Let’s be clear: I am in no position to complain about the disclosure of
public employees’ earnings. As a civil servant mine were an open book
for 23 years. Everyone understands why I’m now so busy in retirement. I
do believe that anyone paid, if only partly, by the taxpayer is in a
different position from those who earn their living from private
sources. If industrialists recognised this, they would understand why we
live in the age of accountability. They might also be less inclined to
grab every penny of public money going in grants and ‘incentives’ while
demanding lower taxation.
And since the age of accountability is driven by an obnoxious witch hunt
led by a conspiracy-raddled media, we all know why MPs had their weird
debate this week on the disclosure of payments received for work done in
their Parliamentary capacity for outside interests.
This assumes that there will be any earnings to declare now that the new
McCarthyism - this time against capitalism, rather than communism - has
banned MPs from advocating causes for which they are paid by tabling
Parliamentary Questions, Early Day Motion, presenting Bills or
amendments to legislation. Banned, even though they declare - nay,
advertise - their interest.
But it is not just the current narrow-minded era which revolts me. After
all, the death of honour occurred 20 years ago when MPs agreed to
register their interests, as distinct from declare them. They tacitly
accepted they could not be trusted to come clean about their employers.
The logic is now catching up with them.
It is the implications not just for the PR/lobbying industry, but for
the citizen and taxpayer which should be a matter for serious concern.
In essence, MPs can now advise us for money how to make our point but
are gagged when it comes to arguing it, however important that point may
be to the body politic or nation’s economic health.
They can presumably ask a fellow MP, untainted by advisory money, to do
the necessary. But what does that suggest to the dimmest
Parliamentarian? Why, get yourself an advisory consultancy or two and
cultivate MPs whose advisory interest is in another area. All we need
then is a register of members’ passionate concerns to go with that for
advisory consultancies and life goes on unhindered.
Or does it? The truth is that we do not yet know the price to be paid in
our democracy from impeding lobbying. But we do know that we are moving
inexorably towards highly paid, at taxpayers’ expense, professional MPs
with little or no personal experience of how Britain works - and with no
guarantee that they will take the slightest notice of any cause which
does not bring its return in votes to preserve their nice little earner
of a seat. Ugh!