Chris Kelly, the former civil servant who heads the Parliamentary standards watchdog, has criticised Derek Conway for paying his son a sinecure salary out of public money. The Observer reports him as saying:
“I think that this episode will have damaged the reputation of MPs generally and that is more than unfortunate. … The incident has added to the general feeling that there is something wrong, when the great majority of MPs go about their work with diligence and integrity. Perceptions clearly have not improved. Ironically that may be because there is now more transparency than there has ever been.”
The question Kelly raises is a good one: have MPs made rods for their own backs by embracing more transparency in funding arrangements? Conway is perhaps an outlier, as his scandal is about misuse of public money rather than financial reporting arrangements, but there is a strong sense that ten years ago, many of the transactions that now make headlines would have happened under the table, without anyone knowing about them. In an intellectual sense, more openness in a democracy is naturally better than less – but what if the price is state funding of political parties or further erosion of trust in politicians?