Note: The title says “latest” – I’ve just seen something else crop up about MPs renting their houses out while claiming for them, but like the main topic here it’s nothing new, though the press may act like it is.
Two nights ago Patrick Mercer MP announced his resignation of the Tory whip due to the Panorama/Telegraph sting, being aired on the BBC this coming Thursday.
In the sting Mercer accepted bribes to use his auspices as an MP on behalf of the Fiji dictator regime. Quite a few more parliamentarians seem to be caught up in it. It’s just one case, set up to catch people out. There’s no telling how many genuine cases there are, but the vast industry of lobbying presumably doesn’t see all that money spent in return for nothing.
Given that MPs are supposed to be working for constituents, not corporations, there is no reason to think we have a functioning democracy or a legitimate government.
No one who follows politics is remotely surprised at this scandal, and the press has a sense of only really covering this because it has to.
They should have been shouting about it for years. The level of patronising garbage already being spilled out is appalling, but at least we know a basic statistic from this episode.
We knew the going rate to bribe the Tory party for policy was in the £100,000s. Now we know the individual rate to bribe an MP to work for you is upward of £1,000 a day.
This piece by Andrew Rawnsley is useful, because it combines decent summation with the mix of bleeding obvious and timidity that will dominate coverage of this issue, in sub-pedestrian fashion, for the coming years. God spare us.
Here’s some classic denialism: Towards the end he says
The starkest of <the dangers>, the paying of direct cash bribes to purchase changes to government policy – seems to be mercifully rare in Britain.
That’s having said this earlier…
Closely examine many of the bad policy decisions of recent years and you will often find lobbying somewhere in the mix. The multiple City scandals were facilitated by the great success of the banking lobby in persuading ministers that “light-touch regulation” was the way to go. The horsemeat scandal was in part the result of pressure brought by the supermarkets for less stringent regulation of food standards.
So it’s “mercifully rare”, except for it happening quite a lot really…
Rawnsley also makes the common basic error of calling the Peter Cruddas outrage a “cash for access” issue when it was explicitly “cash for policy” (this was when the near billionaire Tory Chief treasurer was caught soliciting bribes for the party by The Sunday Times last year).
Getting people pay to scoff lasagna at Dave and Sams, or get a publicity photo with them, is quite off for sure. It’s nothing compared to drawing up policy in favour of the briber. The access was only a functional part of the corruption, but made to look like the corruption itself. It’s wanton downplaying.
A modest proposal for a register of lobbyists got dropped from the recent Queens Speech. Lobbyists and MPs wanted corruption to continue as long as possible.
Cameron talked about the issue as a priority, but will have done nothing in 5 years. Yet his government found time to smash the poor, drive vulnerable people to suicide, parcel out government contracts and public services to their vulture friends and all other kinds of unholiness.
These are their functions, providing accountable democracy is absolutely not their function.
Now they may just have to do something about lobbying. We will be tiresomely patronised about how “the rules were too vague/broad”, just as with the expenses scandal.
Within about 5 years there will be some weak frameworks established, giving plenty of time for people to figure out ways round them. That’s 5 years to establish them, not necessarily to implement them.
Obviously, lobbyists will have more say in the policy than mere citizens. We just pay for it all like saps.
Real action needs to be put off as long as possible. Parties are stuggling for money, so they need the bribes for funds. Individuals will have clearly come to expect bribes as a supplement to the pittance of salary plus expenses plus (often) outside work.
This is what’s meaningfully changed in terms of respect for democracy since the 2008 banking and expenses scandals: Nothing.
In fact, all major acts and contracts of government should be routinely scrutinised by an independent body for corrupt influence, with powers to pursue criminal prosecutions,
Many MPs remain decent enough or better, it’s only fair to say we don’t yet know how many told the undercover journalists to sling their hook.
But politics and the corporations that run it are riddled with corruption and crime. It’s systemic.
They count on our stupidity and apathy. To that end they are now promoting a pro establishment way of rebelling against the establishment, so the social media whoops of “UKIP all the way” are only likely to increase.