“Six Jobs Osborne” is the catalyst that has forced Parliament this week to examine the issue of MPs taking on work outwith their constituency and parliamentary duties. I was curious enough to try to track down what the ex-Chancellor’s half dozen jobs might be. They are allegedly as follows:
- Member of Parliament
- Editor, London Evening Standard
- Consultant, Blackrock, a US hedge fund (one day a week)
- Chairman, Northern Powerhouse Partnership
- Fellow at McCain Institute (a US think tank)
- Speaker, Washington’s Speaker’s Bureau.
Such a portfolio is not without precedent. None other than Sir Winston Churchill had a career divided between politics and journalism. He even started off as a newspaper war correspondent reporting on military campaigns in which he was taking part as an officer in the British Army. Conflict of interest? He caused outrage by being critical of the senior officers under whom he served. Throughout his parliamentary career he continued to write for the newspapers. He even, albeit briefly during the General Strike, put himself up as a newspaper editor. He was an author and historian. He was also a painter and a bricklayer. Clemmie said Winston lived like a Pasha. I think she meant he organised his life exactly the way he wanted it. He famously took a siesta. On September 15th, 1940, he went to bed between 4 pm and 8 pm. September 15th is Battle of Britain day. That was the day Field Marshall Goring sent over the entire Luftwaffe. That was the day Len Deighton’s SS GB might have become a reality. Churchill intoned “Never in the field of human conflict…” and then went to bed.
It just shows you; some people are walking, or think they are walking, with Destiny. I cannot imagine what it must be like to have this degree of Inner Belief. When I was a medical student I had the opportunity to take on a second job, playing my viola in 50% of the Scottish National Orchestra’s gigs. It was feasible on paper; I could have timetabled it, for a year. I said no. I never had cause to regret that decision. I realised that medicine was an all-or-nothing pursuit demanding nothing less than total commitment. Of course it was possible – indeed essential – to have hobbies, of which playing music might well be one. But my brief experience of playing in the SNO taught me that the life of a professional musician was also a life of commitment and devotion.
So I confess I’m sceptical about Mr Osborne editing a London newspaper in the morning and then attending the House of Commons in the afternoon to cast a vote. Might he not wish to take part in the morning’s debate? Maybe Her Majesty Opposition will deploy an argument so persuasive as to make him change his mind on an issue of the day. Or am I being hopelessly naïve? It occurs to me that the six jobs annotated above are not really jobs at all, in the sense that most people hold down a (single) job. If I said to a medical colleague, “I’m off to edit a newspaper” (or play my viola, or whatever), he might reasonably ask, “Who is going to look after the 32 patients booked in to see you?” I have this notion that the more exalted we become in our various fields of endeavour, the less useful we are to humanity. If the Minister of Health wakes up in the morning with a migraine he can reasonably throw a sickie. The Grand Strategy can wait. The GP migraineur on the contrary will take two paracetamol, drag himself out of bed and go to work because if he doesn’t, chaos will ensue. All the transactions that really matter to mankind are one-on-one. I venture to say this is what Jesus had in mind when he told his disciples that if they wanted to be first, they must put themselves last.
I’m intrigued by Mr Osborne’s one day a week with Blackrock (salary allegedly £650,000). I don’t even know what a hedge fund is. I looked it up in Bloomsbury:
Hedge fund n 1 US an investment company that is organised as a limited partnership and uses high-risk techniques in the hope of making large profits 2 a unit trust that invests in derivatives and other instruments that involve substantial risks and may yield extraordinary returns.
Well well. It’s a funny old world.