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Monday, April 22, 2024

Nice work if you can get it

There is no better sign that a ship is sinking than if all the rats start deserting it. The only question is how long Rishi Sunak can stay on the bridge before facing up to reality and going to the electorate in search of a refit.

The Observer reports that a cohort of Conservative MPs standing down before the next election have netted jobs worth millions of pounds and have taken dozens of all-expenses-paid trips funded by foreign governments and lobbyists.

The paper says that sixty-four serving Tory MPs and four independent MPs who lost the Tory whip have announced that they plan to stand down at the next election amid polling that suggests their party may face an electoral wipeout, but analysis has found that 34 members of that group, the vast majority of whom are current or former ministers, listed a net total of over £2.5m of expected annual income in the register of MPs interests:

One transparency campaigner said the findings suggested departing Tory MPs were “taking their eyes off the day job” and trying to “cash in on their political connections to secure lucrative jobs”.

While some of the jobs were for smaller sums, 11 MPs listed roles worth over £100,000 a year. At the top of the list was former justice secretary Brandon Lewis, who has taken on five new part-time roles worth £410,000 a year alongside his commitments as an MP.

The most lucrative were for LetterOne Holdings, an “international investment business”, and FM Conway, an infrastructure and road-building company that frequently works for local and national government.

Former chancellors of the exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng and Sajid Javid registered work worth £98,600 and £321,000 a year respectively, including, in Javid’s case, a £300,000-a-year part-time advisory role to Jersey-based investment firm Centricus Partners.

In January, former deputy prime minister Dominic Raab registered a £118,000-a-year role working for private equity firm Appian Capital, for which he needed to work for roughly a week of every month.

Some 26 of the departing MPs have also taken all-expenses-paid trips to the likes of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, usually paid for by lobbyists or the governments of foreign states.

Independent Beckenham MP Bob Stewart, who surrendered the Tory whip late last year before he successfully appealed against his conviction for a racially aggravated public order offence, registered eight foreign trips worth nearly £20,000.

Meanwhile, backbencher Lisa Cameron, who defected to the Conservatives from the SNP last year but is not to set to contest her seat in the next general election, registered six visits outside the UK, including one paid for by the government of Thailand and one by the government of Qatar.

Former business secretary and Cop26 president Alok Sharma listed some 11 subsidised trips worth over £95,000. That was alongside over £330,000-a-year’s worth of outside work. Sharma said: “Much of my travel outside the UK is related to voluntary and unpaid work I undertake to advance climate action. This includes travel to support greater ambition through the Cop process, including visits to the UAE which hosted Cop28 last year.”

As Rose Zussman, the senior policy manager of Transparency International, says, even MPs standing down “have a duty to represent their constituents” until they leave. She adds that these revelations raise “questions about whose interests these MPs are serving and whether they are using their privileged positions to benefit those funding them”.

Surely, the time has come when MPs seeking lucrative roles like these should stand down from Parliament and let somebody else do the job who is committed to serving their constituents full-time.

Transparency International seem to be correct in saying these 'retiring' MPs are feathering their own nests not their Constituents.
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