Blairite MPs have made a killing on the back of their political careers. It is time to cut this rot out of our party.
Geoff Hoon, a former Labour MP who was elevated to the position of Defence Secretary during the Blair years, was recently embroiled in a corruption scandal in South Korea. It has been suggested that he directed a lobbyist, Yang Kim, a former defence minister for South Korea, to help secure helicopter contracts for Hoon’s employer at the time, AgustaWestland.
Mr Kim was convicted and sent to prison in January 2016 for four years because he accepted £1 million in bribes and payments from AgustaWestland. Yet Hoon is saying that he has done nothing wrong and is being misrepresented in his dealing with Kim. This is despite emails showing Hoon explicitly directing Kim to “actively engage in exerting influence over high-ranking decision-makers in Korea” – which is the precise crime for which Kim was jailed for!
This is not the first time that Hoon has been caught out over lobbying. In 2010, Hoon was caught boasting about how he could translate his knowledge and contacts “about the international scene into something that bluntly, makes money”. Hoon of course apologised for being caught telling the truth and promised not to do such a thing ever again.
In reality, Hoon’s comments speak not just for himself but for a long list of former and current Labour MPs who see their public service as nothing more than an exercise in inflating their personal prestige and bank accounts.
Elsewhere in this rogues’ gallery we have Alistair Darling, who joined the board of directors for multinational investment bank Morgan Stanley after leaving parliament. Darling, a former chancellor, receives the nominal sum of $100,000 a year remuneration for his expertise, with an additional $250,000 in stock.
Blair and Brown
Then we have Gordon Brown, who has declared over £3.6 million of payments from outside interests since losing the 2010 general election: a sum of money that would take an average worker in the UK 133 years to make!
This is not too shabby for a man who decided during the financial crisis to double the tax rate on the poorest in society while bailing out the banking system.
Then we arrive at the leader of the New Labour project himself, whose exploits since leaving parliament are exceptional in their flagrancy. Tony Blair has put his contact book to good use, making an estimated £70 million in cosying up and offering support to authoritarian governments around the world.
From profiteering off the back of his role as Middle East peace envoy, securing millions of pounds from the UAE; to the brokering of a £2 billion Colombian government mining deal: Blair’s escapades are far too numerous to go into in full here. But here we will highlight his syphoning off of funds from the people of Kazakhstan.
Blair has become exceptionally close to Nursultan Nazarbayev, the autocratic leader of Kazakhstan, at times effectively acting as his personal spin doctor. In 2011, Blair advised Nazarbayev to remind people of the great steps forward Kazakhstan had made, rather than addressing the massacre of 15 Kazakhstan protesters by the police. For such advice, Blair’s company charges £5.3 million a year. Clearly, Blair has no scruples when a cheque book is presented.
For workers’ MPs on a worker’s wage
These cases represent not just a few bad apples but a mode of thought that dominates the right wing of the Labour Party.
If we are being generous to these people, we could say that they came to politics with a general wish to help those less fortunate. Yet it is clear from their actions that they used their position in society to forge closer and closer links to big business, and ultimately to become paid defenders of the establishment.
If we are being less generous, then we can call these people – such as Tristram Hunt – what they truly are: self-serving parasites who leech off the Labour Party until a better job comes along.
What is to be done? Ensuring that all Labour MPs only take a wage linked to the average pay of their constituents would be a clear first step, forcing elected representatives to fight for better wages and filtering out the money-mad careerists.
But even this action in and of itself would not be enough. Some politicians are wealthy enough that money is a secondary consideration; prestige plays a central role in their careerism.
The only way to get rid of these careerists, therefore, is to link the demand for a worker’s MP on a worker’s wage with that of genuine party democracy. All elected representatives and officials should be held accountable to members through a process of mandatory reselection, with grassroots members given the ability to fully participate in the democratic structures of the party.
Only through these methods we can begin to cleanse the party of the rot of Blairite careerism.