MPs for Hire - Again!
Back in the 1990s, when a tottering Conservative government under John Major was being hit by sleaze case after sleaze case, two backbench Conservative MPs were caught out by the Sunday Times. They were offered £1,000 to ask questions in the House of Commons by the reporter's 'front' company. They were only too happy to oblige, one of them describing himself as a bit like a "taxi for hire". They were duly excoriated, and doubtless had played their part in making John Major that little bit more unelectable. Well, what goes around comes around, as they say, and the Sunday Times, together with Channel 4's Dispatches team, has been up to it's old tricks. This time, the reporters targeted ex-Cabinet ministers, and with considerable success it would seem. Where the 1990s scandal required approaches to 20 MPs before 2 were venal enough to take the cash, this time most ex-cabinet ministers seem to have been only too willing to make up the financial deficit left by their inability to defraud any more expenses.
The Sunday Times website shows a part of the Dispatches video, where former minister Stephen Byers smoothly explains that he's a bit like a "cab for hire", and charges between £3,000 and £5,000 daily for his services. It's a breathtaking bit of filming, and hilarious if you're in the mood. Byers shows no shame whatsoever, and is happily hiring himself out like a high class prostitute. He even offers a bit of free advice (which he seems to regret by the end of the interview - there's a few quid missed, his expression clearly says) about how to exploit the election period to get a few laws changed.
Too often media reporting is trivial, sensationalist and demeaning. On this occasion, they've managed to uncover a fascinating glimpse into the vacuous morality of some of our former rulers. Democracy, and serving your constituents is for mugs; politics is about making money. As the ensnared ministers try and put out a justificatory spin on their actions (and, inevitably, they include the truly ludicrous Geoff Hoon, a man who doesn't seem to have put a foot right in politics - ever), we are not just reminded of their venality, but also their remarkable mediocrity. The Media Blog shows just how easy it was to snare the useless representatives. Even the reporter, Claire Newell, had apparently been involved in exposing last year's 'cash for influence' scandal in the Lords.
In the 1990s the two hapless victims were Tory MPs. Now the Tory Party can breathe a sigh of relief and watch the Labour lot squirm, while the rest of us wonder what on earth is in the water at Westminster that it produces such craven qualities in our governing class.