Unscrupulous apples feed cynicism

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THE DAY JOB: MPs earned more than £7 million outside Parliament last year.

TWO former UK foreign secretaries are under parliamentary investigation after being secretly filmed “offering their services” to a bogus company for cash. And this after reports MPs earned more than £7 million (€9.62 million) outside of Parliament last year – some making over £1,600 (€2,200) per hour!

Caught in this latest “cash for access” undercover sting, Jack Straw boasted how he operated “under the radar” and had used his influence to change EU rules on behalf of a firm which paid him £60,000 (€82,485) a year. As for payment: “Normally, if I’m doing a speech, it’s £5,000 (€6,874) a day, that’s what I charge.”

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, since resigned as MP, boasted he could arrange “useful access” to every British ambassador in the world, claiming: “I am self-employed, so nobody pays me a salary. I have to earn my income.” This from someone then enjoying an MP’s basic salary of £67,000 (€92,107)! This, he said, “sounds a lot of money to anyone earning less than that… but the reality is that anyone from a professional or business background earns considerably more.”

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And that’s at the root of the problem. The high salaries that can be earned in business and banking as well as in the public sector – in the NHS and the BBC – and the temptations they pose to the less than scrupulous.

Now, decent, hardworking MPs (and, yes, there are some) hate these lobbying scandals most. They not only feed cynicism but, more seriously, undermine politics itself. In the same way as the HSBC tax avoidance scandal undermines the public’s trust in business and banking, “aggressive, incompetent and overpaid” NHS administrators undermine the public’s trust in the health service and BBC executives undermine the public’s trust in Auntie.

As for the BBC, the problem’s the bottomless supply of licence payers’ money. This means no ‘bottom line,’ no accountability, no need for personal responsibility. Bloated, top-heavy layers of management perpetuate themselves and their indulgences because there’s only token accountability to a less than rigorous Board. How can the next government even contemplate continuing with the licence fee, especially given ever changing technology and audience habits?

I know I go on about parliamentary scandals, the NHS, the BBC and so on. My reasoning is that only by drawing repeated attention to these issues can there be any hope of change.

Nora Johnson’s thrillers ‘Landscape of Lies’, ‘Retribution’, ‘Soul Stealer’, ‘The De Clerambault Code’ (www.nora-johnson.com) available from Amazon in paperback/eBook (€0.89; £0.79) and iBookstore. Profits to Cudeca.

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