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TEFLON TOFF George Osborne is being ridiculed by couriers after his newspaper launched a campaign with gig economy giant Deliveroo to tackle food poverty.
Mr Osborne’s paper, the Evening Standard, ran a front-page story last week headlined: “Deliveroo pledges £5 to feed hungry children with every order.”
The Deliveroo campaign aimed to raise up to £50,000 for food poverty charity The Felix Trust, which takes surplus food from supermarkets and gives it to schools and other charities across London.
In the paper’s editorial, the Tory ex-chancellor urged Evening Standard readers to “Order from Deliveroo tonight” if they wanted to “help feed Londoners in need and get fed yourself.”
However, the initiative has been condemned by Deliveroo couriers, who say that Mr Osborne is to blame for Londoners going hungry.
Last spring Mr Osborne was widely condemned after the Standard signed up six companies, including Uber and Google, to a scheme where they paid a combined £3 million to the paper in return for ironically misnamed “money can’t buy” positive coverage, in which news stories promoting the firms would be run without any indication being given to readers that they were part of a commercial deal.
The Morning Star does not suggest Deliveroo has paid for coverage, but the company does have close links to Mr Osborne, and has thrived from the precarious gig economy he created as chancellor.
The vice-president of global communications and policy at Deliveroo is Thea Rogers, who was a special adviser to Mr Osborne when he was the Tory chancellor.
Ms Rogers worked in several senior positions at the Treasury from 2013 to 2016, when the number of people using foodbanks soared, under pressure from Tory austerity.
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) trade union, which organisers Deliveroo couriers, told the Star: “It comes as no surprise that, after creating the low-wage precarious economy that necessitates foodbanks, the ex-chancellor and his old friend (now one of the leading lights at Deliveroo) have the gall to try to drum up business by posing as the caring-sharing types trying to alleviate the very situation they helped create! No doubt Deliveroo will be pocketing a tidy sum from these orders too.”
IWW’s press officer James Camps continued his stinging rebuke, saying “This type of ‘charitable’ act is nothing more than an attempt to exploit people’s goodwill at this time of year to make a quick buck.
“If Deliveroo really wanted to improve things for the most precarious in our country,” he challenged the firm, “how about starting by giving your riders the proper protections, wages and rights they are due?”
However, its executives appear unconcerned by critics, with a spokesperson telling the Star that “Deliveroo is proud to support this amazing charity and the work it does delivering food to charities and schools across London.”
In a remarkable comment, Deliveroo said “We wish the Morning Star and its readers a happy Christmas.”
The Star covered Deliveroo extensively in 2018, as the firm fought off court challenges from couriers demanding trade union recognition.
The company attracted more anger on Friday when IWW revealed it had sacked around 100 couriers by email in the run-up to Christmas, allegedly for fraud. The firm failed to produce evidence of fraudulent activity when contacted by the Star.
A spokesperson from ESI Media, which owns the Evening Standard, said: “It is astonishing that anyone should question a newspaper working with a successful business to support a great charity like the Felix Project help hungry people at Christmas.”
The Felix Project did not respond to requests for comment.
As well as editing the Evening Standard, Mr Osborne reportedly earns £650,000-a-year for working one day a week for the investment fund Blackrock.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4 on Saturday, he said his austerity policies were not to blame for a rise in poverty and homelessness.
Mr Osborne complained that “people in wealthy Kensington” were stopping him in the street to complain about scrapping tax breaks for non-doms.
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