The Prime Minister's plan to embarrass the Shadow Cabinet by forcing MPs to publish details of their second jobs looks set to backfire after it emerged that senior Labour MPs and former ministers are more reluctant to part with their outside earnings.
The Tories immediately saw the new rules introduced by Gordon Brown as an attempt to frame them as a party of millionaires with numerous business interests. But many members of the Shadow Cabinet are giving up their outside work ahead of the next election and believe that the failure of senior figures in the Labour Party to follow suit has exposed their lack of faith at their party's prospects.
"They thought they were being very clever on this, but former ministers are clearly taking the view that they will lose the election and shouldn't give up their outside interests," said a senior Tory. "What they've done is demonstrated a lack of belief in their own destiny as a party."
Some in the Shadow Cabinet had fought against a ban on second jobs when the idea was floated by Mr Cameron last year. But the expenses scandal and a healthy double-digit lead in the polls has prompted them to relinquish their paid roles outside Westminster. So far, only one former Labour minister has decided to give up his outside interests. "We are taking some big decisions on this and acting like a Government-in-waiting," the Tory source added. "They are acting like an opposition-in-waiting."
A number of David Cameron's top team have pledged to give up their lucrative second jobs ahead of the next election. William Hague, often criticised over his extra-parliamentary commitments which earn him up to £215,000 a year, is among them, having pledged to free himself from the commitments by the autumn. Alan Duncan, the shadow Leader of the House, has already given up two directorships after controversy over the amount of time he devoted to them. He gave up his final position with the oil firm, Arawak Energy, in April.
Oliver Letwin, author of the party's manifesto, is to give up a £60,000 post with investment bank N M Rothschild ahead of the next election. David Willetts, the shadow Skills Secretary, will step down from his advisory role with Punter Southall later this year, costing him up to £80,000. David Gauke, a shadow Treasury minister, has given up a directorship with Ivobank, an internet bank. Shadow International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has resigned from his six directorships at Lazards. On the Labour benches, only Ian McCartney, a former trade minister, has announced he is to resign from his £113,000 consultancy job with the US nuclear energy firm, Fluor Corporation. He will do so before the 1 July deadline, after which all MPs will have to publish the exact pay from their second jobs and the amount of time they devote to them.
Employment experts have already said that being a former Labour MP after the next election will not be the draw to large companies that it once was. The combination of the scandal over expenses, which has damaged the kudos earned by companies hiring former MPs, together with the sheer number of Labour politicians who will be leaving the Commons, means that many are holding on to the positions they have secured already. Almost 40 former members of the Labour Government have been granted permission to take jobs in the private sector after leaving office since 2006.
David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, said he would not be giving up the extra-parliamentary work and committed himself to fulfilling "any contractual commitments". The Register of Members' Interests reveals that he has outside earnings of as much as £190,000. However, Mr Blunkett said he would be happy to meet any pledge demanded by his party, adding that he was going to promise his Sheffield constituents that he would work a 60-hour week for them. "I know that it will be no difficulty to put in the 12 hours a day I have become used to," he said.
The former Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, holds paid positions with five different firms. The total amount of Mr Milburn's earnings will be revealed under the new rules. Currently, MPs do not have to disclose the fee they receive for directorships.
Annual accounts show that Dr Reid received £34,066 for his role as chairman of Celtic FC last year. He also receives payments for speeches and up to £50,000 for a consultancy role with the security firm, Group 4 Securicor, putting his total outside earnings at as much as £104,066. He has announced he is to step down as an MP at the next election. The former sports minister Richard Caborn, the former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt and the former Home Secretary Charles Clarke also hold lucrative outside jobs.
The Register of Members' Interests shows that the Conservative Party does have more politicians with outside interests in the Commons, with Tory MPs holding more than 100 directorships between them at present.
Labour: Cashing In
Former health secretary
*AM Strategy, his firm set up to handle “media/consultancy work”: £Unknown
*Non-Executive director, Diaverum Healthcare AB: £Unknown
*Adviser to Lloyds Pharmacy’s Healthcare Advisory Panel: Up to £30,000
*Adviser to Bridgepoint Capital: Up to £35,000
*Adviser to PepsiCo UK: Up to £25,000
*Adviser to Covidien: £Unknown
*Newspaper articles: Up to £25,000
TOTAL UP TO £115,000+
Former health secretary
*Non-executive director of the BT Group: £75,000
*Special consultant to Alliance Boots: Up to £50,000
*Senior adviser to Cinven: Up to £60,000
TOTAL UP TO £185,150
Former home secretary
*Non-executive chairman of Celtic FC: £34,066
*Consultant for Group 4 Securicor: up to £50,000
*Speeches: Up to £20,000
TOTAL UP TO 104,066
Former home secretary
*Chair of Commission on School Transport: Up to £25,000
*Adviser to A4e Ltd: Up to £30,000
*Adviser to UC Group: Up to £50,000
*Non-executive director of Tribune Business Systems: £Unknown
*Speeches: Up to £25,000
*Newspaper articles: Up to £60,000
TOTAL UP TO £190,000
Conservatives: Cashing up
Shadow Skills Secretary
*Chairman of Universal Sensors: £Unknown
*Senior adviser to Punter Southall: Up to £80,000
Tory policy chief
*Non-executive director of N.M. Rothschild bank: £60,000 for eight hours a week
Shadow Leader of the House
*Director of Catalytic Solutions: Thought to be around £35,000
*Director of Arawak Energy: Thought to be around £45,000
*Media appearances: Up to £5,000
TOTAL AROUND £85,000
Shadow Foreign Secretary
*Director of AES Engineering: £Unknown
*Non-executive director of AMT-Sybex Group: £Unknown
*Adviser to the JCB Group: Up to £50,000
*Adviser to Terra Firma Capital Partners: Up to £20,000
*Speeches: Up to £145,000
TOTAL UP TO £215,000
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies