Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Question of Priorities

The question of outside interests for the Shadow Cabinet is one I have made by views clear on in the past. When the News of the World initially ran a story on 1 November that David Cameron was to ban his top team from having outside interests in the run-up to the election I was pleased - but at the same time wondered if it was wise to brief an initiative he might not be able to deliver on. I took the view at the time that if people didn't like it, they could lump it and be replaced by those who were willing to commit all their energies to winning an election. I haven't changed that view.

The Financial Times reports that Cameron has given up on the initiative, while Ben Brogan pins the blame on William Hague, who he says had threatened to resign from the Shadow Cabinet if Cameron banned him from earning money outside politics. The FT also hints that Alan Duncan and an unnamed third Shadow Cabinet member threatened to follow suit.

There are several lessons from this. First of all, the kite flying (the FT fingers Steve Hilton) in November was wrong headed. Secondly, only announce you are preparing to fight a battle when you know you are going to win it. Thirdly, William Hague was considered to valuable to risk him walking. Fourthly, any of the others who have complained about this policy can expect to be dropped at the next reshuffle. And they can have no complaints.

Jonathan Isaby from ConHome says this...
In order to be taken as a serious government-in-waiting, politics has to come first and I was somewhat concerned recently to hear the following story about a member of the shadow cabinet: he had apparently already told David Cameron that he didn't want a higher profile post than that which he currently holds in advance of the general election, because he didn't want to give up other interests on account of time commitments or potential conflicts of interest involved in a different post. Such an attitude at this juncture is unacceptable.

And if the anecdote is true, it would indeed be unacceptable. I too have heard a similar anecdote about a Shadow Cabinet member who was offered a promotion and turned it down - not because of any thought about time commitments or conflict of interest, but because he/she genuinely wanted to finish the job they had started. I wonder if we are both referring to the same person.


Unknown said...

William Hague I understand. IIRC, he earns most (by far) of his money outside politics? As such, I wouldn't give that up if I was him either.

Also, I really see nothing wrong with politicians having outside financial interests. In most/all countries in the world this is the norm, and compared to abroad, particularly America, our politians don't do that well at all.

For me it seems to be this newspaper fueled quest to always be "holier than thou". Politics should be a calling, not a career, money should be limited, hours should be long, outside interests should be nil, thanks, along with any publicly funded perks should be non existant blah blah blah.... how unreasonable and pathetic. Especially when you see senior figures in local authorities creaming off in excess of 6 figures for 4 days a week work, generous holidays, and all for a job that has questionable worth in the first place.

It's about time we layed of our politicans. They get far far too much stick for practically nothing. If I was an American Senator i'd be looking accross the pond and sniggering at our constantly under fire politicans.

I blame the left wing. It's always their fault for kicking up such a stick, which people like Cameron feel the need to pander too, and then to really take the piss, when the left wing does get in, they are about 1000X worse with all the nonsense that was supposidly so abhorrant to them in the past.

Lady Finchley said...

I agree with Iain - there is something unseemly about Shadow Cabinet members having outside jobs. However, many MPs help fund their offices from their own pockets and the outside jobs help with that. If David Cameron is serious about enforcing this then CCHQ should be paying for all political staff.

Tom said...

Are these guys expecting to keep these "outside" jobs when they reach government?

J said...

Coffee House: I suspect that most people who have followed this story are fairly confident that they know who the other two members who threatened to resign are.

Alan Duncan and...?

Horshamite said...

I really can't understand the issue with outside jobs. One of the reasons why parliament - particularly the labour side - is so out of touch with normal people is that few have ever held a proper job. Outside jobs bring understanding, perspective and experience - and makes MPs slightly less self righteous and up their arses. I would rather Cameron only gave jobs to those good enough to be able to hold down an external job as well.

Dick the Prick said...

They get better holidays than everyone, can pay their families for tenuous work, don't really have a boss, can turn up when they want, get a 2nd home paid for by us, get subsidized booze and can research anything they bally well want.

Not content with fleecing as much of my money as they can get their hands on, they can't even be arsed to do it full time. In the words of Tony the Tiger - 'they're Ggggreat'. Unbelievable arrogant & removed from the rest of us - guess they're just soooo special.

Dick the Prick said...

Does Cameron have any opinions or balls? What the hell is the gimp up to? No wonder people are voting BNP, unbelievable.

Daddy got him a job and the petulant little boy just wants to be at home. We are so screwed.

WV:banto - is that parliament's impression of widow twanky? Good show - can I have a refund?

Anonymous said...

This is my complaint about some of the Shadow Cabinet. The fact that they insist on doing other jobs at the same time baffles me. If they were the best opposition ever there would not be a problem but they are not!

I will be voting Tory at the next election but I don't see why any of them should be doing outside interests. They have to remember the party made them - not the other way round.

Jimmy said...

I think there's a distinction to be drawn between real work experience prior to entering politics, and directorships/consultancies picked up as a result of a political office. As for the Horshamite's party dig I'm not sure what vast outside experience he's suggesting the shadow cabinet draws on. Most of them seem to have worked for the party pretty much since leaving college.

Bird said...

Cameron should swallow it for now, but bear it all in mind when he forms his cabinet after the next GE.
Forget Steve Hilton. Can anyone tell me what Andy Coulson (Communications Directoe) has actually done recently to justify his huge salary?

Bird said...

Cameron should swallow it for now, but bear it all in mind when he forms his cabinet after the next GE.
Forget Steve Hilton. Can anyone tell me what Andy Coulson (Communications Directoe) has actually done recently to justify his huge salary?

Dick the Prick said...

Bird - sold drivel to plebs, and bad drivel at that. Sound familiar?

At least at the news of the screws they paid voluntarily.

Anonymous said...

I see Dick the Prick is living up to his name.

And good ol' Jimmy is conveniently forgetting the nice little earners people like Patricia Hewitt is making. Ooh and Charles Clarke. Wonder how Charles Kennedy earns a crust these days.

Point is if they do not earn their shadow cabinet keep then fire them. Outside interests do not matter.

In the short term of course Cameron can only choose a shadow cabinet from the people in parliament, in the longer term, in power, there would be other options to chose from and the point is that as PM Mr C will have power of life and death over his cabinet.

If I were him I would have a very long memory over just how the present lot chose to perform. If they have not got the brains to realise that then the nation will be well rid of their meagre abilities.

But then I am just the sort of ruthless bastard who would make a good prime minister and be quite happy to fire off all the useless c***s who just want to play at politics.

The present real cabinet are bad enough.

Dick the Prick said...

Trevorsden - sounds like you're just making the best of a bad lot. Compromise between the lesser of who gives a toss. It's my money and they're wasting it. Your pragmatism is perhaps a tedious image of how parliament has failed.

I went for a job interview with Connecting for Health the other day - £13bn and counting. No democratic oversight, scruting or even interest. The fat bastards on whichever green leather bench are just not up to the job. I've been ripped off, ta very much and they want my monika - yeah, right.

Happy Christmas turkey!

Dick the Prick said...

Don't know what scruting is, perhaps tossers rutting in a safe environment. I'm bloody good at my job and get paid alright, not great shakes but alright. Money means that to me - a bit left over.

If they wanna make money then should have been as good as me at golf but that would have required effort. Nah, the Tories have chosen foolishly and I think it's starting to scare people.

................................. said...

The point of outside interests is that there are only a certain number of hours in a day. Frontbenchers have their resposibilities as MPs in addition to their shadow ministerial roles; there should not be time for non-executive directorships.

Of course, there are certain roles in opposition that involve less work than others. Those in less demanding roles, for instance William Hague, might be intent on retaining outside interests.

That's not to say that it's in any way acceptible for a shadow cabinet member, to take a scenario "at random", to turn down being Shadow Chancellor in favour of remaining Shadow Foreign Secretary in order to continue raking in the cash with their after-dinner speaking

Old BE said...


As a sage once said to me "only make threats you are prepared to carry out". DC has screwed this up big time. Sensibly, the voters want a full-time government in waiting so call Hague's bluff and see which way he jumps. If he is sensible he will give Hague the Shadow Chancellor's job once he has committed.

Dick the Prick said...

Isn't the bottom line that it's just a piss take?

I held down a second job at the best pub in Huddersfield for a year longer than I shoud've done out of respect and no one benefitted, no-one. Yet these shits think taking my money and treating it like an allowance is acceptable.

Guess I was just raised different.

Letters From A Tory said...

I couldn't agree more.

Either Cameron threatens his Shadow Cabinet and goes through with it, or he doesn't pick the fight in the first place.

He has now got himself the worst of both worlds.

Roger Thornhill said...

I want politicians to have HAD outside interests, for sure, as I detest the Political Classes who know nothing of starting, running and building a business, employing people from cleaners to Marketing Managers and Sales reps. All are valuable to make things "tick" and our representatives (I do not call then "leaders" for they are NOT) need to know this. Unless you do, high office becomes, well, the kind of screw-up we are now seeing.

In office? I think it would depend. The party leader needs to see if they are able to perform their role. Case by case.

BTW, I do not consider David Cameron to be qualified. All he wants to do is sell well enough to win the 5 year "contract" with no break clause for the buyer.

JuliaM said...

"I too have heard a similar anecdote about a Shadow Cabinet member who was offered a promotion and turned it down - not because of any thought about time commitments or conflict of interest, but because he/she genuinely wanted to finish the job they had started."

Why on earth should this be considered to his detriment...? Don't we have enough politics-in-the-blood idiots already?

Someone with some outside interests and real world views would be a breath of fresh air, actually. God knows, the 'professionals' aren't exaCTLY DOING A BANG-UP JOB, ARE THEY?

JuliaM said...

Gah! So enraged I hit my caps lock! ;)

Agree with Roger Thornhill:"..I do not consider David Cameron to be qualified. All he wants to do is sell well enough to win the 5 year "contract" with no break clause for the buyer."

Constantine said...

I am sorry David Cameron has backed down on this. The shadow cabinet should lead by example. How can they expect maximum effort in campaigning and fundraising from unpaid party activists when they won't give their jobs their undivided attention. There are plenty of other people prepared to be MPs who would not treat it as a part-time job.

Jimmy said...


I wasn't forgetting anyone. it wasn't intended as a partisan point.