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January 17, 2006 || 10:40 pm
Galloway update

I got a reply from Sir Philip Mawer, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, to my letter about George Galloway. He's not really having any of it. "Although I understand your concern...I am afraid that, on the evidence currently available to me, there is no remedy under the Code."

I know that the Code of Conduct for MPs is debatably concerned with issues of this kind - its purpose being basically to deal with financial wrong-doings by MPs. While this is a factor of the Code's history, I do think it should be expanded to contain much more explicit guidance on how MPs should use their time while the House is in session. What they do in their holidays I don't much care, but there should be limits to the activities that an MP can carry out which detract from their official duties in 'termtime'. This is not only about GG's relatively facetious actions, but also the number of non-executive directorships, consultancy jobs etc that MPs can have. I don't think that having to declare your interests on the Register of Member's Interests is sufficient - I would rather see Members not allowed to commit more than x days per month to outside paid work, for example. Sitting on charitable boards and so on is of course another matter but I would rather - especially given our constituency system - that MPs were given more concrete obligations regarding their use of their time for the public good. As Mawer's letter to me said, "there is no minimum attendance requirement or statement of expectations" - but why not? We pay our MPs a very decent salary, and I don't buy the argument that if they weren't allowed to earn extra money outside the House, we wouldn't get the talented people to put themselves forward for election. Surely they should want to become MPs not for financial gain but for the privilege of serving the interests of the nation?

Mawer wrote to me that "if their constituents are dissatisfied, their proper avenue of remedy is to pursue their concerns by political means". But I might ask, what 'political means' are open to a constituent like myself, whose MP is the head of their party? I can't lobby GG to get rid of himself. The only recourse I have is to external bodies like Mawer, until the next election in three years time when I can attempt to unseat GG. If I'm unhappy with my telephone service I can go to Ofcom. If my bank misuses my money I can go to the FSA. If I'm unhappy with a government department, I can go to the Parliamentary Ombudsman (an office that seems to be rather misnamed). But my political representatives have no regulatory body apart from Sir Mawer's office and none of the strict and clear rules for conduct that govern any other job. I am contracted to work a certain number of hours per week and I have to justify any time that I spend outside of this - conferences, teaching, media appearances - with relation to my job description. Yet our archaic political practices mean that our highest representatives - those in whom the governance of the nation resides - have none of the same expectations. Surely there's a case for reform?

Given this current state of affairs, I got pretty much the reply I expected, but I was pleased that he actually sent me a genuinely signed letter, not just some standard secretary's reply, given the fact that he has received over a hundred letters from my fellow pledgers! And GG was investigated by the Speaker of the House to find out how he has managed to table a set of Early Day Motions while incarcerated in the big Brother House - although cleared of wrong-doing, we still got the words 'Galloway'. 'cat' and 'box' uttered in the HoC in the same sentence.

And given GG has recently been seen pretending to be a cat and licking a fellow contestant's hands, dressing up as Dracula and hiding in a cardboard box for lengthy amounts of time, I can't wait for the catcalls (bad pun intended) when he finally re-enters the House where he's meant to belong...

Letter re George Galloway



I got the same reply from Mawer. Of course, the fact is that we can't even unseat Galloway next time round as he's already pledged not to stand again in Bethnal Green. (Small mercies and all that...) Clearly this is about him forging and cememting himself a media career to line his own pockets and for when he is no longer an MP - and we can do nothing about it as constituents. Let us know how things go if you write again...

By Anonymous fellow letter writer, at 10:14 am  

Yes, I got the same letter. Found it very frustrating, but suppose I am not exactly disappointed as I didnt really expect them to do anything about it.

I understand Galloway pledged not to stand next time, to allow a Muslim candidate to stand for Respect instead. But I have heard a rumour that Galloway himself has converted to Islam so will satisfy that criterion, hence may not honour his pledge.

By Anonymous Sarah Weaver, at 10:46 am  

You know, even basic contracts of employment contain clauses to prevent "moonlighting". It's hard to believe there is no similar, express provision in the Code to protect Constituents from an MP's failure to do the job he was elected to do.

By Anonymous Noo, at 11:59 am  

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