Monday, 20 February 2012

Vested Interests?

Much is made about serving politicians having 'outside jobs', the argument being that it gives them the benefit of the "workplace experience" from which can be brought wisdom in the framing of laws which affect us all. Such politicians are in receipt of remuneration from organisations of which they are employed; and/or represent as 'consultants'; or have received a fee for having given a talk about a related subject at an event hosted by an organisation/company that has an 'interest' in the subject under discussion. Politicians with 'outside interests' have either accepted a position within an organisation, for monetary gain, to act as a supporter/lobbyist of that organisation, or they believe in the aims of that organisation whilst accepting a fee to further its aims. The minute anyone accepts a fee from any organisation, that organisation becomes your master, in that no organisation will provide you with a remuneration without you, in turn, providing a 'return' in lieu - which is why ordinary mortals get fired for nonperformance.

Politicians are supposedly elected to further the aims of their constituents, when MPs; or their country, when elected to the House of Lords. In both instances those members of our society are provided remuneration from the taxpayer's purse, which begs the question for those MPs and Lords with 'outside interests' of how they can serve two masters? When speaking in Parliament MPs and Lords are required to make known any outside interests they may have in relation to the discussion in question, yet no requirement is made of them to state for which of their interests they are speaking.

The current 'debate du jour' is about the proposed changes to how the NHS is to be organised - consequently it has to be asked how can any such debate be carried out impartially for the good of those that use the NHS and for the good of the country when those on this list have two masters?

Are not MPs and Lords listed in the foregoing link not disciples of Judas, thus also Judas Goats? Are they not careerists? Are they not mercenaries, selling their expertise to the highest bidder? Yet, have they not already sold themselves, where they are MPs, to the highest bidder - the highest bidder being the number of bidders who caused them to be elected?

And we wonder why our democracy is in such a mess, that it has reached a nadir none could have foretold?

Initially, just a thought - then, consequently, just saying...................


PeterCharles said...

Lobbying is probably the most pernicious, anti-democratic thing in governance. It is based on deceit, bribery and power for vested interests.

Unfortunately it has always been present, although the scale has mushroomed with the social democratic consensus of the last 60 years, even to include the government lobbying itself or encouraging quangos and NGOs to indulge. It is not possible to stop it, if the practitioners can't do it legally they will do it illegally, for those seeking to preserve or gain power or money it is too valuable a tool to waste.

It is another of things that the media used to keep somewhat in check when it operated correctly, but no more.

Edward Spalton said...

Traditionally, of course, Parliament's hours were fixed so that MPs who were barristers could continue with their practice in the courts, unless they became too busy as ministers. It was never expected that MPs would become as monks in the cloister, dedicated only to politics. The local industrialist and the local trade unionist could represent their constituencies as well as the local landowner had done in the century before. Now, of course, the businesses they created or worked in are local no longer but subsidiaries of multinationals where they continue to exist at all.

With regard to the list of interests, I don't see that being a director of a pharmaceutical company (for instance) creates a conflict of interest in this case of NHS reorganisation.

Where the corruption arises is in the bastard system of privatisation - PFI and PPI etc with its cosy circles of "preferred bidders" etc. It is part of a move to what is sometimes called "the enabling state" where the government contracts out its functions to private contractors in an EU-wide market. The administration of the East Riding of Yorkshire is contracted to a subsidiary of the German firm Bertelsmann, for instance.

The principal instrument of corruption is the "revolving door". Ministers and senior civil servants award huge contracts worth billions. Then they retire with their inflation-proofed pensions. A year later, they re-emerge as consultants and directors of the firms to which they awarded contracts.

There always was some corruption in public contracts although the 19th century civil service reforms abolished much of it. With the deliberate blurring between the public and private spheres it is back with a vengeance on a scale far greater than the 18th century because the state is so much larger today.

As far as I can see, the rot began to set in during the early Seventies with the advent of what might be termed "managerialism" in the civil service. It was thought that "business methods" would improve efficiency. At the same time Parliament became thoroughly professionalised. Until 1971 MPs got a pretty good salary (which they voted themselves), first class travel, franking for their post and (I think) 2,000 sheets of paper per year. That was all - no pension(unless they bought their own), no second home allowance, no researchers/office staff, no duck houses, no moat cleaning.

So the need for some outside interest was understandable. Tory MPs sometimes had their family businesses. Labour MPs got (and still do get) sponsorship from trade unions. A sponsorship from a health service union is surely just as much an "interest" as a business.

It may have altered, but the Swiss system, I understand, did not reward its MPs; they could expect the offer of several directorships on the morning after the election.

TomTom said...

Parliament's hours were fixed so that MPs who were barristers could continue with their practice in the courts, unless they became too busy as ministers

In what other system can a Member of the Legislature function as a Member of the Judiciary (Recorder) or represent Clients and Interests before Tribunals and Judges ?

In what other system is Preferment given to Members of the Legislature, ie. the speed with which Barristers in Parliament become QCs and increase their earning power ?

WitteringsfromWitney said...

PC: Totally agree.

ES: With regard to your second paragraph, I would beg to differ. Being a director of any company surely entails making your company more profitable? Being a director of a company in the field you mention must surely mean that he/she also has an interest in how the user operates? Ie, whilst the link may be tenuous, it is a link that should not be there.

I have to return to a pet argument and that is should not local people decide the healthcare they want and how any system should operate? Go look at the swiss model of healthcare.

I take your point about East Riding of Yorkshire and Bertelsmann - although to me this is but an example of how the EU will eventually install an EU health service.

In regard to your last paragraph, yes it is well known that swiss MPs, who are part time politicians, have outside interests, however due to direct democracy the swiss people have the ability to block/change/amend any proposal that their MPs proffer - we don't.

TT: Exactly. Which is why we need a system of direct democracy in this country.