On Question Time last week, Andrew Lansley, shadow cabinet member for health attempted a defence of MPs having second jobs. Apparently secondary occupations help anchor our representatives in real life outside of parliament. Leaving aside the obvious objection that this role is supposed to be performed by the party organisation (at least according to the work political scientists have done on linkage), you have to ask what sort of "real life" Tory MPs are in regular contact with. For instance Lansley revealed his second job consisted of 12 full working days per annum as a non-executive board member. His remuneration for leaving the cosy bubble of Westminster for the rough and tumble of the workplace is £24,000/year.
Is Lansley a one off? Or is he typical of the Tory shadow cabinet? Shall we take a look at other leading shadow cabinet members with jobs on the side?
William Hague, shadow foreign secretary lists his interests outside of parliament as reading, walking, cross-country skiing(!) and judo. But his other outside interests include directorships of AES Engineering and AMT-Sybex. Steven Norris, the former front line Tory MP and London mayoral candidate is the chairman. Pure coincidence of course. In addition Hague has a list of smaller employments as long as your arm - mainly as a speaker (£10K - £20K a pop!) but also as a member of the political council of Terra Firma Capital Partners (another £15K - £20K) and lastly as parliamentary advisor to JCB for a salary in the region of £45,000 - £50,000!
Ken Clarke register of interests is small fry compared to Hague's. Clarke holds a directorship for Independent News and Media (of the Indy fame) and sits on the advisory board of AgCapita Funding Partners. In addition Fat Ken lists a number of speaking engagements over the last year weighing in at £5,000 - £10,000 apiece. All this is a far cry from the halcyon days at British American Tobacco, but the register tells us BAT paid for the flight, three day accommodation and "hospitality" for Clarke and son's jaunt to last year's Singapore grand prix.
Francis Maude is the shadow for the cabinet office and shadow chancellor for the grand duchy of Lancaster. Maude's responsibilities cover the so-called third sector of cooperatives, NGOs and social enterprises. And boy, has Francis been very social with his enterprising. He is the chair of Prestbury Holdings PLC, non-executive chair of The Mission Marketing Group, and carries out a non-executive role for UTEK Corporation. If this wasn't enough, he sits on Barclays' Asia-Pacific Advisory Committee and draws income from properties in the south of France and a home in London (a home he claims expenses for, as exposed on Dispatches a couple of weeks ago). So two shadows plus four jobs on the side. How does he find time for his love of opera and cricket?
Among Alan Duncan's (apparent) interests are "mimics and impressions". Compared to his colleagues, our shadow leader of the commons does a good turn as a proletarian. Duncan is a non-executive director of Arawak Energy, a gas and oil exploration firm whose field of operation is in Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Usefully Duncan also owns Harcourt Consultants who advise on energy issues for projects outside the UK. On top of this he receives rental income from a number of London properties.
Liam Fox, the shadow minister for "defence" doesn't have any directorships! Instead he has to get by on a number of (unspecified) lectures for the medical education firm, Arrest Ltd. (he also holds shares in the company). What catches the eye are the number of gifts he receives contributing toward the costs of his private office. No less than six donations from well-remunerated executives and partners have found their way into the office kitty. Must be nice to have such charitable friends.
Oliver Letwin as head of policy seems well suited given his career as an establishment philosopher. And Letwin also shows being an ideas man doesn't mean you have to skimp on comfort. He is a non-executive director at a subsidiary of Rothschild's, which does him for pocket money.
Tory party chair, Eric Pickles delighted Westminster watchers with his train wreck performance on Question Time at the end of March. If you recall, he justified his second home (financed by the taxpayer via expenses) on the grounds 30 odd miles late at night was too taxing for him. I'd suggest his side employments are probably taking it out of him too. He is a non-executive director for Property Awards Ltd. He's also parliamentary advisor for Royal British Legion Industries. In exchange for his selfless patriotic services RBLI pay somewhere between £10,000 - £15,000.
One is left with a sneaking suspicion that the story outside the shadow cabinet is pretty similar. The Tories' social universe is largely limited to well heeled business circles united by mutual back scratching and patterns of interlocking directorships. It is a world a million miles away from the overwhelming bulk of people. The yawning social distance between them and us means they have little clue of what life is like for most of the middle class, let alone working class people! For the Tory leadership we are abstractions fed to them on policy documents and caricatures that crop up in dinner party conversation. At best we are voting fodder. At worst we are the mob. And because we do not exist in any meaningful way we should not be too surprised when they prioritise the demands of capital above all else. To be sure, the next Tory government will be by the privileged, for the privileged.
Edit: Also at Socialist Unity