The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Like A Cab For Hire

Posted by The Futility Monster on March 23, 2010 @ 11:19

Taxi!

The “revelations” that certain MPs tout themselves for business off special interests was hardly earth-shattering for those of us who have been paying attention to what MPs are doing for a long time.

The only thing that was new was that the silly MPs in question were all caught talking openly about it to a sting operation.

Money-for-influence has always gone on. But we have to be really clear about what we mean by “influence”. A cursory glance of the Register for Members Interests will probably shock the most naive observer, but this kind of thing has always gone on.

Members of Parliament, looking to extend their earning potential, are very keen to hear from lobbying firms, especially ones purporting to have interests close to their heart, and even ones less so. They will quite happily take several thousands of pounds off these businesses a year, with the promise of being their parliamentary consultant/adviser.

The premise of the arrangement is usually that the MP will make a special effort to grant a few indulgences to their sponsor. This involves asking parliamentary questions for them, namedropping their interests on a regular basis, an open phone line to discuss any pressing matters, a friendly ear and a helpful staff who will write appropriate letters to ministers, and perhaps even the odd MP-sponsored bash on the Terrace. And regular trips to Westminster for the business’ staff. Fun days out for all.

In return for this, the going rate is £5k to £20k per year, depending on how much value for money the business gets.

This kind of minor influence peddling has always gone on, and will continue to exist. In some ways, it’s not really important. The actual impact these businesses have on the legislative process is almost always zero. What they may get is some prestige, some quicker answers, and maybe a favourable stroke of the civil servant’s pen when it comes to certain EU regulations or statutory instruments.

To most people though, it’s hardly democratic. Your average Joe can’t afford to hire one of these cabs, baby. It means access to minor political tinkering is indeed available to the businesses that can afford it. Naturally, these are not representative of the actual interests of the whole of the democratic population.

What has caused this kind of thing to blow up is that some MPs have been caught on camera talking about it. In some respects, the MPs in question have actually bigged up the things they can achieve. Lobbying one minor backbencher to change the law is so unlikely to succeed it’s crazy. Stephen Byers, et al, may simply have been enjoying the ego trip.

But once more, what it does is continue to shit on the reputation of politics when it couldn’t get any lower in the public’s mind.

And worse, it’s all on Labour. Again.

Yet another one of those own goals I’ve talked about…

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2 Responses to “Like A Cab For Hire”

  1. Peter Reynolds said

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/like-a-cab-for-hire-or-more-like-a-whore/

    !!

  2. […] a comment » The depths of venality plumbed by Stephen Byers, Geoff Hoon, Patricia Hewitt, Looking For […]

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