The former Chancellor and sitting MP did want to be a journalist in his early career and has now landed the job as boss of the influential London paper. He reportedly failed to join the Times and Economist as a young man and has now successfully made the switch. The revolving door usually turns the other way, with political journalists being called into Number 10 as heads of comms and media spads. Mr Osborne’s seat is due to be merged if constituency boundary changes go ahead, but this move, this early, was not expected in the least.
The question on political minds this afternoon is how he can possibly hold a credibly neutral editorial line. Anything criticising his party will be seen as treachery and any praise, sycophancy. As Robert Peston has immediately observed, it is hard to believe that the Conservative Party will not force Mr Osborne to make a choice. Boris Johnson edited the Spectator while an MP, but editing a daily publication is of a different order. A Tatton by-election looms?
For the PM this is potentially difficult news. No. 10 were not told about the announcement in advance and it’s been made just before the PM’s speech at Conservative Spring Conference. Theresa May publicly – and some say ruthlessly – ended Mr Osborne’s political career and she may live to regret it. Especially that is, if he is forced to stand down as an MP.
There is an additional question over whether this is a longer-term strategy for Mr Osborne. Rumour has it that Paul Dacre will not long be at the Mail and this could be positioning Mr Osborne to eventually take over at potentially the most influential job in media. This could also be seen as a play for London Mayor, as is being speculated in some Tory circles. Mr Osborne was known as a great survivor in politics, those who wrote him off could yet again be forced to eat their words.