Rifkind and Straw: The Cluelessness of Our Political Establishment

by George_East on February 23, 2015

Here we go again.  Allegations of two senior politicians with their snouts in the trough.   A sting operation by the media, following the usual pattern – fakeJack straw company wanting access to decision makers.  Politicians only too willing to help and brag about how they can open doors.  Only too willing to be stung.  For a price.  It is all so grubby.

Both Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind have had the party whip removed – Straw straight away, as soon as the story broke last night, Rifkind today as his position became increasingly untenable.    Neither have shown any repentance (or indeed accepted they have done anything wrong).  Straw has said that he is ‘mortified’ for being caught out by the media sting but not that he was mortified by saying that his daily rate for a speech was ‘£5,000’ and that he operated ‘under the radar’.  Similarly Rifkind has moaned about how ‘most people’ want their MPs to be more than just politicians and that was all he was doing (for £5,000-£8,000 for half a day you understand).

Malcom RifkindEd Miliband, to his credit, has said that this is the final nail in the coffin for MPs having outside jobs and consultancies and that if Labour win in May it will legislate to prevent it continuing.  Cameron has, sadly, denounced Labour’s plans, missing the point spectacularly by suggesting that it would prevent MPs from running small family shops (such as who?).

What though is most revealing is the special pleading.   Rifkind complained this morning that the measly MPs salary of £67,000 per annum was not comparable to the salaries of ‘most professionals’.   Jack Straw said that if Miliband’s plans were going to be implemented then there would have to be a big hike in MPs salaries first.

£67,000 represents nearly 3 times the average British salary and is an unimaginable high salary for most of the population – one they could never realistically earn.  Even if the comparison point is ‘professionals’ as Rifkind suggested, it is, I wager, higher than earnings of most professionals.  Teachers, nurses, social workers, academics, journalists, junior hospital doctors and, yes, most lawyers and accountants will all be lucky to earn anything like this.   It is true that it is not a great sum compared to bankers, commercial lawyers, consultant surgeons or top  newspaper columnists but that is a rarefied world.   It is a salary that puts MPs in the top 10% of earners in the country.

And of course £67,000 is only the beginning.  MPs are entitled to office expenses allowing many to employ family members, expenses by way of living costs and travel.  The living costs include payments of mortgage interest on second homes which have allowed very many MPs perfectly lawfully (and perfectly disgracefully) to make huge profits on houses riding the property market, that they have only bought because the tax payer has paid the mortgage.

Yet because MPs mix primarily with folk who earn more than them, they feel they are hard done by.  They are utterly clueless about the reality of life for those they represent.  They live in a self-reinforcing bubble of entitlement.  In the cases of Straw and Rifkind, senior politicians who could have left the Commons and taken up umpteen board positions and other paying gigs if they so chose it smacks of a particular kind of greed. The desire to retain the status that being a Member of Parliament brings but the benefits of being a free agent selling oneself to the highest bidder.

The notion of becoming a politician for the sake of public service seems as old fashioned and quaint as the idea of nationalised industries.  And perhaps therein lies the rub.   Once upon a time before the Thatcher years there was some such thing as society, a broader purpose, a wider national interest.  These days it feels like a spiv elite fighting over their shares of the spoils, while the rest of the population can go hang.    What is good enough for the bankers is good enough for former foreign secretaries it would appear.

A banana republic indeed.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ozy Mandias February 24, 2015 at 11:35 am

The Junior Prefect from 5th Remove finally came out out & proved to be the chiselling little weasel he has always been – just the sort of chap the GCHQ Wallahs prefer to have Chair the relevant Select Committee overseeing their squalid peepshow doncha know!

Hear he’s resigned from all sorts of things this morning – Jolly riddnace I say…

Toodle Pip

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