Media minister Matthew Hancock has been warned by opposition MPs that he faces a conflict of interest over his role as press regulator following the appointment of his former boss, George Osborne, as editor of the Evening Standard.
Labour deputy leader and shadow culture secretary Tom Watson has asked Hancock to excuse himself from policy discussions relating to the title and its commercial interests as a result, or even consider a transfer to another post.
In a letter Watson wrote, he said: “… as a minister of state at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport you now have ministerial responsibility for areas in which George Osborne and his new employer have a commercial interest.
“As editor of the London Evening Standard, Mr Osborne can be expected to seek to influence ministers on media policy, in line with his views and the views of his paper’s proprietor, Mr Alexander Lebedev, both in the pages of the newspaper and in meetings with ministers. You would be one of the chief targets of any such attempts to influence media policy.”
Osborne’s surprise appointment as editor of the London paper has caused consternation among many MP’s dubious of his capacity to conduct his duties as an elected politician on top of his added responsibilities as a newspaper editor.
Osborne has defended his role however, asserting that parliament is ‘enhanced’ by embracing a variety of professions although he has agreed to listen to the concerns of colleagues - if not those expressed on Twitter.