Sleaze Must Go | Richard Goddard
Whether an MP is one of my own party, any other parliamentary party or even the one elected ‘Fancy Dress Party’ member on a parish council somewhere, I will not condone political sleaze by whoever commits it. For sleaze is unconservative.
I begin with a recollection of about 1985 when the Iron Lady was at the height of her career. Another rather appealing lady with blonde hair was also heading towards the pinnacle of her career. I do of course mean 19 year old Samantha Fox the Page 3 Girl/Pop Singer and later just remembered for being the aforementioned. About this time, Sam Fox was reported to have bought an £800,000 house in London near another recently bought by a rather well known Mr & Mrs Thatcher. It was also about the same time Sam appeared in television commercials for the tabloid that had done so much to help her make what was a fortune at the time. In a particular scene of one TV commercial, Sam is told she should be Prime Minister – I can’t imagine where the idea came from? Anyway, Sam is heard to reply, “I couldn’t cope with the pay cut.” Whether she could have taken the pay cut is a debate not wort having because it’s irrelevant. What is relevant is Sam Fox was reported to be earning £500,000 a year at the height of her career. A quick internet search leads me to a suggestion Margaret Thatcher’s salary as PM around the same time Sam Fox was on half a million was just under £42,000 a year – just 91.6% less. Maybe now you can see Sam’s point. And I don’t know about you but if I’d had Margaret’s responsibility as opposed to Samantha’s I’d feel more than a bit of a mug.
I turn you to another dear departed political figure I’ve read a lot about and learned from, Lee Kuan Yew (Mr Lee) became the first Prime Minister of a fully independent Singapore in 1959. Until 1990 he was the city states’ only Prime Minister. He founded the People’s Action Party in 1954 with an ideology that challenged the rise of socialism in much of the region. Now is not a time to talk too much about Mr Lee’s ideology but on a visit to Britain in the 1950’s he was disdainful to any idea of copying the National Health Service or any aspect of our welfare state. So he never did. Nonetheless, he was elected Prime Minister for the first time in 1959. He stood down as PM in 1990, but retained his seat in parliament until his death at the age of 91 in 2015. The People’s Action Party which he founded has also won every general election since 1959 – so they can’t be that bad by anyone’s admission. He led his country from a third world former British colony scarred by Japan’s World War Two occupation to a country with a modernness that rivals that of its wartime aggressor. With an economy more stable than that of the country that earlier colonised it. Mr Lee can rightly be regarded as The Father of the Nation. Just to add, Singapore is physically only a similar size to The Isle of Man but is fully urbanised and home to a population perhaps half of Belgium or Holland – so absolutely not a tiny insignificant entity as you might think.
In one section of his memoirs, Mr Lee spoke of how in some western democracies sleaze was an issue. He also speaks of a free market solution. He believed every job including Members of Parliament deserved the best it could get. He saw that the way to her best minds to seek election was the same as how the FA Premier League Football Club attracts the best players- money.
Now returning to 1985 or thereabouts when Samantha Fox and Margaret Thatcher rivalled one another for how much they’re picture was in the tabloids. I can’t imagine anyone would disagree that when it came to responsibility Samantha Fox had the top heavy salary (pun intended). Mr Lee of Singapore was of the mind people would not think of politics as a career if richer pickings could be found in the industry and finance the modern Singapore rapidly built it’s modern self on. So he made sure the salary for an MP dealt with the competition. Incidentally, Mr Lee’s social conservatism would have been greatly at odds with Sam Fox’s line of work though I’m guessing he’d have seen the logic of it being described as competition to a career in politics and for all I know might have told Margaret Thatcher what a mug she was.
Finally back to Westminster. It sounds a bit utopian to the wannabe parliamentarian of any party but what if an MP’s salary matched that of, well I’ll forget glamour models now, perhaps a popular entertainer of the day. I’m going to go for a basic salary of £325,000 as an example. If announced tomorrow, the proverbial certainly would be immensely spread all over. If you do the sums you’ll find the public purse would have to contribute a further £156M for MP salaries. I offer no hard facts on how much people have made from parliamentary nepotism. If the rumours are in any way true, I conservatively estimate a certain spend of £156 million would have an attractive cost to benefits ratio.