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Stephen Byers pays price for being "cab for hire"

Richard Moss | 13:07 UK time, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Stephen Byers MPI'm guessing this is not the end to his parliamentary career that Stephen Byers would have wanted or had envisaged.

Suspended from his party, vilified by some of his colleagues, and referred by himself to the Commons Standards Committee.

And there is a sense of payback amongst his many enemies within the Labour party.

The North Tyneside MP was always an arch-Blairite, but he's also been seen as one of the leading plotters against the Prime Minister.

But this does go beyond revenge. The sense of anger in Labour circles in the region and beyond is palpable, and not just amongst Mr Byers' detractors.

Lord Mandelson has described his behaviour as "grubby" and David Miliband was keen to get an early condemnation in too.

So close to an election, more sleaze allegations are the last thing politicians need.

All are damaged by it - today's revelations about MPs not registering foreign trips haven't helped either.

But Labour can sometimes be more vulnerable if the scandals add to any demands for a change at the top.

It is though worth pointing out as balance that there will be many politicians who resolutely rejected the approach by the fictitious Sunday Times/Channel 4 lobbyists.

I'm not sure how many were targeted by the team, but I have spoken to one politician who did reject what looks like part of the sting.

Martin Callanan MEPNorth East Conservative MEP Martin Callanan has told me that his office was contacted by a lobbying company two weeks ago.

They subsequently e-mailed to ask if he'd be interested in paid work influencing decisions for their clients.

Mr Callanan turned down the approach flat, telling the "company" it was completely improper.

But smelling a rat, he also went on to check them out.

Despite describing itself as one of the UK's leading public affairs companies, there was no mention of it in web search engines, and its website had very little in the way of detail.

It's address was also registered to a cleaning firm in London.

And the woman who approached the MEP's office also had the same surname as one of the Sunday Times reporters who was in touch with Mr Byers.

It didn't have the same name as the "firm" that approached Stephen Byers, but the tactics look strikingly similar.

Mr Callanan says he's aware of three or four other MEPs who had similar approaches but turned them down.

Sadly for Mr Byers, he doesn't seem to have dug as deeply or exercised the same level of restraint.


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