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Has the time come for all members of the Shadow Cabinet to give up their outside interests?

SHADOW CABINET (SOME) This morning's Guardian reports that some members of the shadow cabinet will retain their outside interests until "just before the general election".

It comes in the wake of the decision by some of those at the top table - such as Andrew Mitchell, Alan Duncan and Grant Shapps - now to forgo lucrative outside earnings before they would have been obliged to declare the details of what they are being paid for those other jobs as of next month.

In November last year, it was reported that David Cameron wanted his shadow cabinet ministers to give up all of their outside interests; however, he did not pursue that course of action after apparent resistance from within the ranks.

As I have written before, I am not opposed to our MPs having outside interests in principle - on the contrary - and blanket bans on things are generally to be questioned. For example, I think there is a difference between spending an hour on a Sunday morning firing off a column for a newspaper and regularly going into an office to work on a weekday.

But as the inevitable general election gets ever closer, is not the time coming for the shadow cabinet to call time on those outside jobs which the public will surely see as a distraction from the task of ousting Labour and preparing to take the reins of government?

I suggest that it would be a powerful signal that the Conservatives are serious about wanting to take power if, by the time of the party conference, David Cameron can announce that all his shadow cabinet have rescinded their business interests and are 100% focused on the main matter in hand.

Jonathan Isaby

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