Leading article: Ex-ministers for hire

Share
Related Topics

Professional lobbying on the US model is a comparatively recent, and regrettable, addition to the rich texture of British political life. This is not to say that it has not existed in one form or other for a long time, rather that the "revolving door" – which allowed MPs and senior civil servants to leave by one exit, only to appear at an adjacent entrance a little later – has become more obvious in recent years, as have the bulging sacks of money on offer. It is also clear, from yesterday's revelations by Channel 4 and The Sunday Times, that efforts made so far to control the practice have been nothing like rigorous enough.

The closeness of the election, of course, makes the accusations against three former ministers particularly damaging, even though they deny any wrongdoing. With the MPs' expenses scandal and the Lords "cash for questions" affair lurking in the background, this also explains why leading members of the Government lined up to express shock and horror. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said he was "appalled", insisting that there was "absolutely no room for anyone to trade on their ministerial office".

Quite so. But the charges are not quite so easily brushed away. Nor is it in any way mitigation that the three Labour MPs in question will be leaving the Commons at the election. All appear thoroughly familiar with the earnings potential afforded by the posts they have held and their continuing access to the corridors of power. We know, not least from the lobbying job the Conservative MP, Andrew MacKay, has landed, that they are unlikely to be the only ones looking to exploit their expertise and contacts in this way.

At present, former ministers must wait one year before lobbying the Government. The Conservative leader, David Cameron, has proposed extending this to two and tightening up the penalties for rule-breaking. We doubt, though, whether even this will be enough. Labour says it will include proposals for a statutory, rather than voluntary, register of lobbyists in its manifesto. The case has now been more than made, and it should not apply only to ministers. Voters are entitled to know whose interests, in addition to those of their constituents, an MP may be representing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicky Clarke has criticised the Duchess of Cambridge for having grey hair  

Letting one’s hair turn grey would be the most subversive Royal act

Rosie Millard
 

London’s foreign money bubble is bursting – but will we be better off?

Chris Blackhurst
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash