George Osborne: May and Corbyn offering 'retreat from international liberalism'

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Theresa May has joined Jeremy Corbyn in offering a "retreat from international liberalism and globalisation", which marks a sharp shift in direction from David Cameron's administration, former chancellor George Osborne has said.

And Mr Osborne contrasted the Prime Minister's approach with the "socially liberal, pro-business and pro-free market" values which he wants to promote in his new role as editor of the Evening Standard.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Political Thinking, the former Conservative MP stood by criticisms of Mrs May's policies on social care and immigration, which have been the subject of stinging headlines and editorials since he took the helm at the Standard.

He denied that he was taking revenge on the woman who sacked him from the Cabinet last July, but said he would not "pull punches" in his coverage of the Tory government.

And he declined to say whether London's evening paper would endorse the Conservatives for the June 8 general election.

"Both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are offering, in very different ways, a retreat from international liberalism and globalisation," said Mr Osborne.

"That is quite a development in British politics, and I think there are quite a lot of people who are uncertain whether that is the right development and I want to make sure that the Evening Standard is asking on their behalf questions about that."

Shying away from classing the Standard as part of the "Tory press", Mr Osborne said: "I am taking a slightly different approach, which is that there are a set of values that the Evening Standard has, which are that we are socially liberal, we are pro-business and pro-free market, and we want Britain to have a big role in the world and those values we then apply to whatever the issues are."

Asked if the Standard's attacks on Mrs May's policies were a matter of "revenge", he replied: "No. What the paper is doing is standing up for a set of values that the paper has long espoused and by a happy coincidence are also the values I applied as chancellor."

Mr Osborne made clear that he was taking a hands-on approach to setting the Standard's tone, though he insisted that headlines - which have included the damning "Strong and stable? PM's care U-turn turmoil" - were the result of a "team effort".

He stood by the paper's description of the Conservative manifesto's social care proposals as "badly thought through", saying: "They were clearly badly thought through, because the Prime Minister herself decided to rethink them."

And he explained its denunciation of Mrs May's pledge to cut net migration below 100,000 as "politically rash and economically illiterate", adding: "The Evening Standard is saying `You have got a promise to reduce immigration so tell us how you are going to do it.

"Which section of industry is not going to have the labour it currently needs? Which families are not going to be able to be reunited with members of their families abroad? Which universities are not going to have overseas students?

"If the Conservative government can answer those questions, all well and good. If they can't, the Evening Standard is going to go on asking the question.

"We will also be as ferocious in asking questions of the Labour Party and, indeed, I am not particularly kind about the Liberal Democrats or Ukip."

The Standard will definitely make a recommendation on which way its readers should vote on June 8, said Mr Osborne. But asked by presenter Nick Robinson whether it would endorse the Tories, he said: "You have got to go on picking up your free copy of the London Evening Standard and you will find out, Nick."

Mr Osborne identified the immigration pledge, alongside the failure to reconstruct Libya, as shortcomings in the record of the Cameron administration. He said he was "proud" of what the former PM's team had achieved but would not spend his time as editor trying to defend its record "to the hilt".

He added: "I have to call it as I see it as editor. Of course everyone knows I was a Conservative MP for 16 years and I was a member of the Conservative cabinet and I know many of the people in the Conservative government, but it is also my responsibility as the editor to interpret what is going on in politics for my readers.

"I'm not pulling punches, because I would be doing my readers a disservice."

Asked if he was missing politics after stepping down from the Commons this month, Mr Osborne said: "Actually, I'm not missing it at all. I'm really enjoying covering the campaign as an editor. It's a very different perspective and it's good fun."