David Maddox, writing about the “cash for access” allegations involving the former foreign secretaries, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw, is right to say: “After the 2009 expenses scandal, Westminster has still not got its house in order and the public mood is unforgiving” (Inside Politics, 25 February).
That mood is not helped by politicians bragging to potential employers and expecting to be paid thousands of pounds a day in addition to their parliamentary salary, in return for exerting influence which has been gained over their career in either parliament or government.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind may not have broken any rules, but he did misjudge the mood of his colleagues and the public in initially vowing to carry on in his role as chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ICS).
Both Sir Malcolm and Jack Straw acted in good faith but were despicably duped into believing they were having discussions with genuine representatives of a genuine Chinese company.
Only Sir Malcolm and Mr Straw were acting honestly during these bogus meetings. That said, it is troubling that the ICS chairman was not as “sting-aware” as we might expect of a politician involved in matters of intelligence and national security. The MP who told the Channel 4 Despatches programme he wanted to check out the Hong Kong company should now perhaps be considered for the vacant post of ICS chairman.
Malcolm W Ewen
Rarely am I shocked by political events but the sting that lured Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw into making the injudicious remarks they did left me shaking my head in bewilderment.
Not that I had any illusions about politicians but because I thought these two highly experienced lawyers and veteran MPs were too long in the tooth ever to be trapped in this way. Unfortunately, the repercussions will be to alienate further the middle ground of the electorate and the result will be a polling bonanza for the fringe parties – Ukip and the Greens and in Scotland the SNP.
These small, one-issue parties need do nothing. They are never asked the telling questions and there are no stings of this kind or in-depth investigations carried out on their representatives.
They need only sit back and laugh all the way to the polling stations in May.
New Cut Rigg
Malcolm Rifkind was unwise to talk to a journalist pretending to be someone else. As he himself has admitted, this was an error of judgment.
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
It would be wonderful – but incredible – if we could all go through life without making a mistake.
Instead of kicking a man when he is down – a curiously British phenomenon – we should stand up for a man who has, in his political and private life, conducted himself with grace, wit and integrity. Any company would be lucky to have the non-executive director services of a man of Sir Malcolm’s pedigree. A letter is in the post from my company.
I was absolutely disgusted to read that Malcolm Rifkind can’t live on £67,000 a year. It beggars belief.
I am very glad that he has done the only acceptable thing and resigned.
That is an interesting action for someone who claims to have done nothing wrong.
However, I don’t feel that his resignation is enough.
To prevent this from happening again he should be barred from any access to any politician so that he can’t profit from contacts in the future.
This kind of behaviour shows how out of touch with the electorate many politicians are.
For example, a hard-working nurse earns nothing like that figure and many have to supplement their income by doing extra jobs at the minimum wage.
People rely on them for survival while Malcolm Rifkind is taking on other work for pure and simple greed. We are not all in this together.
The knocks politicians take in the course of campaigning are as nothing to ordinary people potentially losing their jobs and homes or the developing crisis in Ukraine.
Part of the problem is, however, that trying to run a home in London and one in a constituency is very expensive. That is how MPs get started down this road.
If we moved MPs out of London to meet in provincial Britain it would help somewhat as London is a very unusual place and people do not behave typically there.
I once had a Westminster pass once as an MP’s researcher for a year and I can tell you the atmosphere in Westminster is very odd and surreal. God knows how anything ever gets done at all there.
The alternative is a pay rise for MPs or possibly a free flat to stay in while they are MPs. I would still recommend turning the Palace of Westminster into a museum or visitor attraction and moving Parliament out to York or somewhere in the centre of the island of Britain where government jobs are needed very much more.
Nigel F Boddy