Osborne has become the real leader of the opposition. The only conflict of interests will be his and May's.

21 Mar 2017 at 08:25

Who in their right mind would want to stand for election as an MP? The place is no longer any fun at all. The bars are empty and you witness the heresy of journalists sipping skinny lattes rather than downing pints of Doom Bar. I once offered one of those pasty faced children from the Speccy a drink. It was as if Satan had entered the room and was suggesting a blow job from Jacob Rees Mogg. The whole place has become so worthy, so sanctimonious, so preachy that there is more fun in a seminary than in these corridors of dour. And the regulators of this monochrome bunch are even worse. More watchdogs than at that Battersea home for strays.

Last week they pronounced that relatives may no longer work for MPs. Utterly insane. Many wives are excellent and hard working secretaries and are a tremendous support to their husbands. Judy Gale, Angela Haselhurst and Eve Burt are three first class examples. Dear old Sir Julian Ridsdale employed the services of his formidable wife Paddy on whom Ian Fleming based the Miss Moneypenny character. She ran the show. In those days Harwich had the the highest concentration of nursing homes in the country. The joke doing the rounds then was a spoof BR poster, ‘Dover for the continent, Harwich for the incontinent.’ All Julian had to do when a constituent had a problem was utter the magic words, ’don’t worry Paddy will speak to matron.’

When I was elected in 1983 I discovered to my horror that the pay was £12,000 a year, precisely half of what I was earning at the bar. There was a small allowance for a secretary, but we had to buy our own typewriter, which was a second hand Olivetti golf ball. I managed to tempt my wife away from a top secretarial job to come and work for me. Of course, with a pay cut. It worked brilliantly. I remember being summoned to the office of the Accountant, a lovely guy called Dobson. ‘Listen Jerry, you guys are paid bugger all. You can be a little flexible on the allowances, just don’t take the piss.’

And now they are going to clamp down on MPs having other jobs. The hair shirt argument is that we should spawn a ghastly breed of professional politicians who must have no other interests than slavishly keeping their constituents under twenty four hour surveillance. They must have no other financial interests. To have another means of earning a living proves that you are ignoring your constituents. Of course, this is dangerous bollocks. MPs should be well rounded. Have a hinterland. Have experience of real life rather than sad attempts at slithering up the greasy pole. To deny them additional income makes them prisoners of the whips office. ‘Damn your conscience, if you don’t vote for the government you will be deselected’. The Commons is institutionalised enough as it is. It is important to have the financial security to be able to tell your party to sod off.

So now the question of George Osborne. The logic of the case is that editorship of the London Evening Standard is such a full time job that you would inevitably neglect the needs of your constituents two hundred miles away. Really? Being Chancellor is a full time job. Was he neglecting his constituents then? Of course not. ‘But editing a paper is different’, the hair shirters sqeal. Actually it isn’t. It’s certainly less onerous than being in the cabinet.

This Bru ha ha is because George has done rather well for himself after being very publicly sacked and humiliated by May, an act that she will live to regret sooner than she thought. I don’t want to sound too Philip Green, but there is a lot of envy swilling around the commons at the moment. What concerns me that Acoba, another watchdog, will decide whether there is a conflict of interests. And the Parliamentary standards committee are having a wail about it too. They will probably want to put together a list of forbidden jobs. God help us all.

Let’s put it into perspective. All additional income and interests have to be declared. The system is transparent. If the Tatton Conservative association feel that there is a conflict then they will take appropriate action. George will be asked to go. But it must be for them to decide. And the Tatton seat will disappear in boundary changes. So it’s all a bit academic. So my advice to Osborne is not to contemplate causing a by election. And to May? Be very careful what to say at PMQs tomorrow. Butter up the real leader of the opposition. He’s the editor of the Evening Standard. It is, of course too late. The real conflict of interests is between him and May. There is much mischief to be made. Oh, and he will take the piss. Buckets and buckets of it.

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