“I feel sorry for the people of Tatton – I hear their MP is just too busy to care”

The above quote from Labour MP, Jess Phillips.

But why only Tatton?

Here in Devon we have our own Hugo Swire who, after telling us all how sorry he was not to be able to speak for us when he worked at the Foreign Office but then, when sacked by Mrs May, immediately took the post of Chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

We also have Conservative West Devon and Torridge MP Geoffrey Cox – in whose area the North Devon District Hospital is under threat of closure – who has to juggle his constituency problems with being a successful barrister. According to the Daily Telegraph, based on the declarations in the register of members’ interests, his extra-parliamentary work was worth £820,867 in 2014 or 12 times his annual MP salary. Not to mention his little problem with an alleged tax avoidance scheme.

And Owl is sure there are many many more MPs with their snouts in many conflicting job troughs – and other conflicts – for example those with large shareholdings in private health care companies.

But people vote for them again and again.

As Ms Phillips says:

“The column I wrote last week about how the ex-chancellor was treating being an MP as a hobby after the announcement of his one-day-a-week £650,000 job working for BlackRock Investments is not even in the recycling yet (thanks to years of austerity cutting the collections). Yet, just days later, he’s acquired another job he is apparently going to do on the other four days a week. Next week you can look forward to my column announcing that Osborne has a Saturday job presenting Match of the Day and a Sunday job in the clergy. He is as qualified for those jobs as he is to be the editor of the Evening Standard.

The conflicts of interest are so numerous that my brain has no time to think of them before another pops up. I shall try to devise a list as an aide-memoire for the similarly baffled. It is not OK for politicians to be the editors of newspapers. Not in the UK at least. It’s all the rage in Russia, which is perhaps why the Standard’s proprietor, Evgeny Lebedev, thought nothing of it. No one who read the Evening Standard’s coverage of the London mayoral race would be surprised that it is of the Tory persuasion. It showed then that it was a fan of a rich boy with no talent by supporting Zac “God loves a trier” Goldsmith.

People might think it’s no biggy, it’s not the BBC, it doesn’t have to be neutral. No, it doesn’t, but it does have to at least make some commitment to reporting facts and holding to account those in positions of power. How can George Osborne ever be trusted to do this?

At the moment, when the press is getting a global drubbing from people shrieking “fake news”, how will we be able to trust anything the Standard says? For all those hard-working news reporters and political journalists fighting to be trusted and maintain an important part of our democracy, this is a smack in the face. As pravda means truth in Russian, anything political written in the Standard must now be judged as equally “true”.