Parliament’s wheels grind exceedingly slowly (except when Gordon Brown is in a hurry to hand over control of the country to a foreign entity, in which case the whole thing gets done in jig time) but it has finally gotten around to the case of Derek Conway MP and the employment of his son as a ‘researcher’.
This tawdry affair is one upon which I posted as long ago as the end of May 2007 (here) and is, one hopes, evidence that The Huntsman does not go easy on Tories found with their snouts in the trough. Whilst my biggest strictures are reserved for sleazebag Labour, on the grounds of their breathtaking hypocrisy and the fact that most of their sleaze is designed to sustain Labour in power, which is a true form of corruption, Tories who stray must expect a shotgun blast too if we are to bring the tendency of our political class to help themselves to an abrupt end. So Conway must get it in the neck.
The report of the Standards and Privileges Committee may be found here. Conway has been ordered to repay some of the sums of money involved and is likely to be suspended for ten days for what was, as the Committee found, “at the least an improper use of Parliamentary allowances: at worst it was a serious diversion of public funds.”, though it is right to say they inclined to it being somewhere between the two.
The committee made two observations which are perhaps the most important in the context of the whole affair:
[Conway] also seemed to be oblivious to the broader reputational risks to the House of any perception of personal benefit to his family.
Members’ use of allowances is a perennially sensitive issue, and allegations of real or perceived misuse risk damage to the reputation of the House as an institution, as well as to the personal reputations of individual Members. Mr Speaker has commented that “Members themselves are responsible for ensuring that their use of allowances is above reproach”. It is in our view important that Members can demonstrate robustly, if challenged, that this is indeed the case.
Somehow I doubt that, notwithstanding such strictures, this will be the last such piece of ‘snout in the trough’ activity we shall see from our political class. In the meantime Conway will have ten days to cool his heels and reflect. Sadly this may only be a short respite for Parliament as the space around the trough about to be vacated pro tempore by Conway will surely be occupied swiftly by another of our Parliamentary porkers.