Keeping politics in the family

Mr. Derek Conway seems to be in the process of having his political career ended for having employed his son to do nothing and has now agreed to step down at the next election. It appears that a number of MPs employ their relatives to do real work in an entirely legal and acceptable fashion. This situation also appears to pertain in Northern Ireland, again entirely properly and legally. The Paisleys’ have taken this system even further; Ian Paisley junior is of course part of the Paisley political dynasty and an elected MLA in his own right. Let us stress that neither Paisley has done anything remotely wrong nor contrary to any rules and as Fair deal notes here junior has been cleared of wrong doing over the Balee land issue by the assembly ombudsman. However, Dr. Paisley may at times wish that Paisley junior was only doing nothing rather than being worse than useless for the DUP.

  • Rory

    It does seem a little unfair that Mr Conway’s downfall was brought about by the apparent action of paying his son much too much for doing much too little.

    What on earth is the point of being a Tory (or indeed a politician of any hue these days)if one cannot set an example and provide training for own’s own children in what is after all the very Tory way of life and one now happily embraced by overpaid useless plonkers of all parties.

    It is sad to see such old traditions die away. But then it has to be asked – why couldn’t the silly man be content with overpaid consultancies and large brown envelopes in return for his influence just like his childless (and obviously jealous for that reason) colleagues are obliged to rely upon – until they get into cabinet where the big bucks await.

  • willis

    I assume the above was ironical, although a degree of wishful thinking seems to have intruded.

    It is all just Cavaliers and Puritans again.

    Of course you love your family.

    Of course you have obligations as a public servant.

    Maybe Diamond Derek should have listened to that minx Nigella who does know a thing or two about high office.

  • Alex S

    Do any of our local MP’s employ family members?

  • Nice thread, Turgon — and nice point, Alex S @ 11:11 PM.

    Anyone can check the MPs Allowance Expenditure for April 2006 – March 2007. It’s on line at

    It turns up some interesting information.

    Why, for example, is the long-suffering British taxpayer coughing up £20,356 for Gerry’s office costs and £87,269 staffing costs when he won’t even attend the place? Not to mention £1,352 for his car, £402 for his rail travel and £3,374 towards his air-miles?

    However, to Alex S‘s point.

    There’s another web-page for the Register Of Interests Of Members’ Secretaries And Research Assistants at
    This identifies that some of the NI MPs have staff at Westminster:
    Jeffrey Donaldson: Julie Anderson;
    Mark Durkan: Brian Barrington (described as “Adviser, SDLP); Ronan McKay;
    Michelle Gildernew: Jayne Fisher (“Researcher/administrator for Sinn Fein”);
    Sylvia Hermon: Stephen Knott (“Research Assistant to Imperial Society of Knights Batchelor”); Rodney McCune (“Barrister practising in England and Wales”);
    Alasdair McDonnell: Rebecca Thomas; Martin Shaw;
    Eddie McGrady: Theresa McLaverty;
    Martin McGuinness: Anne McGuinness;
    Ian Paisley: Brian Green (“Minister of Religion”); Ian Paisley (Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly).

    Spot any recognisable names there? Thought so.

  • darth rumsfeld

    Martin Shaw?

    You mean Alisdair McDonnell’s got CI5 working for him?

    Bet that’ll gunk Alex Attwood with his obsession with securocrats in Hollywood.

  • J Kelly

    It might be interesting if we could check who our MLA’s employ. One in Derry employs spouse, daughter and son in law. Mark Durkan employs his wife Jackie.

  • interested constituent and tax payer

    On another thread this subject was touched.
    It is my understanding that many MLAs employ their family members. I think that in Mid Ulster one employs his wife, future brother in law and possibly even his mother, while in a neighbouring constituency his father employs a son and daughter and possibly another member of the family but I’m not sure about this!
    Why could my daddy not be an MP and MLA and give me a job? Oh sorry I had to go and find my own way in life and stand on my own two feet!

  • J Kelly @ 09:36 AM:


    The Assembly system of reporting is still in its infancy; and is not as “contemporary” or so extensive as the Westminster system. That’s something over which whistle-blowers (e.g. Sluggerdom) could usefully agitate.

    There is, though, some gold to be found among the dross.

    Consider, for example, one G. Adams (not on this occasion for any polemical reasons, just because he comes at the top of the alphabetical list). His Stormont posting is very modest:

    2. Remunerated employment, office, profession, etc

    Member of Parliament for West Belfast – no salary received – expenses only.


    8. Land and property

    Residential property in the twenty-six counties – jointly owned with wife. The property is used solely for personal residential purposes. No rental income is received.

    11. Unremunerated interests

    Director, Féile an Phobail.

    As I noted in my previous posting here, that “expenses only” amounts to:

    “Staying away from main home”: £16,500;
    “Office running costs”: £20,356;
    “Staffing costs”: £87,269;
    “Car”: £1,352;
    “Rail”: £402;
    “Air”: £3,374;
    “Member’s staff travel”: £2,035;
    “Centrally purchased stationery”: £52;
    “Stationery: associated postage costs”: £364;
    “Central IT provision”: £1,125.

    That’s, what, £135,000? And it’s the little things that grate: why, for example, raid the House of Commons stationery cupboard?

  • pith

    I see The Times is claiming today that Ian Paisley MP has arranged for a Palace of Westminster pass for his son Ian. Isn’t that sweet?

  • pith

    Gerry Adams lists “Author” under remunerated employment? I thought the Sinn Fein lads knew all the big words.

  • interested constituent and tax payer

    Have you checked out the office expences for some of these MPs its mad! Have a look on they work for you and check out expenses!

  • pith @ 11:06 AM:

    Yes, and you read it here first: see post 4 (above).

  • interested constituent and tax payer

    What is the average pay of a staff member in local political offices? Is it minimum wage? no doubt some of the staff members work very hard – but some offices seem to have a very high level of staffing and are they all necessary! Some areas also seem to have office costs and yet where is the office! If you ring some offices the staff seem to to have no trainging in telephone manner and many don’t sem to have any real knowledge of what is happening on the ground in the local area!
    Is there a minimum criteria when a job is advertised and are these jobs every advertised or are they just given out to family and friends!

  • pith

    Malcolm Redfellow,

    I should have done yes. Apologies.

  • Nick Robinson’s blog has, very much as an after-thought, this:

    I can’t eradicate from my mind a terrible idea. Could Conway – who tried to stop Cameron becoming leader, who dubbed his mates ‘the Notting Hill set’ and condemned their out of touch liberal metropolitan ways – have decided on one final desperate act to destroy the modernisation project albeit whilst destroying himself at the same time? Could he be the modern day political equivalent of a kamikaze pilot?
    No, you’re right, that’s a grotesque idea. How the mind plays tricks…
    PS: I hesitated for reasons of taste to dub Derek Conway a political suicide bomber, only to learn that that phrase is already doing the rounds amongst Conservative MPs.

    Fair enough.

    However, Malcolm believes that the “suicide bomber”tag is less about the Tories losing the political wind as a result of the Conway affair, and more about the Nasty Party getting the wind up that this represents the terminus for the Parliamentary gravy train.

    We shall surely now see greater “transparency”. That will involve a change of Speaker (Gorbals Mick is the most stubborn blockage to reform of allowances and perks).

    Then, further down the line, we can hope for scrutiny of appointments to private offices. That means an end to the pay-offs for exes, might-bes and other beds that go bump in the conference season: the parliamentary pandar being a well-attested species.

    And, perhaps in the far distance, a trimming of the generous Parliamentary pension arrangements.

    Cue Colonel Rainborow:

    I think that the poorest he that is in England has a life to live as the greatest he; and therefore truly, Sir, I think it’s clear, that every man that is to live under a Government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that Government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that Government that he has not had a voice to put himself under; and I am confident that when I have heard the reasons against it, something will be said to answer those reasons, insomuch that I should doubt whether he was an Englishman or not that should doubt of these things.

  • noel adams

    Just a thought on accomodation costs there are a number of married teams in westminster but peter and iris seem to top the table at almost 40,000 PA.Given their poor attendence and peters call for value for money here looks odd.

  • pith

    Maybe Punter Robinson is still having pay his Clontibret fine.

  • I haven’t done any research here but does the Punt family own 2 London flats as opposed to one which, it might be thought, is all that they would need.

    I also wonder what a modest amount of investigative journalism would uncover about Stormont expenses. Just a cynical thought.

    Conway, BTW, was one of the few Tories who voted against the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

  • noel adams @ 02:29 PM:

    See what I mean? Once you start inspecting this little midden, it’s really fascinating what crawls out.

    Note, too, the curious change in the Robinsons’ office arrangements. Back in the latest printed edition of the register, Peter was telling the world:

    I own one of my constituency offices in Belfast.

    That was his one and only property declaration, despite a declaration of shareholding:

    Union Arch; property development.

    Iris was, alas, propertyless and officeless.

    More recently, that has been amended by both to say:

    Joint ownership with my husband/wife of constituency offices at Dundela Avenue in East Belfast and North Street in Newtownards.

    What’s even more curious is that the office costs Iris (£20,112) considerably more than Peter (£8,951): does she have to pay him rent? Then the staffing of those offices: she gets away with a mere £76,370; but he puts up £93,918.

    What amazes me is that someone involved in “property development” finds it worthwhile not to invest that £39,944 a year “cost of staying away from main home” (some £110 an average day) mortgaging a pied-à-terre. And do they never share a hotel bedroom?

    And those airfares? £27,234: that’s some £750+ for each Westminster “working” week (there are Commons sittings 160-180 days a year, and we can infer from the “days away from home” claim that they must overnight in London frequently). Do EasyJet/Ryanair offer season tickets?

    Oink! Oink!

  • M Kelly

    Re: Durkan

    Didn’t Jackine Durkan (before she and Mark were an item) work in the office of the previous MP for Foyle?

  • Llamedos

    Re full and total disclosure of all expenditure.All MPs,MLAs,Lords,Councillors should be compelled by law to produce monthly accounts to a requisite body which will make them available for public scrutiny by the electorate.These accounts should show all expenditure analysed under proper accounting headings and furthermore detail payments for work and consultancy remuneration naming all recipients and their addresses.Failure to file on time within seven days of the month end would incur automatic suspension from attending and voting in the chamber in which they will have broken the rules.It is now also the time for all of us to agitate for single only mandates.All parties need to select work experienced candidates and possibly there should be a minimum age of forty applied which should result in us having altruistic conviction politicians and not the self serving bunch of parasites we are now having to suffer.

  • Heyho

    The Robinson’s three children are all aides to their MLA parents, Rebekah Robinson is also her Dad’s Parliamentary aide.

    Now that what I call keeping it in the family!

  • rural dweller

    The Mid Ulster Unionist MLA’S take some beating.One employs his wife, mother and brother in law, uses a house owned by the free P church as his office.The other one employs his wife and two daughters,has his office,which is owned by his wife,in his farmyard.His office is a mobile,bought over 6 years ago by his wife and he has been paying her rent ever since.The gravy train continues to run unabated for these people.Lets set up a commission to investigate these MLA’s after all its taxpayers money.