Saturday, 18 March 2017

Well Trodden Path

Image result for well trodden path

George Osborne's appointment as editor of the London Evening Standard follows a well worn part of other high profile MPs who take on second and third jobs.

Labour's Gordon Brown and the SNP's Alex Salmond spring to mind, yet politicians are always keen to condemn this behaviour when it is exposed in parties other than their ow,

But the only way things will change is if all parties agree that the job of an MP is a full-time one which effectively prohibits other paid employment.


Moonlighting MPs (10/12/12)

I'm pleased to announce that my campaign to hold the country's moonlighting MPs to account - for pretending that they can do two jobs at the same time - is starting to take off . 

Gordon Brown - the sometime Labour MP and former Prime Minister - was put under the spotlight in yesterday's Sunday Times and rightly so.

Because Gordon is one of the worst offenders - in terms of the amount of time he  spends abroad away from his day job - as an MP in the House of Commons.

I also heard Nadine Dorries being interviewed on the Sunday Politics programme yesterday - in which she suggested, quite brazenly, that local constituents in Mid-Bedfordshire are fully behind recent appearance on 'I'm a Celebrity' - in the Australian jungle.

Now there's no way of testing that theory at the moment - short of a general election - because there is no power of recall over Westminster MPs.

Even if people believe they are behaving badly, MPs can just hang on in there and stay in post - until they have to face the electorate again - which may be years away, of course.

The only sensible point that Nadine Dorries made in her interview was that double standards appear to be at work in Westminster - that women MPs seems to be given  harsher treatment for stepping out of line compared to their male colleagues.

Now I agree with that because the political establishment at Westminster has taken no action against Gordon Brown for being away so regularly from his post - yet 'Mad Nad' has the Whip withdrawn for what is her first offence.

I hope the Sunday Times article encourages others to raise the issue - because this is not about party politics - it's about the use of public money and the accountability of our elected representatives at Westminster.

The reality is that this kind of behaviour would not be tolerated at any other level of government - because there would be a huge public outcry. 

"Globe-trotting Gordon Brown loses his voice"

by Dipesh Gadher

"From dispatch box bruiser to Westminster’s silent man. Gordon Brown has not spoken in parliament for more than a year while crisscrossing the globe to maintain an international profile.

The former Labour prime minister has declared 28 overseas trips on the MPs’ register of interests since he last spoke in the Commons on November 30, 2011. They include six visits to New York, where he holds an academic post, six trips to the Middle East and stop-offs in Seoul, Lagos and Mexico City.

Much of the jet-setting is linked to Brown’s humanitarian work, but his hosts have included Arab rulers, Russian banks and the Chinese government.

Now the Conservatives have accused Brown of having a “casual disregard” for his constituents in Scotland and have written to Ed Miliband, calling on the Labour leader to remove the party whip from the former prime minister.

There is even disquiet among Labour ranks that Brown continues to draw an MP’s salary of £65,738 while making only rare appearances in parliament. “He’s very much the forgotten man; it’s as if he wasn’t here,” said one senior Labour figure. “There must be concern among his constituents that he’s drawing a salary and allowances while not being at Westminster.”

The criticism may put pressure on Brown to relinquish his Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath seat ahead of the 2015 general election.

An audit by The Sunday Times has discovered that only three MPs have been less vocal in parliament than Brown. However, two of them are government whips and, by convention, do not take part in debates.

The third, Khalid Mahmood, a Labour MP in Birmingham, has not spoken since May 2011 but has been suffering from kidney failure and is awaiting a transplant.

Brown has taken part in only three Commons debates since losing the election in May 2010. The last time he spoke, he raised concerns about radioactive waste dumped in his constituency in the 1950s by the Ministry of Defence.

By contrast, John Major, the former Conservative prime minister, spoke in seven debates in the year before he stood down as an MP in 2001.

Hansard records show that Brown last tabled a written parliamentary question on February 9 this year. He has taken part in 14% of votes since losing office, according to the Public Whip website.

Brown declared 28 foreign trips between November 30, 2011, and July 3 this year. He has yet to register at least four further visits, including trips to South Sudan and Pakistan.

Since leaving No 10, Brown has received more than £2m in fees and expenses — although this has all been ploughed back into his public and charitable activities. He has held roles as “distinguished global leader in residence” at New York University and chairman of the World Economic Forum policy co-ordination group.

Brown has also been a visiting fellow at Harvard and was appointed special envoy for global education by the United Nations in July.

Since he last spoke in the Commons, Brown’s declared fees from international speech-making alone have topped £800,000. In May he received £60,679.90 for one hour’s work at an event organised by the Abu Dhabi education council. This equates to more than £1,000 a minute — although it was not for personal gain.

The MPs’ register shows that each payment goes to the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown “for the employment of staff to support my ongoing involvement in public life”.

John Glen, Tory MP for Salisbury, recently wrote to Miliband, claiming that Brown’s prolonged silence showed “a casual disregard” for his constituents. Glen also said many would see Brown’s ability to receive an MP’s salary and thousands of pounds in parliamentary expenses as an “abuse of taxpayers’ money”.

However, a Labour source accused the Tories of hypocrisy, pointing to Nadine Dorries’s recent outing on I’m a Celebrity . . . Get me out of Here!. “David Cameron is such a weak leader that he couldn’t stop his MP abandoning her constituents and appearing in a reality TV show on the other side of the world,” he said.

Yesterday, Brown’s record provoked a mixed response among constituents in Kirkcaldy.

Carol Martin, 59, a charity shop worker, said: “He needs to be regularly voicing the concerns of the town to parliament. Are the amount of foreign trips [he takes] really necessary?”

Neil Campbell, 31, a bricklayer, said: “I really think he is doing all he can for the area and he has my support.”

Rampant Sexism (12 November 2012)
The Conservative MP for Mid-Befordshire - Nadine Dorries - swans off from the House of Commons for up to 30 days to take part in a celebrity TV programme - which is made in some remote part of Australia.

Result - she gets 'pelters' from all quarters and deservedly so - including from the Deputy Labour Leader - Harriet Harman - while standing in at Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs).

Ms Harman famous for her support of equalities issues even made a lame joke at Nadine's expense - something about the Tory MP having to deal with all kinds of snakes and toads - before she even arrived in the jungle.

So why is the row in the House of Commons so sexist?

Because lots of other MPs swan off when it suits them - including Harriet's Labour colleague and former Prime Minister - Gordon Brown.

Except Gordon is away from his day job for much more time than Nadine Dorries - 70 days a year (every year) in one job alone - at the New York University in Abu Dhabi, for example.

Yet no one says a word - or makes jokes at Prime Minister's Questions.

Maybe they'll start doing so now.

I certainly hope so because it would be a breath of fresh air - and thoroughly deserved.

Gissa Job (16 July 2012)

I read the other day that Gordon Brown - the sometime Labour MP for Cowdenbeath and Kircaldy - has added yet another string to his bow.

Apparently the former Prime Minister is to become a global envoy for the United Nations.

A position which will, of course, compete for Gordon's time along with his paid role as a 'Distinguished Global Leader in Residence' - at the Abu Dhabi campus of New York University - where he is required to spend 70 days a year.

And his time spent on other charitable works on behalf of 'The Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown' - which I have commented upon previously.

Now I have no problem with Gordon Brown spending lots of time out of the country.

But what I don't understand is why he doesn't just resign his seat as an MP - and give someone else the chance of doing a proper full-time day job? Particularly at a time of such high unemployment.

According to press reports Gordon's heart is just not into being a Westminster MP - and since losing the 2010 general election he has apparently taken part in just two parliamentary debates - and only 15 per cent of the votes.

So surely it's time for Gordon to do the right thing - and step aside.

Moonlighting MPs (30/01/16)

Image result for moonlight images

A row blew up during the week about Westminster MPs having 'second' paid jobs and in response Tom Gordon from The Herald posted this perfectly reasonable piece on Twitter highlighting the SNP's previous principle stance on the issue.

Needless to say this prompted lots of hostile reaction on Twitter from people defending the practice as soon as one of their 'own' ran into trouble.

If you ask me it's perfectly reasonable to take a principled stand 'for' or 'against' MPs/MSPs having second paid jobs, but not both propositions at same time.

Makes no difference whether the second job is a 'worthy' one or not since that creates two classes of MPs/MSPs and one in which the professions would win out again.

Nor does it make any difference of some of these outside earnings are donated to charity because either the politician is entitled to have a second or third paid job - or they are not. 

If not, then surely they should not be allowed to 'big themselves up' by handing out money to local charities when the dosh is coming straight out of public funds. 

Today's tale is v Daily Mail. But SNP made a rod for its own back with MPs code and Wishart quote

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Some MPs are more equal than others

NICOLA Sturgeon has been talking a lot about "equality and fairness" recently.

It will be at the heart of the SNP's economic plan, for instance.
There is also the First Minister's ongoing effort to bring gender equality to the boardroom.
But there is a glaring example of inequality taking place under her nose which even some in her own party are now finding hard to bear.

Later this month, the SNP conference will be asked to vote on new rules for its MPs designed to bring extra discipline to the Westminster group.
This is essential for life in a hung parliament, when the whips need to track every single vote.
It's also vital to any power sharing deal with Labour.
If the SNP have, say, 40 MPs their allies need to know that means 40 votes, not 30 votes and some rebels and abstentions.

So all SNP MPs elected in May must "treat the position as a full-time commitment".
All MPs except one, that is.
Not for the first time, it seems different rules will apply to Alex Salmond.
If all goes to plan, on May 8 he will both an MP and an MSP, not to mention a newspaper columnist and author.
Besides being a presentational problem, it's also an arithmetical one.
As he'll have to be in Westminster far more, it leaves the SNP outnumbered at Holyrood for the first time since they won their majority in 2011.
And as last week's vote on the NHS super-database showed, things can get pretty squeaky in  such situations. 

Here's the full story:

Tom Gordon

ALEX Salmond is under pressure to stand down as an MSP if elected to Westminster in light of new SNP rules and comments by senior members of the party.

The former First Minister, currently MSP for Aberdeenshire East, is standing in the LibDem-held seat of Gordon in May’s election.

If he wins he is expected to play a major role in the SNP group at Westminster, possibly as its leader or a key negotiator in power-sharing talks with Labour.

However a motion to the SNP’s conference later this month says incoming SNP MPs must “treat the position as a full-time commitment with an attendance and work rate commensurate with that status”, an obvious problem for Salmond if he has two jobs.
The rule has been proposed by Westminster leader Angus Robertson and MP Pete Wishart.

In a Commons debate last month on MPs with two jobs, Wishart also said being MP was “a full-time job”, adding: “No SNP Member has a second job, a directorship or a place on a company. Our responsibilities here are our sole concern and our only responsibility.”
Pete Wishart on Commons duties being the "sole concern" for SNP MPs

Besides bringing Salmond into conflict with SNP rules, a second job would mean him missing votes in Holyrood and Westminster, as he could not vote in both parliaments at once.

Although Salmond has been both an MP and MSP before, it was during a Labour majority at Westminster, when his vote carried little weight in the parliamentary arithmetic.

After he was elected First Minister in 2007, he had one of the worst attendance records of any MP – voting in the Commons on just 16 days in his last three years there.

However with polls predicting a hung parliament, SNP votes would carry more weight, and Salmond would have to be in Westminster far more often.

The “pairing” system which lets government and opposition MPs miss votes in equal numbers also tends to break down in hung parliaments and is not used in votes of confidence. 

Salmond’s need to be at Westminster could also cause the SNP trouble at Holyrood, as his absence would leave the party outnumbered for the first time since 2011 - by 64 votes to 63.

In addition, although Gordon partially overlaps Aberdeenshire East, representing both would mean Salmond’s potential workload would grow from 58,000 constituents to over 80,000.

One senior party insider said: “There would be a twin-track problem. 
“We might not be able to rely on his [Salmond’s] vote in the Scottish Parliament, and we couldn’t rely on it at Westminster. Why doesn’t he just retire gracefully?”
Alex Salmond: looking to wear two hats

Christine Jardine, LibDem candidate in Gordon, said: “The people of Gordon will take into account that the last time Alex Salmond was both an MP and MSP, his attendance record at Westminster was atrocious. 
"It’s not possible to represent people in two places at once .
“It’s underlines that for him this is not about representing people, it’s about what he wants.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman added: “Once again, Mr Salmond finds himself in the enviable position of looking at two jobs, two salaries and two ways to fill his time.
“But his bluff has been called by his own party and he will have to make up his mind whether to be a full-time MP and part-time columnist, author and MSP, or do what people pay him for.” 

A spokesperson for Salmond said: “Alex has always fulfilled any election period for which he has been voted and will continue to do so. 
“We are not generally in a position of knife edge votes at Holyrood, and of course don't know what the position will be at Westminster, but any situation will be easily addressed.
"He is and will remain a full time parliamentarian if elected in Gordon in May, and the full time commitment refers to parliamentary duties.
"He would only benefit from one parliamentary salary, donating the other to support youth causes in North East Scotland.”