Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Welcome Return of Some Real Sleaze: the Tory Variety

Those of us in the Labour Party are feeling mightily relieved that the Conservatives have come to our rescue with a return to their 'default' sleaze mode; never can David Cameron have been made more aware of Macmillan's 'Events dear boy, events' dictum. Moreover, Conway's crimes, which resulted in substantial sums ending up in Conway bank accounts, in reality-whatever the Conservative blandishments - easily outscore those of Hain on the 'Sleazometer'. Cameron did well, politically, to supplement the relatively mild sanctions of the Commons (after a some little dithering) with action which has effectively ended the career of the member for the safe seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup. But two aspects of this affair make me think, Labour should not allow this small relief to go to our heads.

Firstly, I suspect there are a lot of MPs up there in Westminster who are feeling nervous about their own employment of family members in exchange for similar amounts of loot and I bet a fair number of them are Labour MPs. Conway's crime may be a widespread up there as expense fiddling is in business. Certainly, the old fashioned notion that all MPs are 'honourable' has been tossed into the garbage bin and from now on, I suspect, regulations will be tightened up and applied much more robustly.

Secondly, Jenni Russell makes the important point that these sums are tiny compared with the real waste caused by government incompetence: IT debacles costing billions for no advantage and the £10bn spent on consultants as documented by former consultant David Craig in his alarming Plundering the Public Sector. As she concludes:

Our indignation at Conway's misuse of £13,000 or £45,000 is as nothing compared to spending on this scale.

Surely, Jenni Russell is guilty of conflation?

Of course waste is an issue, but there’s a world of difference between money wasted by an incompetent acting in good faith and money pocketed by a schemer.
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