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The Chief Whip might have told him that that would provoke a mini-rebellion.

If true then that would be a stunning indication of just how out of touch some of them are.

What exactly does it take to get some MPs to understand what the public thinks?

Good decisive action from David Cameron. His instincts on these issues are absolutely right. He is moving in the right direction.

"There is, of course, nothing wrong with MPs employing relatives"

Are you kidding? You are talking about public money, not private businesses.

The idea that my tax should be paid to a relative is a sick joke. No wonder MPS are regarded as beneath contempt - when statistics like this emerge they deserve to be.

An immediate ban on nepotism on the public purse, as happens in the US is the only answer.

"The idea that my tax should be paid to a relative is a sick joke"

Really? Under your comment here, all families would be allowed one member to work in the public sector? Surely that would lead to pretty heavy numbers of redundancies.

This site was full of tedious calls to burn Conway in Parliament Sq. Well actually, to only lightly singe him, as although his crimes were the Worst Thing That Ever Happened, we wouldn't want to take our moral fit quite so far as to cause a by-election. Goodness me no, our morals have very strict limits, namely, they end where self-interest begins. Anyway, now Dave has weighed in. And what has he done? Given this story more legs, in a pitiful effort to run before the coming Sunday wind of retribution. How has he done this paltry thing? By bouncing the hapless front bench into promising they'll declare, come April, who they're employing then. So plenty of time to try and get the real leeches off the books. But it won't make any odds - which is why it's such a mad media handling tactic. All the information is out there, and while Labour will have been probably almost as 'corrupt' as us and so won't want to set off any more parliamentary investigations, Cameron has done his bit to ensure that the press will beat one out of the political class. And when that happens, this pathetic ruse - 'oh look, it's April, and frontbenchers have stopped doing the Conwayian things dozens of them were doing before' - really won't be any sort of defence at all.

But that's the thing: what's the crime here? What are MPs doing that is so wrong? Nothing, absolutely nothing, if you accept that MPs are *not* sodding line managers in some quaint part of the civil service. They're in a unique position with their 'private' offices, and of course they shouldn't have to appoint people to them according to the rules that would govern working in Whitehall, not Westminster. What's gone so badly wrong here is that, without complaint on either side of the House (since Enoch Powell left), first Tory majority parliaments, then Labour majority parliaments have so insensibly voted themselves ever vaster staffing allowances. And to what end? So that MPs could all the better play their assigned part as caseworkers in the greater welfare state. End the gross overstaffing in MPs offices and let them out of their basic salary employ whoever they want. Oh and stop this babytalk that under the current rules, there’s something especially admirable about having your spouse on the public payroll (‘it keeps us together as a couple’ et-puking-cetera): it’s civil service employment rules or it’s nowt, and they don’t include a ‘give your wife a job because that would suit you’ clause.

A smart, measured and professional response from David Cameron. He has come out of a potentially difficult week with his reputation further enhanced. Well done.

This is clearly a demonstration by David Cameron of leadership and statesmanship. On this alone, the contrast between him and Gordon Brown cannot be more stark.

The employment of any staff should be based on defined criteria and suitable qualification for the position intended. What is needed is not a populist and crass response to recent parliamentary misdemeanours, but a structured move toward modernising an archaic and arcane system of poor accountability and transparency. The funding of MPs and their activities is not flawed; its requisite accountability is lacking.

Parliament should and must encourage intake of the highest calibre of people, with intellectual skills, life experience and dedication to service matched by integrity. Of late, we also have a measure of dilution of flair and pressured drift towards the mean, and parliament is the poorer for that.

Yes, a very commendable move by David Cameron.

James - "Really? Under your comment here, all families would be allowed one member to work in the public sector? Surely that would lead to pretty heavy numbers of redundancies."

Not sure I understand your point, or you are being deliberately obtuse. MP decide directly who to employ - they are the line boss.

Those who spend public money have an obligation to spend it to achieve best value, and avoid conflict. That is why any MP who employs a relative is guilty of nepotism, and creates a perception. probably correctly, of enriching family at the expense of taxpayers.

In the US there is a ban on employing relatives. We need one in the UK too.

When a headteacher, BBC Producer, hospital CEO, Council CEO etc employs a wife or husband to their school, staff, department etc, they have to go to great pains to excuse themselves from the decision.

The fact that we expect lower standards from MPs tells you volumes abou their ethics, and the current status of the political class.

Fair enough Teck, if that's what you think, even if to me it sounds very cold, very New Labour soup from c. 1996. Let's try it out then: the Leader's Office is publicly funded, with most of the salaries in it paid for out of what we used to call 'Short money'. Doubtless everyone in it is, "of the highest calibre . . . with intellectual skills, life experience and dedication to service matched by integrity". But not one of them will have been appointed by anything even close to civil service open application procedures. So here we have Dave's very own, publicly funded back yard, and which course do you think he's going to take: a.) stop taking the public money, so he could appoint whoever he wants to his office however he wants to; b.) keep taking the public money, but start appointing people only in the manner everyone else gets their publicly funded jobs; or c.) he'll keep dipping his hand into the public wallet and keep doling out the jobs just as he sees fit? A real mystery that one.

I applaud Cameron's demand for more transparency. The snouts-in-the-trough behaviour of the likes of the Conways must end.

I also agree with what you said Tim. There is nothing wrong with MPs employing relatives. But always remember this is taxpayers money being used so it must be open and above board and family member thus employed must be seen to give value for money as all of us are required to do in our employments.

One good example: I lived for a time in the constituency of Peter Luff MP who employs his wife as secretary. I can say for a fact that Mrs Luff works hard and conscientiously on behalf of her husband and his constituents. I'm sure there are many other similiar examples.

Not everyone is like Derek Conway.

David Cameron has acted well and decisively so far. However, Conway has crossed the line and should resign as an MP now. As long as he remains as an MP, and a dead-duck one at that, this sore will fester. It might be painful, but we should face the inevitable by-election as soon as possible; Conway must go.

Why stop at the front bench? Is the front bench especially corrupting? Or is it that chiselling is so deeply entrenched in the back benches that there is no realistic hope of its eradication?

Might one be forgiven for thinking that the whole Political Class has its snout in the trough and that the parties are merely a circus that is designed to distract?

Happened, we wouldn't want to take our moral fit quite so far as to cause a by-election. Goodness me no, our morals have very strict limits, namely, they end where self-interest begins.

Go back and re-read the comments. I think you'll find plenty where possible criminal proceedings, which would result in Conway being ejected from Parliament, are supported.

By bouncing the hapless front bench into promising they'll declare, come April, who they're employing then. So plenty of time to try and get the real leeches off the books.

So you're suggesting that one or more of the Tory front bench are guilty of malpractice? Come on, name names.

Interestng reaction from a man who employed his sister in law, Alice Sheffield. The woman who backed up his "Fruitcakes and racist" insult to UKIP supporters with a statement from Operation Black Vote. Of course we don`t know if she is still there or if she was ever given any pay or expenses.We`ll find out if he includes his own office staff in his enquiry.
I`ve seen the comment that owners of small businesses often employ relations. Difference is, of course that it is their money, not the taxpayers`.

It really is astonishing that some think that Conway should remain as an MP with possibly over 2 years to go before a General Election. If the Party is really serious about proving it is fit for office then it should have the moral courage to call for Conway to resign now. In what other profession would such a person remain in post? He is a dead man walking and should go now. It isn't moral outrage expecting someone who has committed such a breach of trust and regulations to resign.

Do you actually believe what you've just written Edward? If Cameron thinks Conway is unfit to have the whip, why does he think he's fit to be an MP? Or has the dear leader somewhere called for Conway to resign his seat and it just hasn't been reported? And as far as your point about 'malpratice' goes, I know I droned on at great length, but really, it was meant to be a very simple point: I don't agree that, in the ordinary run of things, MPs employing whoever they want to do whatever little they want them to do is 'malpractice'. That's the point of view of most people posting here certainly, but it's not mine. I *do* think that MPs have far too money with which to employ people, and suggested that MPs should simply be paid a basic salary, and then left to do what they want with that. As Hollobone amply demonstrates, if 90% of the flunkies in the House of Commons vanished overnight, the quality of our democracy would not suffer.

"But not one of them will have been appointed by anything even close to civil service open application procedures." - ACT February 01, 2008 at 11:29.

Thank you, ACT. Your implication would suggest a requirement for an overhaul of the whole of our democractic processes, starting with management of local associations and the selection of candidates for all political parties. A campaign director once wryly said, "What can you expect of a selection committee randomly made up of housewives and retired ordinary folk?"

Is he right, and are radical changes viable or beneficial?

Teck, you're a *much* nicer person than me, but the whole foolish reason why I'm a Tory is precisely because I think that autonmous, private groupings of, well, "randomly housewives and retired ordinary folk" should be left to do what they want, how they want, without having to subscribe to a compulsory, legally enforced, even if centrally funded model of how to do things handed down from S-fricking-W1.

Politically appropriate, I suppose. Conway has taken all of the sting out of Labour sleaze, exp. Hain, so it makes sense at that level.

More broadly, I have no problem whom MPs employ provided that it is done legally, profesionally and transparently.

It always slightly grates when a multi-millionaire like David Cameron pronounces on behalf of all MPs. After all, he can afford it.

Conservative MPs WAKE UP! I work hard as a Conservative activist (on a voluntary basis I hasten to add) and I'm really (expletive deleted) off. I'm putting the following in today's 'Demand Box'.

1. Conway should resign as an MP.

2. The whole Parliamentary Party (not just frontbench) should declare the details of all their expenses, Including staffing costs. The names of those employed should be published. If they don't like it then its a case of " 'ook, sling it".

3. The said frontbench should chuck their outside jobs.

The Conservative Party bar for transparency should be higher than that required by parliament and the electoral commission.
I don't give an uber-monkey's about uber-hares, uber-tortoises or any other examples of the uber-menagerie. If we get tainted by the S word again all our good work will be undone and the UK will be worse off because of it. If you're a Conservative MP and the Westminster Bubble is effecting your hearing, head over to the conservativehome office, they'll give you some nice coffee to smell.

1) Why only frontbenchers, Labour have instructed their entire Parliamentary pary to declare this.

2) No it isn't Cameron's instincts that are right here, it is his fear of the anger of the press and membership. Left up to him the MPs would continue to inhabit a parallel universe in which the ethical standards that apply to the rest of us don't apply to them.

3) Once again this demonstrates how completely out of touch with reality our MPs largely are. Shame on them all, especially since this issue has ruined our increasingly sucessful attack on Labour's sleaze and corruption.

Conand [February 01, 2008 at 12:57], I suspect the saga of Derek Conway is far from over and if followed on current form to its natural conclusion, I wouldn't be surprised that Derek Conway will face more pressures from all directions including that from the inner sanctum of our Party.

A by-election is likely, and I am sure the next OB&S Conservative MP of unimpeachable integrity will push up our ratings and that of David Cameron immeasurably. I think there is now serious behind-the-scenes homework about timing.

So David Cameron`s reform of the system will take effect from 1st April ! Obviously by then his front bench and no doubt all his MPs will be whiter than white. Can he not see that what people want to know about MPs, and not just Tory ones, is what they have been up to in the past?
Re Conway. Perhaps Central Office have agreed for him to stay on and collect the dosh, fearing a by election. If he doesn`t go now the effect on the Tory vote at the general election will be much worse.


You nail it, Sir.

Why do we have to put up with part-time wannabe grandees? Surely there are a enough decent hard-working HONEST Conservatives out there to populate the front and back benches? I'm doing my best to become a Tory myself, since one feels obliged to participate at some level, but why are the MPs so weak in the head? It's embarrassing to reveal an affiliation.

Please - a bit of rationality here. Unlike the bulk of "public sector workers" most MPs work from home, and their work is integrated with their daily lives. They are inseparable, to an extent that they do not really have a private life in the normal sense.

With their 24/7 lifestyle, employing their spouses makes absolute sense and the taxpayer gets extraordinarily good value out of the arrangement.

Husband and wife teams are some of the most effective in politics, but you cannot expect partners to work for nothing in a highly demanding support role, when many of them are highly qualified in their own rights and could get well-paid jobs elsewhere.

Aethelbald 13:34 Thanks. You say: 'I'm doing my best to become a Tory myself'

What does this mean? You want to serve the people as an elected representative? You want to join the Conservative Party? You want to vote Conservative?
I don't want to sound facetious but I don't understand what you meant.
I don't think most Conservative MPs are 'weak in the head'. They are striving to limit an appalling tyranny after all.

Richard North makes, as usual, an important point. One might add that wives working for powerful husbands reduces a potential source of infidelity, and if you remember the early 90s you'll appreciate that should be a consideration for the leadership.

It makes sense for an MP's spouse to be employed as a secretary rather than a complete outsider: he or she knows the constituency as several who have been interviewed in the media have pointed out. But I think that only one family member should be employed in this way.

Researchers play an important part in an MP's life so I have no problem with their being employed to do a specific job, either for an agreed fee or on a sensible hourly rate basis. Such fees should be invoiced in the same way that a solicitor invoices a client. I see no problem in paying such independent researchers a retainer for their services being available to the MP at short notice.

MPs should be required to keep proper accounts of their expenses just as I have to do as a self-employed person when dealing with the Inland Revenue. The net result would be the transparency that David Cameron advocates.

Consideration should be given to the auditing of MPs' accounts by an appropriate committee of Parliament. I suggest that these proposals would go a long way to allay the general public's opinion that 'all MPs have got their snouts in the trough.'


Appalling tyranny? I'm no supporter of the Labour party but really, you need to get out more. Are you suggesting that you would be just as happy or unhappy living in North Korea for example?


Mr Cameron should now go one step further and demand the abolition of the MP's defined benefits pensions scheme and its replacement with a contributions linked scheme .
There is mileage in this .
Conservative MP's won't like it .

Labour MP's will absolutely hate it but won't have the guts to oppose it in public .

The public will approve .

Being an MP is not a job just like any other, and there are good reasons for honestly employing a spouse or very close relation - trust, confidentiality and friendship spring to mind.

However, since the employment is funded by the taxpayer, it must be genuine and transparent. There are plenty of Conservative MPs who would have no problem with their accounts being made public, and mine offered the local newspaper access to his accounts months ago, together with the tangible proof of his wife's work as his secretary.

Unfortunately, it is alleged that at least 2 MPs (Party unspecified) still have their wives on their books, despite being divorced and living many, many miles from Westminster and their former husbands' constituencies.

This kind of abuse must stop.

Enough of this "employing MP's spouse makes them less likely to be unfaithful". What kind of an excuse is that? If a person can only be trusted when their spouse is close at hand, they are hardly fit to be in parliament.

I have no doubt there is nothing whatever untoward in the vast majority of Tory MP’s offices with the employment of members of the family. Indeed I am sure that in very many cases it is highly beneficial to the MP and to the constituency which he serves. In the constituency it will doubtless be a matter of public and common knowledge that X’s wife works for him and it would quickly become evident if there was anything remotely bogus in the arrangement.

The problem is rather a bit further down the family food chain as in the Conway case, but again most such arrangements will be shown to be above board. If the family member works properly for an appropriate sum, then so be it.

What, however, is evident from the reaction to the Conway case is that we have learnt from Labour’s present troubles and from the sleaze of the Major years just how damaging such scandals are. People are justifiably furious that anyone should have been so stupid as to behave in the manner we now know Mr. Conway has behaved and thus to jeopardize in any way our chances of returning to power at the next GE.

What I believe the grassroots reaction indicated was that (a) it is now quite intolerant of any misfeasance and (b) believes that only a system of complete (no ifs and no buts) openness will suffice in this instance to restore confidence and trust in our MPs’ integrity.

It is right and proper that MPs should have public money to run their office and to provide for appropriate research facilities to enable the MP (especially the Backbencher) to hold the Government to account. If the detail of those expenses and allowances are made fully public it will enable a proper and rational explanation to be made of what they are for and how they are used. If however they are kept secret it is inevitable that the public will assume the worst and that money is being used to personal enrichment.

If full publication of expenses and allowances takes place it will enable MPs to explain far better the necessary work they do and why they do it and that can only work to the advantage of MPs and Parliament.

It is said that there is continued resistance to the process that is now under way. I can only say that I think that that is very misguided and suggests that some have totally misunderstood the mood of many in the party and the public at large. The reaction earlier this week to Conway’s affairs was, as I have described it on my blog (http://tinyurl.com/3dsjzq), something of a Ceauşescu Moment for the party when it looked out of the bunker and discovered the populace was no longer dutiful and respectful, though I fundamentally disagree with Iain Dale’s description of it as a ‘baying mob’.

There is political capital to be made here and a golden opportunity for David Cameron to be seen to be leading the debate, setting the agenda and responding fully to the public mood. Brown can be left flat-footed as his lot struggle through the mire of criminality revealed by the various donations scandals and are made to look as though they are being dragged along kicking and screaming in our wake.

Doing nothing and, indeed, doing anything half-heartedly are no longer viable options.

There may be further problems that lie in wait with this. So be it. If the same course is taken with anyone else who is found wanting then it is better that it happen now than emerge closer to an election. If the Augean Stables must be cleaned, then clean them properly.

My view is that only a system similar to that of the Scottish Parliament which now puts all expenses online. If there are abuses the public will quickly sniff them out, If not, we shall hear very little of expenses and allowances in years to come. But for the moment the issue is a boil waiting to be lanced. Let David Cameron be the one to do it and steal a march on Brown.

James are you suggesting that your local MP's wife does not earn her crust? you know perfectly well how had she works

British Parliament gravy-train!
Too many British MPs employ their family members or friends, paid for by tax-payers, as support staff. Nepotism rules, OK! Although most positions will be fully justified, there will probably be a large minority that abuse such allowances, of all parties.
The amounts of monies paid to friends and family should be published.
The Speaker has decreed that MPs family employees and friends positions cannot be questioned under the Freedon of Information Act. The Speaker makes his own position untenable by blocking demands for transparity, hence The Speaker seems to condone this potential corruption and he should be sacked, now.
The US model which does not allow family or friends to be employed should be incorporated. There is too much corruption by a minority of MPs of all parties already in Britain.
MEPs should have even more checks and balances - the European gravy-train should also be de-railed.

The usual Pavlovian dog BS about 'decisive action from David Cameron' etc, totally ignoring the fact that Cameron dithered for a whole day over Conway before taking any action at all.

Seems whoever pulled his strings then is continuing to tug them now.

Of course in the end Cameron did get rid of Conway, but I wonder what would have happened if the miscreant had been Boy George or some other dyed-in-the-wool 'Roon?

Conway, of course, was one of the Davis team. Look at the case of fellow Davisite Iain Dale, Despite the fact that Dale >cough< ticks certain wildly fashionable boxes, he was initially excluded from the notorious 'A List'

Now I wonder why that was?

Cameron was right to require frontbenchers to declare if they employ family members, but he has, once again, been upstaged by Brown and Clegg saying backbenchers must do so as well. Also, Cameron may have forced Conway to stand down at the next election, but he needs to get rid of him as soon as possible, if he is not to continue resonating in voters' minds until then.

Bexie, please explain...

And when the Sunday newspapers chuck the bucket of ordure over assorted Tory MPs, can all the screaming moralists please come back here and demand that those idiots 'do the right thing' and cause by-elections too? After all, our principles come long before the mere needs of the party!

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