Patrick Mercer should stand down as an MP now

Another Member of Parliament has lost sight of his job title's meaning

Share
Related Topics

When Patrick Mercer met a fictional lobbying company, Alistair Andrews Communications, and agreed to take money to work on behalf of business interests in Fiji, why didn't he think: "Hmm, I wonder if this extremely fishy-sounding operation is real, or one of those now all-too-familiar stings that have nailed so many of my colleagues"? And that awful quote: "I do not charge a great deal of money for these things. I would normally come out at £500 per half day. So £1,000 a day." Why was Mercer not reminded of the words of Stephen "cab-for-hire" Byers, when he was stung, in a remarkably similar way, by the very same journalist working with Channel 4 Dispatches in 2010?

Mercer has resigned from the Conservative Party and referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards following the investigation by BBC Panorama and The Daily Telegraph. A former holder of this post, Alistair Graham, has described the MP's actions as "parliamentary prostitution", and he is quite right. If Patrick Mercer has an ounce of principle he should stand down as an MP immediately.

Patrick Mercer has been a fool. His concept of what constitutes "not a great deal of money" is distasteful. But he and other politicians like him are an easy target. This is not to diminish the work of the journalists behind this investigation – an easy target is still a legitimate target, and every individual elected to represent us needs to be held to account. And yet lobbying is what happens. It is legal, and it is no surprise that people can make money from advising clients how best to put their arguments to parliamentarians.

Imagine if Patrick Mercer had set up his all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Fiji because he had grown up there, or had a passionate interest in the plight of Pacific islanders. Is that really what an MP is for? Perhaps it is. Would our democracy be better served if the MP for Newark had stuck strictly to the concerns of the people of this East Midlands market town (or any Fijian businesses are based there)? Probably not.

Patrick Mercer lost sight of his duty as an MP. But his personal catastrophe was, in part, the consequence of a wider crisis in our relationship with Parliament. It is likely that these latest revelations will increase the pressure for the statutory register of lobbyists promised by the coalition. It is certainly the case that the APPG system is open to abuse and ripe for reform. But, in the end, this is isn't about defining what a lobbyist is. It is about defining what an MP is.

Martin Bright is former political editor of 'New Statesman' and 'Jewish Chronicle'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Director / Operations Director

£50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an incredible opportunity for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: EWI / IWI Installer

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of design...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Freeman, centre, with Lord Gladwyn, left, and Harold Wilson on the programme The Great Divide in 1963  

John Freeman was a man of note who chose to erase himself from history

Terence Blacker
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'