The Difference Between Lib Dems and Conservatives in 8 minutes
The Rifkind-Straw affair is pathetic, embarrassing and they’ll probably get away with it. They look ridiculous, but it’s unlikely they have done anything that will attract any more than a slapped wrist. Greed is not an offence, even for MPs, and since Jack Straw has managed to escape punishment for his part in an illegal war, I’d expect he’ll wriggle out of this one easily enough [as an aside, who pays £5k a day for the advice of someone who thought we had better go to war to avoid being bombed with imaginary weapons?]
The value of the sting is therefore to raise an important question about political reform – should MPs be allowed to take on additional work while they are in Parliament? That was the question debated by Tessa Munt (Lib Dem for Wells) and Crispin Blunt (Cons for Reigate) on Radio 4 this afternoon. For anyone interested in politics, and particularly if you live in an area with a Conservative-Lib Dem fight, it gives you 8 minutes of crystal clarity on (A) why the Lib Dems will do better than expected in the election this year and (B) the difference between having a Lib Dem MP and having a Conservative MP. The debate starts at about 10 minutes into this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b053721p
While Munt declares the idea of having a second job as ‘ludicrous’ on the grounds that no MP could have time to do anything other than serve their constituency, Blunt claims that this approach shows ‘everybody does the job in different ways’. Absolutely right Crispin. Typically, Lib Dems prioritise their constituency case work and pride themselves on being strong local advocates and campaigners. Conservatives ‘do it in a different way. In my constituency, that means getting staff to do the case work and focusing on important Westminster business like entertaining Rupert Murdoch’s henchmen.
Munt reminds Blunt that we no longer live in the 17th Century – you can’t just do another job in the morning and then toddle into Westminster. Blunt agrees, but try telling that to another Oxfordshire stalwart, Tony Baldry (Cons for Banbury). Tory Tony is Chairman of Kazakhstan Kagazy plc (a FTSE listed recycling company). Surely being the most senior figure of a listed UK public company would have presented a challenge even for the rotten MPs of the past. But, forget the City of London, just to show how important ‘other interests’ are to him, Baldry toddles in to do his bit at Westminster on a 5 hour flight from Central Asia. Ridiculous.
Blunt rightly identifies that Munt has a marginal seat, and somewhat condescendingly suggests that this is the reason Munt would be working 100 hour weeks. That neatly makes the bigger point for even more reform. Wouldn’t it be nice if all MPs worked super-hard for their constituents?
By getting rid of safe seats and ensuring that MPs have to fight for every vote, wouldn’t most of us get a bit more value and find a bit more respect for our elected representatives?
Only through wholesale political reform will we get a lot more Munts, a lot fewer Blunts and hopefully bring an end to the complacency of the Rifkinds, Straws and Baldrys.
Voting Lib Dem in May will not only help get more committed local campaigners into Parliament, but it will help bring long-overdue political reform that much closer to reality.