George Osborne deserved all the ribbing he got over the way he announced the £650,000 a year salary for his new advisory gig at BlackRock.
It was not the first time he has used the cover of a bigger story (in this case, the Budget) to sneak out news: he originally unveiled his appointment at the asset manager on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.
What he did not deserve, though, was the whingeing over the number of zeroes in his new pay cheque.
The backlash against Osborne’s extracurricular earnings, now roughly £1.6m if you include the £790,000 he has made from after-dinner speeches, the £120,000 he will earn for his work for the McCain Institute and the £75,000 he makes as an MP, was crushingly predictable. It was not the first time he has been party to such faux outrage, either: in 2013 an innocuous tweet showing him tucking into a burger worth (gasp) £10 led to accusations he and the founder of burger chain Byron had somehow been in cahoots, using the tweet as a publicity stunt (to be clear: they weren’t. It wasn’t. Osborne just fancied a cheeseburger).
The volley of criticism which followed this week’s announcement was not unlike the furore surrounding the £1,000 pay rise MPs were awarded at the end of last year, which prompted a barrage of complaints from those angry that “nurses, teaching assistants and care workers” had received lower pay rises. The average MP works 70 hours a week, often spending weekdays miles from their homes and families. But if nurses, teaching assistants or care workers make cash in their spare time, it is no one’s business but theirs. Because of their visibility, politicians must defend every penny they make.
So far, the details of Osborne’s actual role at BlackRock are fairly oblique: he may simply act as a figurehead for the company, or he may do something more hands-on. What we do know is the role will take up four days a month. Admittedly, it seems like a cushy job to land. But whether Osborne is worth the money should be down to BlackRock’s clients, rather than the general public, to decide.