I first worked at Westminster as a journalist a year after Airey Neave was blown up in New Palace Yard, the very place where brave PC Keith Palmer was stabbed to death on Wednesday. Security was tightened after that incident in 1979 and progressively since. But the gates where the terrorist gained access to the parliamentary estate remains a “weak point”. What to do about the access point where MPs rush through to vote in divisions goes to the heart of the balance between security and allowing democracy to flourish.
Cars may be banned from part of Parliament Square or a cumbersome double entry lock for cars put on the gates. That would be a big problem for the number of ministerial cars that head for Westminster when a vote is called, but we shall see.
Meanwhile we must continue to defend our democracy and defy the terrorists.
“MP ON THE MAKE AND ON THE TAKE.”
Those were the words of barrister George Carman at a libel trial involving the former Tatton MP Neil Hamilton who was accused of taking cash for asking parliamentary questions.
Twenty years on the current Tatton MP, George Osborne, is gaining the same image by his vast accumulation of extra parliamentary work.
He does not face the direct corruption charge that Hamilton failed to remove in two libel actions against Harrods’s owner Mohammed Al Fayed, but there is widespread concern that Osborne’s actions since being sacked as Chancellor are reinforcing that old charge against MPs that they are in it for themselves. Around 200,000 people have already signed a petition against five jobs Osborne.
This is a list of the extra parliamentary work that Osborne was engaged in even before he took the Evening Standard job. £771,000 from public speaking engagements, £650,000 for advising Black Rock Investments, and £120,000 from an American think tank.
He has now taken the editorship of the London Evening Standard on a reported £200,000 salary. I was surprised he hear that he applied for the job rather than being approached by the owner anxious for a marquee signing.
Some argue that the well heeled constituents of Tatton don’t have the caseload to keep the MP occupied. Not all Tatton is leafy Cheshire countryside and I thought we’d passed the time when MPs used to visit their seats once a year to receive the acclamation of the grateful voters. Besides an MP is expected to play a role on parliamentary committees at Westminster.
The Evening Standard editorship has been a step too far for many people. Apart from the fact that he has no journalistic experience, editing a paper is a full-time job. Can you imagine the workload in the Standard office this week dealing with the terrorist crisis? Supposing Osborne had been on a speaking engagement or think tank duties in America?
Of direct concern to us in the North is his Northern Powerhouse Partnership. Its purpose is to argue for a fairer share for the North. The editor of the Evening Standard will be promoting London’s case; a clear conflict of interest.
But maybe we shouldn’t be thinking of George Osborne as one of our own anymore. His Tatton seat is being abolished and maybe this is all about him heading south to park his tanks on Theresa May’s lawn. The Standard could adopt a Remainer critique of the government prior to Osborne launching a bid for Mayor of London or even the Premiership.
One North West Tory MP has told me he is convinced Osborne harbours Tory leadership ambitions. Well he’s going a funny way about it. At the moment, many Tory MPs see him as an embarrassment and as the man whose threats about an emergency budget did terrible damage to the Remain case.