If you need more evidence of the corruption of Westminster, the unseemly denouement of the Rifkind and Straw careers is even now being etched on to the brass plaque of ignominy. It must pain them deeply to see their hubris and smug self-regard exposed to the world. Yet neither seems to grasp in his denial of wrongdoing or promotion of entitlement, any culpability. Both belong to the days of Honourable Gentlemen, casual, unreceipted expenses and a carpeted stairway to a subsidised, gilded existence ending in the medieval museum of the Lords.
Having plateaued, the must now graze at will on the cash crop of others like buffalo on a reservation.
In their disdain for an income two and a half times the national average (plus free travel, subsidised food, supported mortgage and prolonged holidays) they spat their contempt for the people who put them there and the democracy that underwrites society. That none of these encounters and pecuniary negotiations was ‘against the rules’ – the primary defence – sums up precisely why Westminster is corroded like a leaky sewer pipe. Nobody else has such ‘rules’. They are not rules – they are subtle signposts to corruption. The chair of the intelligence committee…opening himself up to a Chinese company without a check? This is Olympian arrogance and neglect of duty.
But what is clearly on display from both is how impressively they regard themselves. Straw’s Jim Hacker-like braggadocio about the value of his name (goes without saying) and how cleverly he has acted on behalf of other masters swooping in to lift the prey from under the radar. The American CIA flights taking kidnapped innocents to undeclared prisons for waterboarding were kind of under the radar too, if I remember.
And Rifkind has delicately organised his career to his own precise arrangements, allowing some reading and walking, no doubt in the leafy boulevards of Chelsea, before chairing a board meeting of ArmorGroup, which makes millions from running mercenaries around global trouble spots.
The country has failed Malcolm. It doesn’t pay him commensurately with his professional qualifications. There are two answers to this. The first is: Use your qualifications to work as a lawyer instead and get out of Parliament. The second is: You knew the salary when you went in, so why stay? In fact he’s earning quarter of a million pounds a year like other former honourable politicians turned spivs like Alistair Darling.
If the case is that you have to keep up with changes in your profession or you lose your original career, then let’s make a special category for MPs whose service will be recognised for up to say a maximum at Westminster of 10 years. They will then suffer no diminution in their outside career status and can return to their job in return for serving the country. If they remain longer at Westminster, that’s their choice. Just stop moaning and wheedling money from elsewhere to justify your choice.
I’ve been pondering what the best fast response is to the Labour campaign ‘strategy’ of pretending a vote for the SNP is a vote for the Tories. Perhaps this is it…Labour want you to vote for the Tories – they prefer them to the SNP.
There is now a slew of public evidence that Labour is so rattled at the sheer scale of the SNP lead – I don’t blame them – that they are abandoning the normal protocols. The custom is to urge a vote for Labour wherever you live and indeed it is against party rules to help any other party in an election (obviously that only applies if you’re a member) although Labour were very happy to benefit from tactical voting to remove Tories in 1997.
But there are now so many eruptions of the I-prefer-the-Tories chant that they can’t all be quelled as quickly as Robert McNeil’s in Tranent.
Lewis Moonie, who was shunted into the Lords to make way for Gordon Brown, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/4349318/Labour-peers-Lord-Moonie-profile.html
was at it on Twitter, telling the Tory columnist Tim Montgomerie he preferred coalition with the Tories, and in my timeline I have something called Unite Against Separation run by a declared Labour supporter urging people to vote for whoever can stop the SNP.
I’m still waiting for a definitive statement from the Labour leadership laying out to Scots why they shouldn’t vote for Tories (or Lib Dems) or reminding them to vote Labour under all circumstances. Labour must have a full-time staffer detailed to remove offending online material, but disappearing the evidence won’t erase the suspicion that surreptitiously encouraging pro-Tory votes is official policy.
Maybe a mainstream interviewer will ask one day what the advice is in Moray, Perth or Dumfries and we can hear a party spokesman absolutely rule out urging a Tory vote. Meantime we have, apparently, an on on-the-ground Labour-led campaign (UAS), a party official who sits on the Policy Forum, and a Labour lord and friend of Gordon Brown, openly opting for Tories over SNP and the direct opposite of their own declared policy of removing the Tories. I suppose that’s a form of corruption too.