Back in 1992 when I was a visiting law student in London, I interned with a Conservative backbencher. I got the job because of my pro-life credentials. I wrote to the sister of a family acquaintance, but since she had been elevated into the Government of the day and was not allowed unpaid interns, she referred me to another Tory MP who was very active in the pro-life movement.
Thus, I was quite interested to read in the Independent today that a Christian pro-life charity has been sponsoring interns to work at Westminster. Of course for the left-wing Independent, this is a rather dastardly thing. This is particularly bad since it is “allowing them unrestricted access to Westminster in the run-up to highly sensitive and potentially close votes on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill next month.” Never mind that Christian Action, Research and Education (Care) has run the internship programme for 10 years.
There is no suggestion that Care has actually done anything wrong. The only thing the Independent found to exploit is that two of the twelve members of Parliament who have Care interns failed to note them as such in the main register of members interests. It is not a lack of public record as to their sponsorship. The interns themselves have registered this. The paper even admitted, “There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of any of the MPs who employ Care research assistants.”
There is not even any evidence that Care-sponsored interns are lobbying MPs about the HEF Bill or anything else. It’s just that they could.
The Independent knows that Care is an evil organisation because it campaigned against the repeal of the infamous Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. Section 28 banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools. It also campaigned against assisted suicide in the House of Lords (or what the Independent likes to call “assisted dying”). Why didn’t the Independent mention that Tom Harris has a staffer who is Parliamentary & Campaigns Officer for the pro-euthanasia activist group Dignity in Dying? Or for that matter, that Bob Laxton employs the Chief Executive of the Birmingham Brook Advisory Centre, an organisation that promotes abortion?
And the Independent does not mention that there are members with staff who are sponsored by other organisations with political agendas – it’s just that the agendas are more fitting with the views of the Independent. For example, Michael Clapham employs someone registered as “Independent Parliamentary and Political Consultant” and lists eight organisation as clients. Natascha Engel has a staff member who is Parliamentary and Campaigns Officer for the Terrence Higgins Trust, an HIV charity which encourages promiscuity as a partner of Playzone: “We’re working in partnership with gay venues to improve conditions and make your play safer.” Eliot Morley has a staffer who is “Parliamentary Consultant, Network for Animals”. Fabian Hamilton has a staffer who is involved as Parliamentary liaison/research for the trade union Amicus. Lindsay Hoyle employs one of their Policy Officers. Doug Henderson employs the National Political Officer of the GMB union. Diana Johnson employers a Regional Manager for Unison. Edward O’Hara employs two staffers who are Parliamentary Assistants for Age Concern. I know this is a fairly innocuous organisation, but it is a lobbying group nonetheless.
Or how about the fact that Michelle Glidernew and Martin McGuiness of Sinn Fein have staff on the register at all? Neither has taken their seat since being elected, because they won’t take the oath of allegiance. However, Sinn Fein’s press office assures me that they are entitled to public money for this and most everything else, just like any other MPs.