Who are the puppet masters?

Members of Parliament are supposed to represent our interests. We elect them, and we hold them to account at general elections. Many MPs have outside 'interests', and some get paid handsomely for them. This inevitably creates a conflict of interest.  It begs the question: whose interests do they serve?

The former cabinet minister Owen Paterson has declared that he receives a total of £112,000 a year from two firms, on top of his parliamentary salary of £79,000.

Owen Paterson charges them £500 an hour.

Let's put that into perspective. The national 'living' wage is just over £8 an hour.  The 'living' wage is what Mr Paterson receives for each minute he is advising these companies!  I wonder to whom he gives priority time: to a constituent on a living wage or the company that pays him so handsomely for that time.

Whether or not Mr Paterson has ever misbehaved regarding these interests is not a question we can answer.  But what we do know is that a conflict exists. 

Boris Johnson is paid well for the column he writes for The Daily Telegraph.  Not only does he get paid well for it, but it serves as a political platform.  

Now, it is good that MPs do have lives outside parliament.  We need to encourage more representatives with experience outside politics.   But where is the balance between personal pecuniary interest and public interest?  

Simply declaring such interests does not solve the problem.  On the contrary, it seems that declaring them sometimes gives questionable relationships and conflicts of interest a cloak of respectability as if the very act of declaring their interest absolves any problem.  But it doesn't.  The conflict of interests remains: who does the MP serve? 

There are rules, of course, governing the conduct of MPs and their interests.  One such rule is that House of Commons headed notepaper must not be used in representing any case to government for a firm for which the MP acts as an adviser.   Headed notepaper? As if nobody knows that the Member of Parliament is a Member of Parliament? 

It seems it is acceptable if an MP writes on behalf of a company he or she represents as long as he doesn't do so in their role as MP.   This is nonsense, of course.  Does he really put aside his interest depending on which headed notepaper he uses?  

This is not a trivial problem.   It is a significant problem in political representation. 

Who are the puppet masters of our MPs?  








Comments

Popular Posts