I’ve just read today’s Guardian editorial “Byers for sale” taking former cabinet minister Stephen Byers to task for allegedly offering, on camera, to use his access and influence to lobby for private clients for up to £5,000 a day.
While condemning Byers for his greed and stupidity, interestingly, the Guardian also feels let down by the sight of a leading “centrist” being so eager to enrich himself. The paper also sees a potential conspiracy in Byers being exposed by The Sunday Times and Channel Four’s Dispatches, all the more so given that other MPs similarly identified as ready to make a fast buck included Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon, ‘architects’ of the botched coup to remove Gordon Brown earlier this year.
The Guardian suggests that the last thing one should expect from “progressive centrists” is a willingness to dip their noses in the parliamentary trough like all the rest. Byers’s actions, the paper says, are a setback for progressive politics and he, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon should know better. But, should we really be surprised when MPs of whatever political colour continue to feather their own nest?
The problem as I see it is an old one. We have MPs who are far removed from the lifestyles of the people they represent and who are so out of touch with the daily grind faced by their constituents that they act as if it’s almost ‘normal’ to look to enrich themselves at every opportunity. Until we have elected representatives who are more in tune with the lives, hopes and aspirations of their electorates then we will continue to see MPs mired in a tide of scandal and sleaze.
To those who say that we need to pay MPs more in order to get the right calibre of individual into Parliament and to prevent them taking well paid jobs elsewhere, I say that these ‘career politicians’ are precisely the sort of people who we do not want taking decisions on our behalf.
Personally, I’d rather see a few more health workers, community campaigners, teachers, construction workers, administrative assistants, engineers and bus drivers in Westminster. Perhaps then we’d get a better politics, with decisions more in tune with the lives lived by the majority of the population and not the privileged few.