Steerpike

Sleaze scandal scuppers second jobs

Sleaze scandal scuppers second jobs
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So Owen Paterson managed in a month what 100 years of opposition efforts couldn't: turn his true blue seat to yellow for the first time since the aftermath of the Boer War. Mr S wonders if his newly elected successor Helen Morgan will show her appreciation in her maiden speech – 'thanks Owen, couldn't have done it without you.' 

But even though he's gone, Paterson's influence still seems to be felt on the green benches. For it seems that the sleaze scandal which his downfall triggered has spooked older MPs into quitting lucrative second jobs, judging by the newly-updated register of members' interests. A number of senior Tories have shed many of these commitments in the last three weeks.

These include Sir Greg Knight, who has now left his role as an adviser to Cambridge and Counties Bank which he held since the 2019 election. The East Yorkshire MP was paid £16,000 monthly in arrears tp provide ‘general business and public relations advice’ but updated his entry on 2 December to note he stopped this role on 30 November.

Incidentally that was the exact same day that fellow grandee Iain Duncan Smith stepped back from his second £20,000 per year job advising Tunstall Health Group. Within a fortnight of the Paterson scandal blowing up, Julian Smith also quit some £144,000 worth of advisory roles, with ex-health minister Steve Brine relinquishing his £1,666 a month gig with Sigma pharmaceutical firm.

Freshman MP Ruth Edwards meanwhile shows no sign of renouncing her role as one of the two directors of Mongoose Bridge alongside her husband Owen. But the company’s £5,000 month contract to provide ‘advice on public sector, technology strategy and cyber security’ to MHR International will now end in a fortnight’s time – five months earlier than originally envisaged.

Accounts for the latest period, ending 30 April 2020, show that Mongoose Bridges turned over just £6,000 in the previous 12 months. Let’s hope the firm copes without MHR’s business. Still, at least it’s a common interest – Emma Lewell-Buck no longer employs her husband as office manager from the beginning of this month.

Elsewhere the big trend of the updated register is MPs trying to get their foreign jaunts in before Omicron kiboshed international air travel again. Some £43,000 worth of travel and accommodation was declared including trips to the democratic beacons of Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE.

Liam Fox finally got to celebrate his appointment as chair of Conservative Friends of America by declaring a £5,400 junket to New York and Washington. This includes the (hopefully) misspelt entry for ‘fights and two additional nights hotel accommodation for my staff member.’ Other enterprising members registered £5,759 worth of COP-related sojourns with Barry Gardiner topping the list with £2,600 declared for eight days in Glasgow.

And then of course, there are the quirky entries. Alan Mak registered the equivalence of £1,124 in printed copies of his constituency newsletter. Theresa May (finally) delivered one of her two long-awaited, frequently rescheduled £80,000 a pop speeches to JP Morgan. Tom Tugendhat by contrast just got a lousy £10,000 from Cazenove.

Not all their colleagues seem daunted though by ‘sleazegate.’ John Cryer felt comfortable enough in the middle of the storm to accept the largesse of the Betting and Gaming Council, receiving £2,500 in tickets to watch England pip South Africa at Twickenham. Laurence Robertson, the recently sacked Trade Envoy, can take comfort in having his free entry to certain horse race meetings extended into 2022, courtesy of the Racecourse Association.

And Jess Phillips got to enjoy the best that Conde Nast can offer when she was transported to and from the bastion of Soho Farmhouse for GQ heroes. This ‘premier event for top tier luxury business and creative minds’ billed Phillips as one of its top speakers and spent £750 putting the Labour frontbencher up in luxury and transporting her to and from Oxfordshire. The date of this bash? None other than 5 November or Bonfire Night. How ironic!

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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Topics in this articlePoliticssecond jobsowen paterson