Family and the party…

There is something akin to a witch hunt going on against MPs employing their families in their offices in Britain. So much so that the case of the DUP, it seems that information that was freely available last week, which gives the names of people who work in their various MLAs offices has now been removed from their website. Although it is still available through the Google cache. Perhaps of more concern is the fact that few of the practical checks and balances that apply to business expenditure apply to any of these offices. Update: we are told that the list was taken down because it was out of date. It has Jim Allister’s son Philip working for Peter Weir, who left the party’s employ at about the same time his father resigned the party whip.

  • Smiley’s brother

    Patronage and nepotism was how the unionist establishment ran the old Northern Ireland state, did anyone really think they had changed?

  • Mark Fartlighter

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7230787.stm

    I find the above re Ian Paisley junior to be quite unbelievable.

    Can anyone defend this?

  • Rory

    I hardly think, Mick, that the proper concern that has arisen as a result of the exposure of Derek Conway’s use of parliamentary allowances to fund the hedonistic lifestyles of his playboy sons and their friends can be classified as a witch hunt. But even if it could be so described, politicians are not being subject to any modern ducking-stool type ordeal such as was employed by McCarthy and HUAC in 1950’s USA.

    At the moment they are simply asked to make the names of those they employ available on a public register. If these names lead to further questions as to the nature and value of this work, which is paid from the public purse, then all that is required is an honest answer. Difficult for some politicians no doubt. But we must insist.

    The irony is that it was Derek Conway who led what really was a witch hunt against former Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith by questioning the value of the work that Duncan-Smith’s wife was paid for as a party researcher. IDS can be forgiven for any fleeting schadenfreude he perhaps enjoyed as a result of recent events.

  • Mick Fealty

    Okay, let me bite. A witch hunt is when someone employing a member of their family as a secretary or a researcher is seen as guilt in and of itself.

    What you notice though is that there has been an attempt to pay people with a genuine commentment to politics here also.

    Note the number of councillors listed for instance. That’s a kind of investment in the future that all political parties should be making.

    I hope we see a return of the kind of openness this list betokens. I am not sure any of the other parties have shown themselves dedicated to this level of transparency. Though, I’d happily be proven wrong.

    Witch hunts don’t help…

  • dean

    Haveheard that the dup is going to release the details later in the month, but a few sweetners

    Gregory employs his wife
    Peter has all his children in his offices
    McCrea has two in his offices, his son and his daughter.

    Keeping the McCrea dynasty going, Ian employs his wife, his brother in law, his mother, and Lord Morrow employs his wife’s mother.

  • Snoopy

    dean

    Pity our MEPs aren’t subjected to this on-going witch-hunt eh?

    Who do our MEPs employ? Who do they pay rent to? Who owns their offices?

    Maybe one for David Gordon to take a wee gander at?

  • Buggerhed

    “Update: we are told that the list was taken down because it was out of date. It has Jim Allister’s son Philip working for Peter Weir, who left the party’s employ at about the same time his father resigned the party whip.”

    Now this is interesting.

    Jim Allister left the DUP on the 27 March 2007.

    Geroge Dawson died on 7th May, replaced by Alastair Ross on 14th May.

    Now Mr Ross’s Details have been added to the DUP’s list. So this means the list was Updated following Jim Allister’s departure.

    Might the actual reason for withdrawing the list from the DUP website not be the reason stated?

  • esmereldavillalobos

    Mark Fartlighter

    Saw the BBC article independant of you and I’m very surprised no-one else here has picked up on it given the unwanted publicity IPJ has had recently. Does he not have enough to do representing OFMDFM and his assembly constituents without Papa Doc paying him for research as well? Stench rising, anyone?

  • Clonakilty

    Buggerhead

    Not really if Allister had to work 8 weeks notice.

  • Pete Baker

    esmerelda

    Ian Jnr hasn’t confirmed anything we didn’t already know.. or note.

  • Sorry, but this has to be a moment to convince Mick Fealty that he is in a minority of one.

    Any and every public employee (and for all for working life I was was one) knows that an intelligent member of the public (or a journo with the usual count of brain-cells) can work out who is one’s employer, what is one’s pay scale, what one is answerable for, to whom one answers. The only exceptions seem to be securocrats in the belly of the beast and MPs’ hangers-on.

    Were that latter exception removed, there can be no objection to an MP or an MLA having a spouse as a secretary, aide or general dogsbody.

    The US Congress has no problem with such openness (except in banning family members), to the extent that the National Prayer Network can identify each and every Congressional aide, his/her job description, and invite us to pray for her/him. And very touching that must be. Incidentally, a while back I was in Montpelier (“mont-peel-yer”, please!), Vermont, and expected to be impressed when introduced to the local Senator’s adviser for veterans’ affairs. Ho-hum: he still couldn’t boot an iBook to the wi-fi.

    So, here comes my check-list of outstanding problems:

    First example, why did it take the Privileges Committee all these months (since May 2007) to pronounce on what was an open-and-shut case with Conway? Please note that several other matters were dealt with, by the same Committee, far more expeditiously.

    Second, even if the corruption of paying for not doing a job is stopped, will it also be the case that not paying for other jobs is also stopped? Why are MPs one of the few “employers” who can avoid minimum wage regulation by having swarms of unpaid “interns”? Even the w4mp.org, in pressing “ethical internships”, seems uncomfortable with the arrangement.

    Third, even if the stuffing of wallets of spouses and sprogs is throttled off, what scrutiny can there be for the well-established tradition of MPs pushing public moolah at their belles (and beaux) de jour?

    And, fourth, what about the other perks and privileges? Conway seems to have claimed the equivalent of a thousand round trips a year between Westminster and his constituency. He was also pulling the second home allowance (to avoid a 12-mile commute? in a car at 40p a mile or whatever?) Then there’s the £10K a year for running an MP’s web-site (and some of the efforts are pathetic). And so on.

    So, let me make this personal.

    I stood for Parliament in both elections in 1974. Had I been elected, my “salary” would have been about the same as a senior teacher in a secondary school. Today the differential between the two positions is a factor of two, plus some £150,000 in “expenses”. I do not see we are getting any better service.

    I spent eleven years as an elected councillor in local government, receiving basic “expenses” (about a third of what I could earn as a part-time lecturer; and do you fancy an afternoon chairing the Joint Crematorium Committee, and discussing the price of gas?) with limited access to curled sandwiches. Today, there are “allowances” for local councillors: it is easily possible to score £30,000, plus “expenses”, as “Leader” of a Borough Council. Again: are we being better served?

    No, Mick: this is not a witch-hunt. It is a peasants’ revolt. And there is still, hanging in the air, Paxman’s telling question: what would an Italian politician, or one from East Europe think about all this?

  • shankly’s socialism

    @mick

    You may be right on the witch hunt thing, but employing a family member is immoral in my view, there was hardly an open and transparent interview process before appointment. If I was an MLA I would be too embarrassed to appoint a family member, plus it is such a difficult job I would want the best for myself and my constituents.

    I have a different view on employing of councillors, while investing in the future may be admirable, they are investing in there own future. What about the other councillors from different parties who have to work full time as well as their council work? While DUP councillors can work full time in politics – constantly improving their chances of reelection….seems unfair…….an MLA cannot use their party support during election time as it gives them an unfair advantage over those currently unelected…to me this is a similar situation.

  • Liam

    As a Sinn Féin supporter, Im delighted to see that they are the only political party who obviously provide employment on merit and not just jobs for the family!

  • Liam

    As a Sinn Féin supporter, I’m delighted to see that they are the only political party who provide employment on merit and not just jobs for the family!

  • Clonakilty

    “who obviously provide employment on merit”

    True – they don’t look after family members as well as ex-combatants – but sure what the hey!

  • Plum Duff

    Why do I have this constant, gnawing feeling that I and the working, taxpaying members of my family, friends, acquaintances, every other person that I know, don’t know, never even heard of, are merely a cash-crop for the bunch of parasites we elect to positions of influence in which they fix their own salaries and unaccountable expenses each time *they* ask? Will someone please tell me we’re sane for not asking for accountability?

  • esmereldavillalobos

    Pete

    Whoops! Eye off ball, obviously – my bad.

  • “Ian Jnr hasn’t confirmed anything we didn’t already know.. or note.”

    Pete, there would appear to be a mismatch between the following claims:

    Junior reportedly on father’s Westminster payroll for 20 years.

    Potical researcher 1989-1996

  • Belfast Paddy

    How families are employed by Politicians in Britain?
    This isn’t Britain you donkey, this is the northeast of Ireland.

  • This issue isn’t just about access to information about who politicians employ. It’s also about who gets access to these jobs – how many politicians can genuinely say their relative is the best qualified and experienced person for the job? Elsewhere in the public sector you have to complete horrendous application forms for the most junior pen-pushing position, but if you are related to a politicians then walk right in. There should be a proper applications process, either run by the politicians’ institution or by the political party if that’s more appropriate e.g. for constituency work.

  • pith

    Just out of curiosity does the post of Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church come with a salary?

  • Jim Allister has been attempting to shine some light in another area of darkness:-

    “Nine months since their appointment, the publicly funded salaries of the 18 Special Advisers to the Executive Ministers remain a closely guarded secret. Despite persistent correspondence with the Head of the Civil Service and the First Minister, the only relevant facts to emerge are that:

    * no enquiries were made, before appointment, or since, as to whether any have criminal convictions;
    * none were security-vetted before appointment, or since;
    * though they enjoy the status of civil servants they are outside the control of the Head of the Civil Service;
    * though a DFP Code of Practice exists, giving guidance on appoinment procedures applicable to Special Advisers, it was not followed in many instances;
    * no disclosure has taken place as to whether any family relationships exist with any Ministers.”

  • Impoverished MLAs to get salary increase of less than 20%. SF MLAs to oppose move as this would mean too much money going into HQ coffers!!

  • The arts of wielding a stiletto and penning irony have a lot in common.

    I’ve just caught up with a perfect proof of that on the Newsletter website, rounding off Junior refuting accusations of taking money as Da’s “researcher”:

    Mr Paisley Jnr has been dogged by difficult Press for months.
    His relationship with developer Seymour Sweeney, who wants to build the Causeway visitors’ centre, was scrutinised.

    Later the MLA was under fire when it emerged he made constituency requests during the St Andrews talks.

    On no occasion has he been shown to have done anything wrong.

    Kudos, surely, to Stephen Dempster and whoever sub-edited it.

  • Chuckle Vision

    Junior is just trying to earn an honest crust. Leave the boy alone.

  • Snoopy

    Good to see Jim Allister is trying to shed light on SpAd appointments. In the spirit of openness and honesty which he wants to promote here maybe he could tell us:

    1. Does he employ any members of his family?

    2. If so who?

    3. Who owns his office accomodation?

    I await with interest the response…..

  • Jeff

    I see no mention of the Dodds’ in the BBC list. Does Nigel employ Diane? I genuinely don’t know, but she certainly seems to be in the Shore Road office on a regular basis, although perhaps she could just be using it as a base for her Council work?

  • Buggerhed

    “Buggerhead

    Not really if Allister had to work 8 weeks notice. ”

    The 8 weeks’ notice would collide roughly with the time Allister left the DUP payroll. Why was the list updated in one respect, but not in another?

    Also, I wonder exactly why did the DUP allow an outdated publication on their website for months on end, until people actually wanted to see it?

  • joeCanuck

    Is not doing anything wrong the same as doing the right thing?

  • joeCanuck @ 10:57 PM:

    No.

  • joeCanuck

    Thought not.

  • Insider

    I know an MEP (one that thinks he is whiter than everyone else) who employs two of his family and has a neat deal on renting property which on paper is linked to his wife.

  • Insider

    “As a Sinn Féin supporter, Im delighted to see that they are the only political party who obviously provide employment on merit”

    Merit! Are you takin the piss? Have you encountered these guys. If they came out tops on merit Lord help us all.

  • pia lugum

    I hope that now is the time for a root and branch investigation of MLA’s expence accounts. Many of them are seemingly oblivious of any moral code, never mind the law of the land!
    For instance it seems unbelievable but possible that an MLA would buy a mobile wooden office in 1998 for reputedly £5000 on ‘expenses’ – then give it to a family ‘worker’ – then the family ‘worker’ hires it back to the MLA – and the MLA claims £12000.00 per year rent allowance!
    If rogue MLA’s are not pruned or otherwise brought into line then those genuine and honest grafters are also badly tainted.

  • rural dweller

    Pia Lugum
    Would this be the same MLA who employs his daughter as his full time sec. The fact that she is the mother of very young children must not have come into it.Wonder how she juggles her roles or maybe there is a family creche close by.Wonder of the MLA’s wife is being paid as a part time sec or a child minder.

  • pia lugum

    Rural Dweller – You might be correct.

    All in all it is a terrible moral price for an MLA to pay just to get well stuck into the ‘public purse’. And there is no evidence of any actual serious constituency work being done in mitigation.

    I understand that the MLA’s own constituency association has now shrunk to about 25% of what it was before this dynasty took over. Decent people must either be walking away or being deposed systematically. Some have to my certain knowledge decided to embrace the TUV.

    It is all the more atrocious that these party stooges and GFA fanatics WILL get away with it – reputedly a quarter of a million pounds while the last assembly was in recess! At the same time many’s a genuinely cash-strapped young mother is hauled into the courts every week for yielding to temptation and lifting some small items from a supermarket/market stall.

    I long for the day when a new culture of honesty and personal integrity starts to develop in all of the ‘folks on the hill’ (our so-called leaders and role models).

    Meanwhile, even the hottest fires of hell are far too good for some of them!