Silly Old Me

579571_615268015179859_403003586_nBy Mike Small

After being stung in the latest Cash for Access ‘scandal’ at Westminster that’s been making all the headlines, Jack Straw has said he had fallen into a “very skilful trap” while Sir Malcolm Rifkind said his comments had been “silly”.

Silly is when you pour coffee down your front, run out of the petrol on the M74 or forget your packed lunch. Silly isn’t scrabbling like a political whore for £5k or selling your democracy to the highest bidder. It’s venal, deceitful or corrupt, not silly.

The veteran Tory grandee is said to have claimed that he could arrange “useful access” to every British ambassador in the world, while Labour’s former foreign secretary Jack Straw boasted of operating “under the radar” to use his influence to change European Union rules.

Almost worst than the incident is the blank denial that both people have made when caught.

We know they have no integrity but do they really have no shame?

You might think that MPs were a bit powerless in the face of the government machine and the trappings of power, you might think that they were a bit useless against the might of real power and big business, but you always figured they were sort of there for you, doing a full-time job, even at a salary vastly above the national average? Apparently not.

Jack Straw still insists he has done nothing wrong arguing he acted with integrity throughout his long career, as if he wants a Blue Peter Badge for it. This may be true – if presumably – you set aside the small matter of the Iraq war and that whole embarrassing Chilcot Inquiry.

Playing catchup with the story  24 hours-on the Tories have finally capitulated, reacting to the scandal, David Cameron saying: “These are very serious matters and we have very clear rules in this country.”

Indeed. Late in the day the Tories have finally withdrawn the whip from Rifkind.

B-eq4sMIMAAbnsdThere’s a mirror image between the bankers and the politicians sense of entitlement.

Today the Financial Times, with seemingly no sense of irony after the HSBC fiasco and chief executive Stuart Gulliver‘s role (you might remember the charming Stuart from hereHSBC boss makes ‘capital flight’ claim’) – claims ‘City fears new bank liability rules will deter best people’.

Rifkind thinks the same, mewing: ‘If you’re trying to attract people of a business or professional background (who else would we be ‘trying to attract’?! – Ed) – to serve in the House of Commons it is quite unrealistic to believe they will go through their parliamentary career being able to simply accept a salary of £60k’.

The average UK salary is £26,500.

The code is simple – to get the best people we must pay them the going rate. For the best read people like us, with our interests, of our class, with our expectations. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, bankers and politicians think there adding a grand job.

As an aside – Tom Watson is quite right to say that there’s a difference in severity in that Rifkind – as  Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) is in a far more vulnerable position.

Both are huge figures in their respective parties. These aren’t some minor rogue MPs. What we face now is a self-fulfilling prophecy. This article is hard to write just because it’s so routine now it’s hard to even be upset with this level of corruption for which Westminster has become a byword.

But the prophecy is this, to complain about it we will be branded part of an ‘anti-politics’, a fringe beyond the pale. So low is the bar of expectation that the individuals think they have done no wrong. There is no sense of service, of integrity, no commitment to their constituents. They assert a right to ‘earn’ as much as people in their perceived level in society. The ‘best people’. Such is the lack of perspective in the closed world of British politics.

The sense of entitlement is breathtaking.

What a pathetic indictment of a failed politics.

 

 

 



Categories: Commentary

Tags: , , , , ,

63 replies

  1. Very well said, can’t add much to that, but at least your readers know you are not ‘anti-politics’ . . .

    • Well done Channel 4 there is an elephant in the room but you’re trying to keep the mouse out! Does anyone recall what happened to the Chairman of The Tory Party this term?! He laughed, laughed when a covert reporter asked him if he would take a bribe (“£150,000? Maybe for a small intervention!” -paraphrase-)! Yet it was only he who was dismissed. The story has been rapidly elevated to the status of “Urban Legend” by the MSM, a belief in which I am confirmed by this rather storm-in-a-tea-cup/”Jack Straw’s suspenders” story* from dear old (“vox populi”), Ch 4.

      *Watergate to “our” Pentagon Papers (“Hyperion to a satyr”! -or is that Nixon and Kissinger?-)?

  2. The saddest thing is the 55% of Scots who voted to retain the bile.

    • You are on the money there Ronald, we now have to expect the same wave of blind unionism come election time.Whilst a lot of more sensible people have had time to think again, regarding there decision to vote no, there will most certainly be the loyal vote waiting to be cranked into action before the voting starts.

  3. In my naivety, I had imagined Malcolm Rifkind to be less venal than the average Conservative politician.

    • An ex-BBC (technician) friend of mine met him at some do at Queen Street many years ago; said he was a pleasant enough chap but there was no danger he’d agree with his politics…

  4. But doesn’t a very large part of our money-obsessed society think the same … that the name of the game is to get as much as you can (and then keep as much of it as you can)? Doesn’t the corruption of thinking “I’m special – because I’m a lawyer, or a consultant, or a star footballer, or a ‘celebrity’ – and therefore I have a right to earn much more than the average” – go very deep in our society? Is it only politicians and bankers and corporate bosses who should be stigmatised?

  5. I’m self employed on a 20 k wage,if I had all expences paid on top of that I’d feel like a king

    • What would the average wage be if everyone over £200,000 per annum was excluded from the calculation? That would be much more representative of the average citizen!

      • If they were excluded, the result would not be representative of the average citizen. You would have corrupted and skewed the dataset, so the result would not be the ‘average wage’, it would be something else.

        So your result wouldn’t be representative of anything.

      • REF- If they were excluded, the result would not be representative of the average citizen. You would have corrupted and skewed the dataset, so the result would not be the ‘average wage’, it would be something else.

        So your result wouldn’t be representative of anything.

        It would probably be easily qualified as being representative of 90% of the UK’s populations wage!!!!

  6. @paulcarline, No, No and No.

  7. The wheels are coming off the DISGRACE that is Westminster.

    Time to end this farce now.

    How long can this crap be allowed to go on,and on and on.

    Just another day in the ‘Mother’ of Parliaments?

    They should be told to come in for a massive pay rise award,once they’re all inside lock the doors and torch the place.

    End of problem.

  8. No, #Paulcarline, some people work for ‘job satisfaction’. There are hundreds of very brilliant people working in laboratories, in the sciences, in teaching, aerospace, architecture, journalism – even accountancy that do their jobs for the love of it and a modest financial reward. In many fields they are the best and brightest, but they don’t expect or get the financial rewards of the City wide-boys or politicians who claim that they need massive rewards ‘To attract the best’.

  9. Another great article Mike media men like yourself have changed Scotland forever via outing there voodoo economic business deals while the poor and lame get robbed of there benefits keep up the good work fighting the good fight on be-halve of people with integrity thanks

    going of topic has any1 read fear and smear ? if not order your copy now a would ask all readers to copy and share via online media see link below ,plz could you after reading leave a review
    kind regards Mick from bampots utd
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fear-Smear-Campaign-Scottish-Independence/dp/1507716486/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1424715513&sr=1-1&keywords=fear+and+smear

  10. I’m sure they had the best interests of the “united” kingdom at heart during their little negotiations.
    We must get rid of the whole rotten Westminster establishment.

  11. Excellent article and it’s not just former foreign secretaries who see no wrong doing, Welsh Tory MEP Kay Swinburne has been caught calling for bankers to be ‘creative; in order to get round the EU banker bonus laws and has been doing the media rounds today claiming she’s done nothing wrong http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/top-welsh-tory-under-fire-8696757

  12. It would seem, from my point of view, the sole reason any of these “best” people got in to politics was to line their own pockets.

  13. £60,000 a year is a bloody fortune. If it’s not enough for f***in Rifkind, let him chuck and give someone else a chance. What a drinks attendant!

    • If someone offered me a job that pays £60,000 a year (plus expenses and perks like free membership of a top-notch health scheme and ridiculously heavily subsidised dining/bar facilities), not to mention 11 weeks vacation each year, I’d bite their hand off, as would 99% of the human race. And the bar stewards don’t even have to show up for ‘work’ to get their salary.

  14. I am disgusted by this latest from the cesspit of Westminster. This pair should be held properly accountable for misuse of their position, and office.

    • if any member of HM Forces, the intelligence agencies or the police offered their knowledge or services for sale the way Straw and Rifkind did, I suspect they’d be tried for treason. These two ‘honourable’ members of the Commons ought, at the very least, to be investigated thoroughly, but I won’t hold my breath, as such an investigation might implicate too many people too high up the Establishment’s food chain. I don’t know how much militarily sensitive material Rifkind sees as part of the Intelligence and Security Committee, but now that the whole world knows that he’ll whore himself at the drop of a hat, his position is untenable, despite his stated wish to remain in the chair of the ISC.

  15. If the chair of the intelligience select committee can be bought by a Chinese business for £5k, he is a threat to national security.

  16. ‘Silly is when ….’

    Well said! We must jump on people who want us to see criminal or disgraceful activity in the same light as forgetting to put the milk out, and Rifkind is by no means the only one.

    • As for ‘falling into a very skilful trap”, please. The only traps these people fall into are ones caused by their own greed, arrogance and complete lack of morality or integrity, but they always try to blame others. You’re right about Rifkind and Straw being far from alone in this. They’re just the ones who’ve been caught red-handed. There must be dozens and dozens of MPs and Peers whose consultancies, directorships and major shareholdings in the corporate world are completely incompatible with their positions as public employees.

    • “forgetting to put the milk out”

      Before going to school myself I used to deliver his milk in the mornings. Usually saw his kids get driven off to their posh private school. He got voted out of Scotland and somehow ended up in leafy Kensington, though not before he along with Lang and Forsyth destroyed Scotland’s heavy industry and economy. He then did much of Thatcher’s work privatising our essential utilities and lining the pockets of themselves and their friends in the city. He was a fine warmonger in the Tory tradition. He’s made a personal fortune out of politics, which basically means he has brought financial misfortune on much of our society. He and his kind will not be missed. The 55% who voted No really need to get out more.

  17. Greed is good,bad is good and so on from the bible of the neoliberalists has created a schism in society between those in the club and those not.
    What the have nots object to is that they get conned every few years or so into electing these creatures to the Westminster club where they do pretty well what they please until it is time to trot out the electoral platitudes again and feign humility and contrition.
    I hope the SNP don’t allow themselves to be sucked into the Westminster club way of doing things and bring some sanity and probity back to public service.

  18. So now the argument is framed that politicians are to be treated like business people and CEO’s not democratically elected members of a Parliament that apparently have to follow many rules of code, conduct, honour and transparency.

    Both sets of people do have to serve people it’s true – CEO’s have to serve their shareholders. their one main aim is to make as much profit for them. MP’s have to serve their constituents – and by following Rifkind’s logic – that mean’s making as much money for himself via his constituents democratic trust in placing him in Parliament.

    If he doesn’t think the job pays enough he can leave and look for a new job if his skills are adequate, like every other working person in the country has to.

    The media coverage on this is scandalous, the BBC currently comparing MP’s salaries with those of the very best paid head teachers and civil servants and completely ignoring the amount of expenses an MP can claim each year – which in many cases can treble the salary.

    • it wouldn’t matter how much MPs earn or how much they could claim. Whatever the ceiliing, they’d still be looking for more via cash for access or other means.
      Politics is Business now
      That idea of “serving the common good” is so, so past they can’t even remember it ever existed

      • ‘That idea of “serving the common good” is so, so past they can’t even remember it ever existed’

        So true Ben.

        Whats more galling however is that while in reality it’s a fiction, the idea of honest, saintly politicians is still a fairy tale rolled out by Westminster time and time again and given support by some sectors of the press.

      • Agree Ben. The day this broke, I heard an apologist for the pair claim that it was “unreasonable” to expect men “in their position” to get by on an MPs salary when their “peers” were making so much more money elsewhere. “That’s why its called public Effing SERVICE!” I shouted at the radio.

    • Rifkind and most other MPs know darn well that they don’t have the talent to get proper jobs, certainly not ones that pay them the money they’re raking in now. That’s why they’ll never leave their Westminster comfort zone, at least not by choice.

  19. Once again, important possible discussion point but a few crucial corrections and clarifications amid the hysteria…

    1) Neither of the pair have actually been charged with anything (yet). Both voluntarily surrendered to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards who are investigating. The Telegraph and dispatches have yet to hand over the full transcript.
    2) Straw said clearly ‘on the record’ that he would not be doing any paid work while still an MP (He is to retire in a few months and is perfectly entitled to work lobbying for whoever he likes after. As for influencing/ lobbying the Euro commission – that’s part of an MP’s job. Straw also lobbied for charities and NGO’s during his time in office.
    3) The democracy of the European Union (Given it’s technocratic nature) actively encourages former Politicians to become lobbyists for a multitude of organiziations. Non profit organisations are subsidized to create a level playing field with commercial interests. All lobbyists are paid, either by commercial interests or by the EU fund if non commercial.
    4) Straw declared the Lobbying of the Ukrainian president as part of a trade delegation. Foreign ministers are expected to use their influence on behalf of national commercial interests. Though for ethical and corruption reasons he ought not have been paid as a consultants. But it is was not against the rules. Milliband is right it ought to be! As is the Sturgeon in Holyrood.
    5) This is not just a Westminster issue. Multiple MSPs have second jobs while in office, many receiving two tax payers salaries staying on as councillors. Others have also been caught out lobbying for relatives/ business interests (especially the SNP – why they are curiously quiet on the issue – just a small press release.) Salmond lobbied on behalf of Murdoch for the SNP etc. Joan Macalpine also was implicated but cleared of any wrong doing in a case over expenses and lobbying. There are plenty of times (especially during the indyref) when those in receipt of government contracts or public money campaigned/ aided the SNP (- this also is a serious conflict of interest and asks questions about democracy.) Even though I’m a Yes man.
    6)The Scottish Parliament and MSP have also fiddled the housing allowance and have flipped homes – it is exactly the same system as Westminster.
    7) The Labour policy of a list of transparent registered Lobbyists was enacted in Westminster prior to Holyrood. But to the SNPs credit continued with the bill.

    8) But Rifkind looks like he is in trouble! He is still an MP and on an intelligence and security select committee. This is very serious.

    Lets look at the facts rather than conflating everything together. Otherwise nothing gets solved.

    But yes. MP’s and MSPs should have no outside jobs (as proposed by Miliband/ Sturgeon/ Clegg/ Farage – and objected to by Cameron), and should face investigation.

    • Lobbying is trying to influence or persuade. Selling or buying influence is not lobbying it is corruption.

    • As an alternative to Johnson’s misrepresentations on the ‘lobbying register’ – point 7, let’s have a look at what ‘Spinwatch’ have to say about the new registrar currently under discussion in Holyrood.

      http://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/issues/lobbying/item/5731-scottish-lobbying-to-be-opened-up-lessons-for-westminster

      and also their take on the Westminster, Straw and Rifkind:

      ‘I have never, nor would I lobby for a company in exchange for money’.

      Lobbying is the dirty word in this sentence. MPs might agree to advise a company for payment, but never lobby. This is about words and definitions. Straw and Rifkind talked on camera of providing access to government, and about gathering information for companies on policy. But what is this if not lobbying? Political persuasion is a subtle business, which involves building relationships and knowledge. The first step towards influencing government is having access to information and the people inside government. Access is key: you can only cook up deals once you’re in the kitchen. Straw and Rifkind are providers of access.

      ..and finally their take on what Johnson fails to describe accurately about the Westminster legislation:

      ‘The register of lobbyists introduced by the Coalition that he boasted about this lunchtime is a fake. They went through the rigmarole of legislating for a register (only after another lobbying scandal broke) that does nothing to allow the British public to see who is influencing our politicians.’

      links here: http://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/issues/lobbying/item/5744-just-because-everyone-s-at-it-doesn-t-make-it-right

      • Hi Tartan.

        Yes, you’re right about the lobbying register! My point wasn’t that there isn’t a serious issue, more that we should unpicked the issue and not mix things up, nor scapegoat because it feels good. And I’m not playing one parliament off against the other, in fact, yes Westminster could learn from Holyrood. But this doesn’t mean they are squeaky clean and don’t need scrutiny. In both parliaments there is a system for declaring interests and it is the system not the individuals that need to be focused on (only this way will we get ‘clean’ politics – but that may have unwanted side effect?. Or do you think MSPs are cut from a different ‘human and fallible’ cloth?

        The question is simple. Should MP/ MSPs have outside jobs? Or should they be limited to being MPs? And what kind of work should former politicians, especially cabinet ministers, be allowed to do once they retire?

        This is a lot more complex than it seems on the surface.

    • Hi Johnson

      Really sorry I missed your input last night. I was troubled by all the hysteria and needed your sound and objective reasoning.

      In summary: SNP very bad, Tory bad but Labour guy needs to have matter properly reviewed without inappropriately conflating facts.

      I will skip the articles on Bella from now on and go straight to your posts for your objectivity, deep analysis and wonderful food commentary.

      Can you please send me your bank details so that I can swap my monthly subs to Bella over to you? I promise I won’t post them on Gumtree.

      John Page

    • The most important aspiration for the Scottish Parliament is for it to NOT replicate the dirty deeds of Westminster and I for one want to see any similar degradation stamped upon.

      Could you please enlarge on points 5 and 6:-

      (5) which organisations were involved – …’There are plenty of times (especially during the indyref) when those in receipt of government contracts or public money campaigned/ aided the SNP (- this also is a serious conflict of interest and asks questions about democracy.)

      (6) name(s) please …..’The Scottish Parliament and MSP have also fiddled the housing allowance and have flipped homes – it is exactly the same system as Westminster.’

  20. The sad thing is that neither thinks that they have done anything wrong. The system creates a sense of entitlement e.g. Straw believes that his seat in the Lords awaits. He expects it!

    It is as simple as that… fall at my feet and worship me…after all you are buying MY name.

    Jack Straw should be in prison but not for this. He has blood on his hands from torture rendition flights and direct responsibility for a six figure death toll in Iraq.

    The stench of Westminster is becoming too much to bear.

  21. David Whyte’s thoughts on corruption, linked to on BC just the other day, seem strangely prescient of the activities of Messrs Rifkind and Straw

    http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2015/02/21/how-corrupt-is-britain/

  22. This episode further demonstrates the continued downward spiral of UK Westminster Politics corruption, declining standards in this institution can no longer be excused the reason this kind of greed prevails and is revealed all to often and is not snuffed out, is because the big two parties themselves are awash with sleeze and no real appetite exists to commit to reform .

    We only uncover what’s going on when the odd investigative journalist or news channel (never BBC) decides to make an occasional effort to again expose what happens and give the impression that it’s an isolated event.

    The very fabric of the place is unravelling how much evidence do we need . It’s what happens within any failing organisation where those in the know are aware that meltdown is round the corner.

    Its time to look after me and mine! to hell with the party and my constituents.

    Straw and Rifkind are the tip of the ice-berg. How long until the next revalation.

  23. You cannot con an honest man.

  24. One outcome of the ref for me has been a loss of trust in pretty much everything I hear and see in the media. I had a various reactions to yesterdays revelations.
    Why am I not surprised?
    Why is everyone else so shocked?
    These guys are soon to be unemployed and looking for work
    Let me hear the whole transcript – what questions are they answering ?
    Who orchestrated this sting and why?
    Dispatches and the Telegraph? Interesting bedfellows -have Rifkind and Straw upset the Barclay brothers recently?
    What else is or should be news today? Does this divert my attention from something else?
    Who benefits?

    Some think UKIP will benefit, others that Labour came out quick with its ready-made announcement .
    Whatever it is its time for change.

    • The fact that Labour was quick with its ready-made announcement indicates (but doesn’t in itself prove) that they were prepared for, and possibly expecting, this revelation. That means that people high up in the party most probably knew about it, and that there are most likely others at it.

      Is our attention being diverted from something else? More than likely, but don’t expect the mainstream media (especially the BBC) to cover it.

  25. The National front page shows IDS with the caption STOPPED – 80,000 Scots have their benefits suspended under ‘disgraceful’ new sanctions system. Shooorley this issue looms out: –

    Does IDS know SIR Malcolm Riffkind claimed on Channel 4 Dispatches that he is ‘self-employed’ and does not get a ‘salary’ yet we all know he is paid from the public purse, £67,000 per year PLUS expenses – apparently for whatever he wants to claim, again from us – is this remuneration thereby a ‘benefits -in-kind’ and if so, could / should SIR Malcolm be sanctioned?

  26. I’ve always said that rising inequality is fundamentally incompatible with democracy. When politicians rub shoulders with the fabulously wealthy they lose their bearings. When an MP is paid £67k, plus expenses, (and surely Rifkind is paid extra for chairing that ISC) but bankers and the super-rich with whom they regularly associate in the course of parliamentary life earn millions, tens of millions a year, they consider themselves ‘poor’ and ‘deserving’ by comparison. They lose all perspective. And all morality.

    I had really thought better of Rifkind. I am gob-smacked at his venality. If he can be corrupted any MP can.

    This is exactly why wealth disparity of the scale that now exists is so dangerous. Where is the end of it? What will happen if this is allowed to continue to the point that MPs and the government are rubbing shoulders with people who are worth more than the entire UK GDP?

    Why are they unable to see that the super-rich and democracy are incompatible? It’s either unbridled capitalism or democracy. Westminster and the UK have clearly chosen the former.

  27. the key thing i have learned is not that politicians salaries are unacceptable.
    It is that many headteachers are on 80k a year!!
    I’m calling for immediate paycuts for the managerial ranks in schools.

  28. Should we really be surprised at this carry on with Straw and Rifkind we have seen and heard it all before .
    They are very quick to state they are not getting paid enough , I thought you went into parliament to serve
    the nation not to grab as much money as you can. And if it is such a poor job why are some of the same people trying to get their sons and daughters shoe horned in .

  29. “This article is hard to write just because it’s so routine now it’s hard to even be upset with this level of corruption for which Westminster has become a byword.”

    Aside from the minutiae of these latest instances, that’s the devastating truth: we are not now learning of a unique or rare aberration within the Establishment, Corruption within Westminster now appears merely commonplace.

    Lacking a considered, legal constitution and operating by habit (evidently bad habit) and questionable repute, the institution is no longer fit to be regarded as warranting our approval or support in managing the affairs of our nation and representing our will and our interests.

  30. Westminster is no longer fit for purpose!


  31. WITH respect to Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s resignations he is still determined to remain part of the Intelligence & Security Committee (ISC). This is very disturbing, as the alleged access he was negotiating was with a group of Chinese nationals albeit from Hong Kong.

    Surely his willingness to negotiate access with nationals of a power with whom we are in security conflict should prevent him from further participation on such a sensitive public body.

    It is common knowledge that the Chinese Government uses a variety of intelligence gathering methodologies and for a member of the ISC to agree to do work for a Chinese business must be viewed as a security breach.”
    from the herald..

  32. The sheer greed of Straw and Rifkind is the primary issue to my mind. They are beneath my contempt. No system of rules will prevent greed. They are both 68 years old – do they have any idea how much the state pension, that many people have to live on, actually is? Shame on them and anyone who seeks to justify their greed. Their reputations should be in tatters. We should make a mental note of those who speak up for them because they are of the ‘I know I would do it if I could’ variety. No I am not experiencing any form of hysteria. It’s just as a man said – ‘the honest man, though er so poor ….’. The rest are just straw men.

Trackbacks

  1. More Than The Money |
  2. DÉJÀ VU AGAIN: Honey McBee’s Buzz Round the Media - Scot Buzz

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: