Westminster grandees’ greed exposes austerity hypocrisy

Sir Malcolm Rifkind Surfaces After Being Implicated In Cash For Access Scandal by Ken Ferguson, editor, Scottish Socialist Voice Once again the harsh spotlight of publicity has lit up the two faced money grasping hypocrisy behind Westminster’s pro-austerity politicians. Two of the supposed Mother of Parliament’s “honourable gentlemen”—both ex-foreign secretaries Tory Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Labour’s Jack Straw—were caught offering their services for hire to what they thought was a Chinese firm but turned out to be a journalistic sting.

Rifkind, a failed Edinburgh MP moved to upmarket Chelsea, explained that it was “quite unrealistic” for MPs to live “simply on £60,000 a year”. Research by the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4 revealed that the going rate for Sir Malcolm’s services was £1,619 an hour.

This from a man who was Secretary of State in Thatcher’s government enforcing the Poll Tax, who has loyally backed sackings, cuts and the demonising of so called scroungers while peddling the lie that “we are all in it together”.

As chairman of the Commons intelligence committee which oversees Britain’s spooks, he might have been considered to be exactly the type of well-connected figure well worth buying by influence-seeking capitalists.

Straw’s pay rate seems, compared with his Tory opposite number, almost modest at an economical £5,000-a-day. He already earns a cool £60k a year (about the same as his MPs’ salary) from a commodity firm and boasted to the undercover reporters of how he operated “under the radar” to get clients needs met.

His background is as a supporter of war and mayhem and a key figure in the long running New Labour drive to destroy their party as one representing working people to one guarding the interests of the super rich, oligarchs and speculators.

Both men spotlight the rotten “don’t do as I do, do as I say” culture underpinning super rich rule in today’s Britain. We have of course been here before in the world of duck houses, John Lewis lists and, ultimately, prison cells.

However important as the exposure of individual wrong doing is the real issue is the existence, in Westminster, of a cosy club insulated from reality by a voting system which all bit excludes all but a narrow band of opinion friendly to the gilded world of wealth and privilege.

That club was shaken by the mass movement sparked by last year’s referendum and the rejection of the dismal drumbeat of austerity and war that resulted. It seems likely that one of the key players in the defence of it, the Labour Party, is about to pay the price for their Better Together partnership with the still toxic Tories come May.

Of course all of this makes exciting copy for the opinion formers, pollsters and political scribes but we need to remember that both of the likely election winers in May favour a continuation at an increased tempo of the regime of cuts, sackings and privatisation.

Whatever the outcome then —minority/majority/coalition—a mass movement of action to defend the majority from the greed of the powerful minority will be essential if real change is to be won.

Here in Scotland of course the Westminster poll is a curtain raiser for next year’s Holyrood elections and it is essential that maximum pressure be kept up for the widest possible powers to be delivered to Edinburgh and that they be matched by a politics which can harness them to meet the needs of people and planet.

That’s why in May the SSP is contesting seats in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Paisley to put the concrete alternatives that need to form part of that new politics before the voters.

Demands such as a £10 minimum legally enforced wage, banning of zero hours contracts, ban on fracking, equal pay for women and crucially MPs and MSPs paid a workers wage are at the heart of the SSP work both in the election and in workplaces and communities.

The forces mobilised and the hopes raised by the broad Yes movement for a more equal, just and sustainable Scotland remain very much alive and most continue to inform both the work of the wider left and progressive movement and those tens of thousands seeking real change putting people and planet before profit and greed.

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