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George Osborne has written to his Tatton constituents insisting that his work as a Cheshire MP “continues unaffected” by his controversial decision to take up the editorship of the London Evening Standard.
Mr Osborne has told friends he has no intention of standing down, but his letter to his electors reinforced the impression that he might reconsider if there was a clamour for him to choose between his political career and his new media role.
“I believe diversity of experience makes our parliament stronger,” he said in an open letter to constituents in the Knutsford Guardian. “I hope you agree and I look forward to continuing to hear what you have to say and to work with you on the problems we face and the great future we can all build.”
Earlier in the week Mr Osborne told fellow MPs that he would “listen to what my colleagues have to say” about the appointment. Mr Osborne insists he can edit the Evening Standard in the morning and perform his duties as an MP in the afternoon.
But some Tory MPs believe that Mr Osborne, who will also earn £650,000 for working one day a week advising BlackRock, has pushed things too far and that he will be forced to stand down from his Westminster seat.
“People didn’t say it to his face in the chamber on Monday,” said one senior Tory MP. “But there is a lot of unhappiness. A number of us have complained to the chief whip.”
Friends say Mr Osborne believes he can do both jobs but accepts that he may come under pressure to quit parliament. The former chancellor has not ruled out the prospect of one day leading his party, one reason for holding on to his job as an MP.
An ethics committee, chaired by former Conservative minister Baroness Browning, is assessing Mr Osborne’s new job. The body considers whether new jobs for former ministers could present a conflict of interest.
However, the advisory committee on business appointments (Acoba), was irritated by the fact that Mr Osborne did not consult it before accepting the Standard job and could criticise him, even though it has never vetoed an appointment.
Separately, the parliamentary committee on standards is to review rules on MPs taking second jobs following Mr Osborne’s appointment: he also chairs the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, is well remunerated for public speaking and has accepted a US Kissinger fellowship to help politicians “hone their own skills as statesmen”.
Questions have also been raised about Mr Osborne’s ability to edit a major newspaper without conflicts of interest arising from his role as a Tory MP and an adviser to BlackRock.
Mr Osborne tried to make light of the criticism in a Commons debate triggered by his appointment, saying: “I thought it was important to be here, though unfortunately we have missed the deadline of the Evening Standard.”
In his letter to the Knutsford Guardian he said it was “the greatest honour” to represent Tatton in parliament, arguing he was always able to serve the constituency while working “dawn to dusk, on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week” as chancellor from 2010-2016.
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