Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Oliver Letwin's Spent 8 Hours Down t'Rothschild, Graftin'

I was reminded of Letwin's defence of his second job the other day whilst tucking into some more Power Without Responsibility this morning. In a chapter on the introduction of ITV, it is mentioned that commercial broadcasting was

not brought about by public pressure, but by a small group within the ruling Conservative Party. It was opposed by bishops, vice-chancellors, peers, trade unions, the Labour Party, and most national newspapers. Reith compared the introduction ... with that of dog racing, smallpox, and bubonic plague.
(Curran and Seaton 1997:161)

But who were this group?

they were supported by the immense power of the great entertainment industries ... although a member of the group declared in the House of Commons that 'Any suggestion that the Bill was fostered by commercial interests is a complete figment of the imagination of the Party opposite', the speaker at the time was a director of varioius electronics firms who expected to profit out of an increase in the market for televisions. 'At what point', H.H. Wilson asked, 'were the members speaking as MPs representing their constituencies, and when were they speaking as directors, managers or employees of advertising agencies, market research organizations or radio and television manufacturers?'
(ibid.: 162)

As succinct an argument against MPs having second jobs since Mark Thomas' wheelie bin protest, there. But of course for Letwin this misses the point.

“Yes, I work eight hours a week, at £145 an hour, and if you multiply that out it comes to about £60,000.

“This eight hours a week I work with Rothschild compares to about 70 hours I work a week for my Parliamentary constituency. I think that spending 10 per cent of my time outside of politics, in a real job, is something that is useful as a Parliamentarian.”

Now, part of me would love to live in a world where £145 an hour is a 'real job' and of course so, I suspect, would a lot of other people.

I suppose it's fascinating because it's a reminder that for Tories there probably isn't a conflict of interest between directorships of companies and their role as MPs Their interests, after all, align perfectly.

Which isn't to say that watching their contortions over second jobs isn't grimly amusing. Letwin used to be a director for Rothschild, you see, but was forced at political gunpoint into 'quitting' because some people thought it might not look very good. Although not Letwin, whose words on the matter were:

"I have been shadow chancellor for three weeks. During that time it has become clear to me that I cannot continue with my work in the City.

"My commitment to the Conservative Party will always come first. I have therefore decided to relinquish my links with the City and to concentrate on winning the next election."

You see? He does get it really. He's obviously trying to just make it sound as though he doesn't have a clue.

Just what do they teach them at Eton, I wonder? Presumably not the definition of the word 'relinquish'. So in the spirit of public service journalism that in my wildest fantasies I pursue, here's something for you, Oliver.

re⋅lin⋅quish [ri-ling-kwish]
–verb (used with object)
1. to renounce or surrender (a possession, right, etc.): to relinquish the throne.
2. to give up; put aside or desist from: to relinquish a plan.
3. to let go; release: to relinquish one's hold.

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