There is something not quite right when the Prime Minister has to publicly state that the United Kingdom is not a corrupt country.
However, on the back of recent events, Boris Johnson had to do just that this week, following the fiasco on the government’s attempts to reform the ‘sleaze’ rules in the House of Commons in order to save one of their own MPs who had been found to have broken existing rules; the news that the former Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox earned £800,000 whilst working for a law firm which is representing the Virgin Islands government in a corruption case brought by the UK; and a headline story in the Sunday Times basically saying that a £3million donation to the Tory Party buys you a seat in the House of Lords.
There are two very practical things that could be done to tackle the issues that have been raised in the past fortnight. First, MP’s ought not be able to do second jobs – not on a paid basis at any rate.
The argument that it ‘keeps them in touch’ with the real world is baloney. If they are that concerned, they can go and volunteer to do some work in their local schools, hospitals, or charities.
MPs have a challenging job though, and if they are doing it properly then it should be taking all of their time, effort, and energy. However, in order to introduce this rule, we would have to see a huge spike in an MPs salary. I would start them at £200,000 per year, and then have an independent commission established to arbitrate on annual increase – and their recommendations would have to be accepted.
For the role they have, the scrutiny they face, the lack of job security they have, the unsociable hours they work, and the dangers they face, two hundred grand is not an unreasonable ask.
In terms of the House of Lords – well it should be an elected, rather than appointed Chamber. How this antiquated institution has survived in its current form into the twenty-first century really is baffling.
Of course, these changes would not resolve other scandals that this government has found itself caught up in – advisors breaking lockdown rules to go for an unauthorised eye test, lucrative contracts being awarded without any semblance of procurement, or government Ministers flouting social distancing rules to cuddle their Mistress.
Nonetheless, it would go a fair way in cleaning up our politics – and modernising it at the same time.
Ultimately, no set of structures, rules, and regulations will ever stop all acts of wrongdoing. However, we live in a democracy, and it is the job of us, the voters, to put in power those we think will uphold the highest standards in public office that this country used to be world renowned for.