Monday, March 22, 2010

MPs accepting any money except their salary and work-related expenses should be a criminal offence

- and why we need public funding of all candidates in elections so we can make parties taking money from any other person, company or organisation a criminal offence too.

Smug, money grabbing, brass-necked, dishonest, chancer Stephen Byers MP (Labour), above, competes with smug, money grabbing, dishonest, brass-necked chancer John Butterfill MP (Conservative), below, for the title of smuggest, most grasping, dishonest and brass-necked chancer 2010 (oh and if either of you are going to sue me for saying that then i 'retract' it, never said it and 'deny all allegations of wrongdoing', just like you both do with the statements you made which are recorded on video).

Videos of MPs and former ministers including former transport minister Stephen Byers MP telling investigative journalists posing as lobbyists that they will hire out to private firms to get government policy changed for £3,000 to £5,000 a day make the expenses scandal look like chicken feed. (The Times newspaper has an article summarising the revelations here.)

What’s most shocking about it is that it may well not be illegal. It f***ing well should be.

These videos also show why we need to have modest public funding of all political candidates, so any of them accepting money other than that funding, their salaries and justified expenses relating to their job can be tried, fined or jailed and kicked out of their jobs as MPs or ministers – as well as being banned by law from working for 5 years. They may complain that that’s unfair. It’s not, it’s entirely justified for someone found involved in serious corruption. They can live on their pension for those 5 years, which will be much more generous than the unemployment benefit they give to millions of people often out of work for years through no fault of their own. The job of an MP is to represent all their constituents equally – not to represent their party or donors to their own or their party’s campaign funds, much less people agreeing to bribe them personally.

They should also be banned from standing for public office or being a director or lobbyist for any company or from being appointed to the House of Lords for a period of 10 years, or for life, depending on the amounts involved. Forcing them to stand down as MPs is not enough, because most of those involved are standing down at the next election anyway – and probably going on to Lordships (as Conservative MP John Butterfill – who from the video is butter-filled both by name and by nature - suggested he probably will when selling his services to people he thought were lobbyists).

All political parties and independent candidates should also be banned from accepting any private donations, but all should be given modest public funding of their election campaigns, so the ban on private donations does not turn politics into the preserve of the wealthiest. Any party found accepting private donations should also be banned from having candidates in elections for 10 years.

Some may see this as handing politicians public money, but it would save us a fortune in the future by ending the mis-use of thousands of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money going to PFIs/PPPs (which result in both higher taxes and cuts in the number of hospital beds and fully trained nurses and teachers), privatised rail firms and arms companies selling arms to dictators and those committing genocide, which is the result of allowing political parties to accept private donations. When Saddam Hussein stopped paying for arms exported by BAE under British government licences after the 1991 Gulf War the taxpayer picked up the tab. There have been many similar instances since.

The corruption involves MPs from both main parties – Labour and the Conservatives, as Conservative MP John Butterfill was involved. He was caught on video boasting about his influence with David Cameron; So if anyone is still under the illusion that either major party is free of corruption, or that it’s just ‘a few bad apples’ think again – these are people close to Blair and close to Cameron.

Stephen Byers is perhaps the most sickening of all in the way he boasted about conning the public into believing the government was going to crack down on the private rail companies, while he was taking money from the same companies to ensure the government didn’t crack down on either the vast subsidies these firms get from taxpayers (while keeping all the profits for themselves) or the way they keep raising fares at several times the rate of inflation. Byers is the kind of smug spiv who has spent his career looking down on anyone with any principles as ‘an extremist’ or a ‘loony’. Most of the people this spiv looks down on are simply more honest than he will ever be and actually have some principles.

Byers took a hissy fit when Peter Hain MP suggested a 50% tax rate on the highest earners to help the poorest. He took another one when Brown put it into practice (though not permanently) after the credit crisis. I wonder if any of that ‘work’ was on the ‘cab for hire’ £3,000 to £5,000 a day rate Byers said he charged in the Dispatches video?

Another interesting fact is that both Byers and Butterfill are members of their parties’ respective ‘Friends of Israel’ groups, who refuse to make any criticism of Israeli war crimes and frequent killings of unarmed Palestinian children and teenagers (to be fair sometimes the children throw stones, which no doubt completely justifies Israeli soldiers in helmets and body armour shooting them in the head – or perhaps the fact that Hamas and Fatah have terrorist arms who kill Israeli civilians somehow makes it fine for the Israeli military to kill many times as many Palestinian civilians). In a recent case they claimed a boy they shot in the head while he and his brother were working on their family’s olive grove threatened troops with a knife. They also said they fired no live ammunition though – yet the bullet removed from the dead boy’s head was a metal bullet, not a rubber bullet – and even rubber bullets can kill at short range.

How much Byers’ and Butterfill’s uncritical support for the Israeli government and military’s actions is down to their principled beliefs and how much might be down to the millions donated by LFI to the Labour party’s campaign funds and the millions donated by CFI members to the Conservative party’s election campaign funds since 1997 (for instance £2 million from Lord Sainsbury – an LFI member and made a Lord and Cabinet Minister by Tony Blair), is a matter for speculation. I couldn’t possibly comment.

Byers, Butterfill and associates have now ‘retracted’ all the things they were caught saying on video, claiming there is ‘no truth’ in the allegations that they said these things. Since, unlike them, i’m not protected by parliamentary immunity from our country’s ridiculously unbalanced libel laws i can’t say they’re caught red handed, nor can i claim for instance that they’re guilty as hell.

I can however point out that if any ordinary person accused of fraud was caught admitting it on video and then ‘retracted’ their statement and said the evidence didn’t count because they ‘denied the allegations’ the court would laugh them all the way to jail.

Since what they’ve done probably isn’t illegal (yet) I can’t say they must be fined for every penny they have or put in jail. I can say it should be illegal though – and I can say that once a law making it illegal is passed any MP or minister or Lord caught doing the same and tried in court and found guilty should not have their feet touching the floor as their corrupt arses are kicked out of parliament or the Lords, their money is taken in fines, they are banned from any kind of employment for 5 years and from any directorship or public office permanently.

I can also say that if you want this kind of behaviour made illegal don’t bother looking to the leaders of the major parties or any MP who doesn’t routinely rebel against the party whips (on issues other than voting themselves higher expenses or a bigger pay rise) to get that law through parliament.

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