Saturday, June 27, 2009

Moonlighting MPs In Spotlight Of Shame

MPs are bracing themselves for fresh revelations over obscene earnings from the great outdoors as some start to make a sharp exit from their sharp practices in the House of Greed. As the spotlight turns from second homes to second jobs, 'moonlighting' Milburn is an early runner.

Brown is hoping Tories will be painted as the Party of Plenty but when greed breeds, there's no account for taste.

For most people, a second job means getting home knackered and dragging yourself out again just to make ends meet. For some MPs it's a nice little earner and a chance to make a mint on the back of their influence and on the back of taxpayers who pay their wages plus expenses and put them in power in the first place.

Cameron's Tories will be caught like rabbits in the headlights of the moonlight as Brown is set to make MPs' second jobs his next big thing for a summer clean-up of the Palace of Plenty and some MPs scrabble for the exit before a July 1 deadline to come clean over lucrative earings. It's not just the Tories or New Labour. LibDems like John Hemming are making a packet on the side.

But today up popped arch Blairite ex-cabinet minister, Alan Milburn, leaving politics to once again spend more time with his family. A regular thorn in the side of Brownies, he's no great loss to the true Labour Party.

On the surface cheerleader Hattie Harman’s plan to ban MPs from having second jobs, was a golden chance to wrong-foot the Tories. But what happens when New Labour MPs are booted out of office and the boot is on the other foot?

Faced with years in the political wilderness, scraping a meagre living as an MP earning three times more than average Joe, government MPs face a close call in the dying days of the New Labour brand. Leaving parliament before the election with a fat pay-off may make financial sense but makes a mockery of their bleatings that they are just in it to serve the people.

On balance Tories are probably worse culprits of this shady practice. But as with the expenses scandal they are not the government. New Labour is the party of government and has the most to lose in the court of public opinion.

Cameron is having a stab at cleaning up. So too Brown. But, as with the expenses scandal, this is more a chance for them to clear out the deadwood and axe those whose face doesn't fit in the new election order, rather than a root and branch clear out of the crooks, spivs and chancers.

After all, would a leader sack a general on the eve of battle, unless that general was useless, plotting a coup or the leader is so deluded they think they can win the battle all on their lonesome.

But Cameron is learning from Brown's mistakes. Making sure everything is shipshape before setting sail is always a better bet than finding out you've not enough lifeboats after you've hit an iceberg.

So shadow foreign secretary and after-dinner darling, William Hague, who last year earned a fortune, has now started giving up his outside interests to concentrate on the day job.

Penning the odd newspaper article or giving the odd after-dinner speech is part and parcel of being a politician. But hiding full earnings from the public or masking the whiff of conflict of interest takes MPs down the slippery slope of sleaze.

MPs don't take up second jobs for the fun of it, they do it for the cash. Firms don't hand over the dosh out of the goodness of their hearts - they're in it for political influence.

Former health secretary Milburn manages to squeeze in quite a few odd jobs while raking a fat MPs' salary plus expenses. A non-executive director at Swedish healthcare company Diaverum AB, he's also earned more than £25,000 as a member of Lloyd's pharmacy healthcare advisory panel. And over £20,000 as Member of the Advisory Board of PepsiCo UK, according to his entry in the register of members' interests.

His departure follows on the heels of former trade minister, Ian McCartney who's announced he is standing down at the next election and giving up a £113,000 consultancy with American gas and oil company Fluor.

Meanwhile, top Tory Oliver Letwin, has promised to give up 60 grand a year doing work for the Rothschild bank. Frontbencher David Willetts has said he'll be giving up his 80 grand a-year as consultant. Alan Duncan has agreed to scale back his complex interests. Others are digging in their heels.

For Brown now the danger also lies in ex-ministers being a bit too quick to jump ship and jump in bed with firms linked to previous political responsibilities.

The register of members' interests doesn't reveal the full picture. What's needed is an 'expenses file' showing how much MPs rake in on the side. Maybe the Telegraph will oblige.

Milburn wasn't the first and won't be the last to leave for pastures new. As with the expenses scandal, the 'moonlighting' revelations will end up damaging all MPs in the eyes of an increasingly fed-up and disgusted public.

All MPs are tarred with the same rotten brush however squeaky clean some certainly are and that damages politics. But MPs have only themselves and their greed to blame for getting themselves in another fine mess in the first place.

The Orange Party has a simple solution - just deduct the cash for jobs from MPs' salaries plus expenses. Any left over give it to charity. After all MPs bleat on about just wanting to "serve the public". Put the money where their mouth is.

1 comment:

Oldrightie said...

"Brown is hoping Tories will be painted as the Party of Plenty but when greed breeds, there's no account for taste."

What an operator. Stuff the Country as long ass we shaft the human nature of greed. Look, Jimmy, you are finished, so give us a General Election.