Transparency? Give me substance any day!

Britain’s three main political parties have called for transparency in the activities of elected representatives and their offices.

Suspended Tory MP Derek Conway and the “employment” of his sons as political researchers aside, this is a non-scandal whipped up for who knows what reason. As for MP’s using their staff allowances to employ family members as secretaries and researchers, I do not agree with those who say this is always nepotism.

Brian Sedgemore, who at the last election retired from UK politics, was for many years MP for the London constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch. He is also my uncle.

Brian used to employ his wife Audrey as his secretary, and here is a woman who was once a high-flying barrister! Audrey gave up her career to support Brian in his political work, so it is not as if she was, like the Conway brats, milking the taxpayer for a little pocket money while up at Cambridge University.

There is nothing wrong with MPs using their staffing allowance to employ family members as long as it is completely up-front, and can be challenged by the public. Housing minister Caroline Flint was on BBC Radio 4’s any questions earlier this evening. When Ms Flint’s political career took off, her husband Phil gave up his job to look after the kids and run the constituency office. I see nothing wrong with this, and have no doubt that Phil Flint puts in the hours. This is par for the course with MP’s assistants.

In Brian Sedgemore’s case, one of the reasons why he was such an effective and highly regarded constituency MP is that Audrey is a brilliant organiser, and she worked hard to keep her husband together and on-message.

I don’t want transparency in our elected representatives. Openness, yes, but transparency implies that one can see right through them; that they have no substance.