Skip to main content

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 from this blog

The lion and the wildebeest

Birds flock, fish school, bees swarm, but social being is more than simply sticking together.  Social groups enable specialisation and a sharing of abilities, and enhances ability, learning and creating new tricks. The more a group works together, the more effective they become as a team.  Chimpanzees learn from each other how to use stones to crack nuts, or sticks to get termites.  All around us we see cooperation and learning in nature.  Nature is inherently creative.  Pulling together becomes a rallying cry during a crisis.  We have heard it throughout the coronavirus pandemic.  "We are all in this together", a mantra that encourages people to adopt a common strategy. In an era of 'self-interest' and 'survival of the fittest,'  and 'selfish gene', we lose sight of the obvious conclusion from the evidence all around us.   Sticking together is more often the better approach.  This is valid for the lion as it is also for the wildebeest.   We don't

Noise pollution puts nature at risk

 "I just want a bit of peace and quiet!" Let's get away from all the hustle and bustle; the sound of endless traffic on the roads, of the trains on the railway, and the planes in the sky; the incessant drone; the noise. We live in a world of man-made noise; screeching, bellowing, on-and-on in an unmelodious cacophony.  This constant background noise has now become a significant health hazard.   With average background levels of 60 decibels, those who live in cities are often exposed to noise over 85 decibels, enough to cause significant hearing loss over time.  It causes stress, high blood pressure, headache and loss of sleep and poor health and well-being.   In nature, noise has content and significance.  From the roar of the lion, the laughing of a hyena,  communication is essential for life; as the warning of danger, for bonding as a group or a pair, finding a mate, or for establishing a position in a hierarchy - chattering works.  Staying in touch is vital to working

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba