Wednesday 19 October 2011


There is always some heat on the party in government. Opposition, which comprises nearly always the majority of the population, is ever watchful for some way to catch them pulling a trick. And so it should be. In general they have hardly shown themselves to be paragons of virtue.

The Tories in England and the SNP in Scotland are not there as of right. They are only people we elected to run the country on our behalf. Sometimes it seems almost unfair the way they are hounded and their every actions analysed and criticised. And sometimes it is unfair. If Ken Clarke wants to wear Hush Puppies because he has bad feet, why shouldn't he? If he enjoys jazz at Ronnie Scott's, why not? If Alex likes a curry, what's wrong with that? And whilst it might not be overly tactful when their actions are causing our pips to squeak, there's no reason why multi millionaires like Osborne or Clegg shouldn't ski at Klosters with Charlie. We can't all be poor.

But when the scrutiny and the criticism is of competence or propriety in the job, then it is entirely fair. And so Munguin's Republic makes no excuses for highlighting an incident which, had it not been for the Fox affair and mystery of  Letwin's  filing system, would almost undoubtedly have made a rather bigger splash than it did.

I'm referring to the story of Jonathan Djanogly, English justice minister, who has been stripped of his responsibilities for regulating 'ambulance chasing' companies, given that he failed to declare that his teenage children were major shareholders in his brother-in-law's businesses which were set to benefit from the regulations that Mr Djanogly  was overseeing.

Djanogly's brother-in-law runs a company called Justice Direct, which describes itself as a "leading claims management company", and another called Going Legal which deals with industrial tribunals, injury at work claims and sexual harassment claims. You can see where a conflict of interest might have occurred.

Further conflicts may be seen to exist when you consider that Mr Djanogly's own business interests, although temporarily in a blind trust, are in the insurance industry. He has a quarter of a million worth of shares in companies with insurance subsidiaries and is, or was until appointment as a minister, entitled to around £40,000 a year from his share of the family underwriting business at Lloyd's of London.

You might have thought that Jonathan would have considered it advisable to mention to one of the senior civil servants in the department, or perhaps to his Secretary of State, that his family had a close interest in these matters when he was handed the job. His failure to do so gives off a slightly nasty odour. However, once he discovered that the Guardian were on to him, he sold his children's stake in the companies and registered his interests with the House of Commons. Amazing what a little reminder from the press can do.

Once again it appears that the saintly Mr Gus O'Donnell has been overseeing the inquiry into the minister (you wonder that he has time to do anything else these days). According to a spokesman for the English Ministry of Justice, Mr O'Donnell has concluded that it would be best if another minister took over the Claims Management Regulation Unit to avoid any "distraction".  Ken Clarke, the Secretary of State will now take on that responsibility.

Kept that one quiet didn't they?

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