Prairie Dogs

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,

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.


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19 thoughts on “Prairie Dogs

  1. Well,it shouldn’t be any surprise when two political parties effectively share the same policies,British Labour and British Tory,that they advocate supporting each other against the threat of social democracy.
    The SNP represents the major threat to the neoliberal Westminster cartel run by Labour and the Tories but fortunately “Scottish” Labour are doing little to try and hide this from the Scottish electorate and will pay the price in May.
    Thanks Derek.

  2. Another brilliant piece Derek, you nailed my thoughts on Rifkind and Straw.
    I’ve just been watching Prime Minister’s Questions. There’s no way Cameron or many of the braying mob on either side would really want anything to change in that finest of gentlemans clubs. And when this current storm dies down it will be business as usual no matter who gets in for as long as they are making their own rules. It’s just too lucrative.
    Labour in Scotland have such an in-built blinding hatred of the SNP that they would advocate a Tory or UKIP or anyone else in their rage to subjugate a rampant SNP.

  3. Malcolm Rifkind, who when Secretary of State for Scotland brought the Poll Tax upon us. Which hastened the demise of the Tory party in Scotland. Can’t say I feel sorry for him.

  4. Prairie Dogs

    Your title brought to mind a joke my brother told me well over 60years ago It goes like this

    Q Why do prairie dogs howl in the night?

    A Because there aint no trees in the prairie only cacti

    Not being so well versed in those days as the young of today are it took me years to figure it out That’s why I remember it so well

    It would appear there still aint no trees in the prairie given the howls we are hearing on a daily basis

  5. Bugger (the Panda)

    The media circus around Messrs Riffkin and Straw has morphed into a Riffkin only witch hunt.

    Straw slides down under the radar and the MSM say sweet SFA.

    So, Straw invited Chinese nationals to the H of C with no idea who they were and had them issued with security passes, He then took them for a walk round the place after his pitch.

    I in my working life have visited several US Government research laboratories and each time I had to be vetted before being permitted. What they did with information they requested, and I supplied, I have no idea but I know several people of a group who were refused entry.

    China does have have a muslim region which is under the occupation of the Army of the PRC and bombs have been detonated as far away as Beijing. It is very difficult to gain entry for Western journalists to these area but rumours of a higher level of “insurgence” than is the official line.

    Straw is guilty of monumental hubris to boot. A thoroughly oleaginous reptilian upstart.

    A role model for Jim Murphy?

  6. Nice bison.

  7. All this talk of tactical voting (and the lobbying scandal) just reminds me of the joke that is UK democracy. We have a political system in the UK that is not fit for purpose you should be able to vote for who you want and this should be reflected in the outcome.

    This for me is one of the key reasons why people are switched off by politics in this country and it was one of the key reasons I voted Yes. I want to live in a country with a written constitution and a balanced and fair electoral system.

    During the campaign it was interesting that the Establishment and their cronies in the media did everything they could to keep these issues out of the debate and instead controlled the agenda with their constant carping and doom and gloom over economics.

    I expect nothing less from the Tories with their seedy right control freak tendencies but the fact the self proclaimed “People’s Party” and the political prostitutes that are the Lib Dems refuse to actually do anything radical in regard to the political system speaks volumes. They are not democrats they are all part of the British Establishment, the “them” as opposed to “us”. I hope all those people who voted No are happy with what they have done……

  8. It is a great joy to some of us to see Westminster politicians digging their own mass grave. Most of them seem to jumping in under their own steam, which saves us the time and effort it would take to shovel them in ourselves.

  9. Huh. I’ve got two degrees and a doctorate, and I never got a sniff of a gross salary over £60,000 p.a. in my entire career.

    The sense of entitlement is nauseating.

  10. Some of us are better than others. Some of us are above rules and laws. The world owes some of us a living commensurate with our exalted position reached after many years (decades even) of being economic with the truth. Some of us lend our names to positions, thereby increasing their authority and status, whilst minions carry out the drudgery of the actual work required, and we swan around, enjoying the good life we deserve, and catching in our butterfly nets the occasional directorship to add yet more glitter to our money stashed in tax havens. Some of us deserve the best in life. The rest of you can do what you like, providing it doesn’t affect me and my lifestyle.

  11. Steve Asaneilean

    At the risk of repeating myself from elsewhere…

    Rifkind and Straw are, as we all know, the latest in a long list. In 2012 it was Jim Murphy –

    And now Rifkin tells us £67, 000 is not enough for an MP to live off – whilst forgetting to point out that the average MP also claims £150,000 in expenses each year.

    We expect this kind of nonsense from the Tories – it is what they stand for afterall – me, myself, I and get rich quick (and dont’ worry too much about a few rules bent or corners cut along the way).

    But Straw? A socialist? Aye right (ditto Darling, Blair, et al).

    Straw did under-value himself – he went for five grand a day whilst Rifkind was pushing for as much as eight. That’s equivalent to earning £2 million an year. Nothing obscene about that then. How could someone be expected to live on such a meagre income?

    The sad thing is that this behaviour by Westminster shames us all because, as a society, we continue to allow it to happen.

    • Derek, I really enjoy how you reduce these arrogant MPs to sludge.
      I stopped trusting Straw when he took his specks off. ‘Vanity,’ I thought.
      His behavior in the run up to the referendum was shocking. What will it take for the ‘elite’ in Westminster to get the message? They seem incapable of seeing themselves as we see them. Don’t they realise that they have been rumbled?
      USA presidents are allowed a maximum of two terms. Maybe there should be a similar limit on MPs. That would stop the undemocratic goings on that we see today.
      There must be some honest people in the Commons. Angus Robertson is an example to them all. Honorable indeed.

  12. I think what has caused Rifkind and Straw to have such a sense of entitlement is rubbing shoulders with multi-billionaires. They compare themselves to the super-rich, see that these people aren’t smarter than them, and think, ‘I am entitled to some of that’.

    Extreme wealth inequality, such as Labour and Tories have presided over, is fundamentality incompatible with democracy. Mandelson may be seriously relaxed by people getting filthy rich but I am horrified. And now we see the proof of it.

    I honestly thought Rifkind had more integrity. It was a shock to learn that he had become that shallow.

  13. I always thought tactical voting was promoted by parties like the LibDems. You know, small parties that were struggling for seats and desperately wanted to get access to more power.

    I guess Labour are finding their place in Scotland? Their declining level of political influence?

  14. An excellent Post Derek, I should say another excellent post. These people look down on the rest of us who have to actually earn our seed corn. These people are so cosseted that they have no idea what is going on in the world, and a world they have created for us.
    Poor buffalo they trip up in the burrows of the prairie dogs, may this lot break their necks.

  15. Despite their humiliation and the scorn of the electorate I would bet that both Straw and Rifkind still get a peerage – maybe not in the next tranche but definitely within the next couple of years. I would bet that’s the reason Rifkind stepped down – he was likely threatened that he would lose it if he didn’t, and it’s more valuable than another term as an MP.
    A depressing thought.

  16. Superb post Derek and well said on all counts.

    Labour and Tory joined at the hip. Establishment ‘big beasts’ filling their boots at the trough whilst bemoaning their lot on what I would certainly consider an exceptional tax payer funded wage packet+ expenses.

    Our governance and representatives in all their glory.

    I’m sure better togetherness will start any day now.

    Or maybe not.

  17. The catastrophic consequences for the Union of Scottish Independence
    has united ConLabLibDem.

    They have not chosen this Unionist Alliance.
    It has been forced upon them.

    This is life or death time for Westminster and The Establishment that goes with it.

    In fact, it is death time.

    Just not quite yet.

  18. Here’s a plan – those in professions requiring ongoing CPD or professional update to remain active, spend part of the extended holidays working for free in eg a homeless shelter, or a Cancer Support Drop In or Govan Law Centre (or donate earnings earned in the course of remaining up to date, to such organisations). There was a First Minister…

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