Talk about Newsnight

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Relative satisfaction

  • Michael Crick
  • 1 Feb 08, 06:39 PM

It’s nice to see that all three of the major party leaders now seem to be adopting a proposal I made more than four years ago to the then Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Sir Philip Mawer – that MPs should have to state of the Register of MPs Interests if they employ any members of their families.

Michael CrickI made the proposal in the autumn of 2003, during the so-called Betsygate episode, when I passed on to Sir Philip serious allegations I had received form senior Tories to the effect that the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith was employing his wife Betsy as his secretary, and paying her from his Parliamentary allowances, but, it was alleged to me, she was doing little or no work. After a long and extensive enquiry the allegations were dismissed, and Sir Philip concluded that Mrs Duncan Smith had in fact been working for her husband on parliamentary business.

I made my proposal for greater disclosure because I suspected – despite the judgement on IDS – that there was a significant amount of abuse by MPs in this area. If MPs had to say publicly if they were employing their spouses, children and so on, then, I reckoned, they might think twice about allowing them to do little or no work. Other people have gone further than me, arguing that MPs ought to declare the names of all staff employed from public funds.

My suggestion was roundly ignored – by Sir Philip, by the Standards and Privileges Committee, by the Speaker and the Parliamentary authorities, by the media, and by MPs and the political parties.

Now, with today’s scramble by the party leaders to outdo each other in transparency on all this, I am having to revise again the number of MPs who were employing family members. On Wednesday night I said it could be up to a hundred. Last night, when Newsnight published its list of 79 names, I said it was probably well over a hundred. But on today’s evidence it looks like it could easily be as many as 250. David Cameron has said the Conservatives now reckon more than 70 of their 193 MPs employ family members – almost 40 per cent - while Nick Clegg says there are at least twelve Lib Dems.

parlynight203.jpgNewsnight’s list of 79 names has now crept up to 81, with the addition of Martin Caton, and the Speaker Michael Martin, who employs his daughter Mary on a part-time basis. Of our 81 names, 47 are Labour, 25 Conservative, 8 Lib Dems, plus the Speaker. And given the figures David Cameron and Nick Clegg have produced today, we can calculate that the very minimum number of MPs who employ family members is now 140. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to think the Labour total could eventually climb from 47 to 150, hence my new estimate of around 250.

David Cameron says the Conservative front bench will all have to declare the own circumstances on this by 1 April. Fine – but why wait two months? Why not tell by 12 noon on Monday?

Friday, 1 February, 2008

  • Gavin Esler
  • 1 Feb 08, 06:17 PM

Today's Quote for the Day
"That image of myself soused in champagne being devoured by lusting women in a luxury hotel suite was the pinnacle of my rock and roll excesses. I thought as a rock star, I owed it to people to enjoy myself to the absolute limit" – Blur bassist turned farmer Alex James writing in his book A Bit Of A Blur.

In tonight's programme:

Parkinson's Disease
We've an exclusive report on the drugs used to help control Parkinson's disease which, sufferers say, can lead to aberrant behaviour including problem gambling. Read more about our exclusive story here.

yahoo203100.jpgMicrosoft's takeover bid for Yahoo! affects all of us. We'll be asking who controls cyberspace - and who is likely to control it in the future?

And at the end of another week when political sleaze of one sort or another constantly made headlines, it looks as though all the main parties are desperate to show that political cleanliness is next to Godliness. What does this rush to transparency tell us? Michael Crick is on the case.

Newsnight Review
Daniel Day LewisJoining Kirsty on the Review couch are John Harris, Tony Parsons and Julie Myerson. They'll be discussing: Oscar nomination-covered There Will Be Blood, with Daniel Day Lewis; DCI Gene Hunt's return in Ashes to Ashes - the follow up to much-lauded BBC One time-slip drama Life on Mars; the new novel by dystopian master JG Ballard - Miracles of Life; and the film which pushed viral marketing to new heights, NY disaster flick Cloverfield. More details of all those on the Review website.

Prospects for Friday, 1 February

  • Newsnight
  • 1 Feb 08, 10:19 AM

Today's programme producer is Robert Morgan - here is his early email to the production team. What would you like to see on the programme?

Good morning,

We have what promises to be a really strong lead story once it's been finally signed off legally. I'll tell you more in the morning meeting.

There are a number of strong stories we could do today including the NATO row over troops in Afghanistan. Is its mission in jeopardy? There's Kenya, Northern Rock and Scottish care for the elderly too. Any ideas are more than welcome on how to do these stories and any others.

A big discussion on a major story would be good.


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