It is not often that an ex-Tory Chancellor gets compared by a former Cabinet colleague to Gordon Gekko. But that was how Iain Duncan Smith reportedly described George Osborne taking a sixth well-paid job last week, after putting himself forward to be editor of the Evening Standard.
I suspect that Wall Street was among the ambitious (and highly personable, I should add) young Osborne’s favourite films when growing up. He has collected jobs in the past year since being sacked like Gekko collected companies.
It’s worth remembering that Gekko’s downfall resulted not so much from greed, but from trying, like a modern Faust, to corrupt his protégé, the young stockbroker Bud Fox – who finally saw the light and realised how decadent and empty Gekko was. As Bud’s former boss Lou Mannheim reminds him: “The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don’t want to do.”
This may turn out to be true for Osborne. We have heard a lot about “conflicts of interest”, but what I believe he hasn’t thought through is the effect that taking six jobs will do in terms of conflicting himself. Taking on too much never makes anybody happy. Yes, I am aware of the saying “if you want something done give it to the busiest person you know”. But I disagree. In my experience, male multitasking leads to disappointment and failure as it slowly dawns on you that you have taken on too much.
This inability to truly succeed at any one thing slowly eats at you. The Catholic film director and critic Eric Rohmer, who studied theology, came up with the following line in his film Full Moon in Paris: “The one who has two wives loses his soul, the one who has two houses loses his mind.”
Osborne was handed the £200,000-plus job (editing just four days a week) despite having no experience of office journalism other than editing The Isis at Oxford (where he published articles on poker and the Marquis de Sade) and freelancing for the Telegraph’s Peterborough column after leaving university. He applied for a place as a graduate trainee on the Times but failed to be chosen. Osborne says he wants to remain an influence in “public life” and to hold the Government to account. But surely this is what the opposition parties should be doing, not an elected Tory MP.
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