Why the media suddenly love George Osborne
One of the least expected and least appetising results of Theresa May’s bungled election has been the swift rehabilitation of the architect of austerity, George Osborne.
When not occupied by his jobs at Blackrock, the Washington Speakers Bureau, the McCain Institute and the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, the former Tory chancellor pretends to edit London’s Evening Standard.
It’s due to this new role that he has recently been seen grinning on television, from ITV’s election-night coverage to the paper review on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, generating headlines of his own with every outburst. On Marr, two days after the shock result, he wasted no time in delivering a pre-packaged soundbite, calling Theresa May ‘a dead woman walking’.
The Standard’s criticism of the Conservative election campaign has won Osborne praise from the commentariat. Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee told him on Marr that she ‘relished’ reading the Standard’s ‘poison’ since his takeover. ‘It’s the Standard wot won it’, she said of May’s downfall.
The fawning has clearly gone to his head. On the Marr sofa, Osborne proclaimed himself a serious ‘newspaper man’ – a title he’s claimed after just three months at the Standard and, prior to that, a brief stint freelancing for a Telegraph political gossip column in the 1990s. He had previously been rejected by both The Times and The Economist.
Why do so many in the media indulge this political has-been’s childish sniping from the sidelines? Having been sacked by Theresa May last year, he’s clearly just settling old scores. And yet traditional news sources drool over his every word, and his televised smirking at the Tories’ demise has been lapped up in meme form by the Twitterati and Buzzfeed types.
It’s not as if Osborne was ever that popular. During his time in office, he was nicknamed ‘the submarine’ for his habit of disappearing during elections (even the out-of-touch Tories recognised he was electoral asbestos). Nor does his record in office command any respect. He oversaw the most prolonged peacetime economic recovery since the South Sea Bubble in 1720.
In truth, Osborne’s new respectability among media types derives from the fact that he’s a staunch Remainer – he’s seen as a potential thorn in Brexit’s side. That’s why they lap up his editorials, calling for an end to ‘hard’ Brexit, despite the fact that his Project Fear predictions during the referendum have been totally discredited.
In response to the Brexit vote’s rejection of useless, anti-democratic technocrats, the Remainer elite is enlisting just such defunct figures in the service of Brexit-bashing. Alongside the drab John Major, the dastardly Alastair Campbell and the deluded Tony Blair, George Osborne is now among the ignoble leaders of the counter-revolution.
Fraser Myers is a producer at WORLDbytes.