EU.

Senior SNP figures yesterday refused to rule out holding an "advisory" independence referendum - one which would not be legally binding but could build pressure on Westminster. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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