George Osborne was David Cameron's Chancellor of the Exchequer, the architect of UK austerity; he was fired by Theresa May when she became Prime Minister and he did not run for re-election in the disastrous election of 2017, instead taking a job as editor-in-chief of the Evening Standard.
At the Evening Standard, Obsorne concocted a momey-making scheme called London 2020 that involved selling "favourable" coverage to large corporations, promising them "money-can't-buy" articles that would run as regular editorials without any indication that they were paid-for ads, and not journalistic stories.
Companies paid up to £500,000 for inclusion in the scheme, including Uber (Osborne is given £650,000/year as a part-time advisor to Uber investors Blackrock, who hold a £500m stake in Uber) and Google. Starbucks was pitched but did not sign up.
As part of the sales pitch at the Evening Standard’s West London offices, would-be partners were told to expect campaigns that will “generate numerous news stories, comment pieces and high-profile backers”.
One executive with knowledge of the project said that the paying partners were told that their company’s own planned communications and marketing strategies could be coordinated with the Standard’s news coverage. The Standard would trail positive “news” from the six 2020 partners, with other news organisations and media outlets expected to follow.
Another executive was told the “money-can’t-buy” campaigns in the Standard aimed to create “news that will make news, but news that comes with a positive message.” According to one insider: “What was being offered was clear – theatrically constructed news, showing everything good being done.”
“What was being offered was clear – theatrically constructed news, showing everything good being done.”
Uber, for its half-million fee, will be given the branded lead role in the “clean air project” which is supposed to highlight the benefits of “cleaner transport” and of turning London “electric” by 2020.
George Osborne’s London Evening Standard sells its editorial independence to Uber, Google and others – for £3 million [James Cusick/Open Democracy]