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Discussion > Conflicts of Interest

Post by Mike from another thread:

What I am trying to say in my last few postings is that they don't know it.
If you accept that they are essentially honest — and certainly in Gummer's case I have no reason to suppose he isn't; I'm less sure about Yeo — then they are in a position that ...say.... 50 years ago would have been considered quite normal.
Man has interests (global warming, model railways, whatever) and government makes us of those interests where ever Man has enough expertise to make it worth using him. Only in recent years has the question of serious conflicts of interest arisen partly, in my view, because this particular subject is so polarised and partly because of a general decay (I avoid the phrase 'moral laxity'!) in standards of behaviour across society as a whole.

Sep 12, 2012 at 3:09 PM | Mike Jackson

I dont think normal has any bearing on "honest", in most African states normality is corruption.
When you look at the speed with which Gummer divested himself of certain investments when challenged about them, you do not see a man who totally believed it was fine for him to hold those investments.
Yeo's shareholding in TMO renewables is conveniently labeled as having zero value so that he can justify perhaps not registering or declaring it. You can not really believe that this was a convenent accident? this might be construed as a broadside hehe

Sep 12, 2012 at 3:49 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I think there is plenty of evidence that many politicians in the UK and EU(DSK, Villepin, Chirac?) for that matter are quite happy to knowingly push the rules as far as they'll go (Hunt,Warsi). Just as in every walk of life. The MPs expenses scandal ranged from honest as the day is long to outright criminality(Elliot Morley, David Chaytor, Eric Illsley). There is a saying that everyone has a price, I am not sure that is true, but for those vaguely dishonest parliament offers an awful lot of first steps down the slippery slope.

In my opinion MPs should have no business interests outside parliament and should declare interests of close family members:- partners, in-laws, parents and children. A three strikes and you're out rule on omissions (fool me once etc.). Where tax is more than a third of income on average and billions are involved there should be the strictest rules for those deciding where that tax is spent.


Sep 12, 2012 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Whereas, SandyS, I tend to believe the opposite and that being an MP should not be (as it never was supposed to be) a "career".
I know there's no way of going back to the 18th century (or even the early 20th) but time was when parliament was summoned only when needed and (in England) the counties each sent two representatives to speak on their behalf.
Totally impossible today I know but what has happened since about WWII has been a sort of "mission creep" to the point now where being a politician has become a full-time occupation and the "outside interests" which were once what earned the MP a living, whether it was law, dentistry or driving a bus, have become sinecures with payment only according to what the MP can do for the company or organisation that pays him.
MPs have become paid lobbyists for assorted factions instead of earning an honest living at their chosen trade or profession and representing their constituents when called on to do so.
The result has been excessive legislation which more often than not means bad legislation and a sort of entitlement culture at Westminster encouraged by the 1970s trick of boosting income during the pay freezes by loading expense accounts. Companies were at it (I worked for one) and MPs happily followed suit with the connivance of the Fees Office.
Unfortunately, since there was no-one to keep a check on what they were up to they forgot to stop when the world returned to something approaching normality.
As we know from the DT exposé, a lot of what MPs were claiming was stuff they had been told to claim and while I think the flipping of second homes should never have been allowed without good reason (Mrs J reckons anyone who couldn't get home at night should have been put up in a hostel!!, never mind "second homes") a lot of the other stuff was simply the result of the slapdash way in which the system was operated and not deliberate criminality except in the few cases like the ones you mentioned.
There are other problems about which I could rabbit on for half the evening but my main point is that it is the system which has become corrupt and that those MPs that have got caught up in it are not solely to blame. Yes, the push the rules to the limit. Like you would!

Sep 12, 2012 at 6:44 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson


Actually I wouldn't push the rules to the limit, or at least I'd like to think I wouldn't. You may have had a loaded expense account during recessions, I had my redundancy terms cut from something reasonable to the legal minimum, only thanks to legal action by a union did we get something reasonable for a lifetimes commitment.

One has to accept that things have moved on and that we now have career politicians, and not wish for things as they were in the past. Not that the past was better (rotten boroughs and so on).

Sep 12, 2012 at 10:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

There is a level of income at which one could consider oneself "comfortable", able to afford all necessities plus a few luxury treats. The absolute level will vary depending on where one lives.
People like Yeo and Gummer are rich beyond the dreams of most people but STILL they rob the ordinary taxpayer to get even richer, they should have the book thrown at them (preferably Britannica).
The position of MP should be a vocation and an honour, those who worship money should pursue it elsewhere.

Sep 12, 2012 at 11:42 PM | Registered CommenterDung

now that politicians get an above-average salary, plus extraordinairly good pension, for turning up to Westminster, they need to ensure they are squeaky clean. If not...TOAST

Sep 12, 2012 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes