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Analysis: PM in a much weaker position amid Tory sleaze row, Theo Usherwood writes
9 November 2021, 16:16 | Updated: 14 November 2021, 12:05
A row about MPs having second jobs is to British politics what Black Friday is to retail, LBC's Political Editor Theo Usherwood writes.
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It may not happen every year, but often it feels like the discussion about MPs raking it in on the side last happened only a few months ago.
Everybody agrees it’s a bad thing. Then somebody points out that sometimes it’s a good thing. Somebody then suggests paying MPs more money so they don’t need an alternative source of income. Everybody agrees that would be a bad thing. And the status quo prevails.
This time the the focus of anger is Sir Geoffrey Cox QC. A pre-eminent barrister in excess of £1 million a year for his legal acumen, more than 12 times what he earned as a backbench MP. If one fact makes this row a little bit different, it is that he made a chunk of that money working in the British Virgin Islands, a Caribbean paradise that doubles-up as a tax haven for the rich and powerful.
How were the good folk of Torridge and West Devon supposed to get hold of Sir Geoffrey in April and May this year, should they have sought his advice and representation? The answer is: with great difficulty. Hence why the PM’s spokesman said today that an MP’s primary job should be to represent their constituents, and to be visible in that job.
But a ban on second jobs? No - we were told - the PM doesn’t believe in an outright ban. Reform of the current system to tighten up the rules around second jobs? Again, no. And if it’s a yes, it will be up to MPs to bring forward those same reforms. Unlikely, to say the least.
And so nearly a week on from the botched attempt to save Owen Paterson, we have no meaningful changes to the current rules. Only that the Prime Minister finds himself in a much weaker position now having marched his MPs through the voting lobbies to support the former environment secretary only to abandon that plan within 24 hours when it became untenable.