Ian Hislop condemns government in blistering takedown of Tory lobbying culture


Private Eye editor Ian Hislop told a sleaze watchdog that the public are “very sick of being taken for fools” over MPs’ second jobs.

The Have I Got News for You captain took part in a Commons Committee on Standards yesterday in the wake of the Conservative sleaze scandal that broke at the end of 2021.

Hislop said MPs “need to redefine the term lobbying ” and that current proposals for change need to be “harder”.

Speaking about some MPs’ second jobs , Hislop said: “What do you think these companies are paying the money for? Do you think they are chucking it away?

“When politicians declare their interests, why do they think these businesses are paying them this money?

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“I think the public is very sick of being taken for fools at the moment on all sorts of levels, and it is very sick of being taken for fools on this level.”

His comments follow sleaze allegations over MP’s earnings outside of parliament. Former MP Owen Paterson resigned after the Tories tried to block a temporary suspension from parliament when it was found that he lobbied on behalf of two companies paying him more than £100,000 a year. The subsequent by-election for his seat was won by a Liberal Democrat candidate.

During the hearing Hislop clashed with Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin, who suggested more rules are not enough to change MPs’ attitudes towards breaking them.

Sir Bernard said: “You can police rules and have tougher rules but lots of people will carry on gaming rules.

“If they think rules are the only issue and they don’t understand why the rules exist – what the principles are behind the rules – you aren’t going to change people’s attitudes.”

But Hislop said: “That’s just depressing – the idea that politicians are just so innately corrupt that they won’t understand public anger at what they are doing and none of them will obey the rules.”

Sir Bernard said it happens in a number of fields, including journalism.

Hislop shot back: “Fortunately this committee is not looking into us, we are having a look at you”.

Hislop later added: “You want a moral shift in the type of people who become MPs, I can’t do much about that.”

Sir Bernard responded by suggesting that conversations may help to foster better attitudes.

Hislop said: “Why do you have to explain to a new MP why he shouldn’t lobby for a company taking government contracts? Why isn’t that blatantly obvious?”

Journalists also spoke to the committee about the lack of transparency in the way MPs declare their interests, including second jobs and what constitutes lobbying.

With reporting by PA.

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