So Sajid Javid MP, ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, has a new job advising JP Morgan. For someone whose standing as a politician went up earlier this year after resigning – and someone who will go down in history as the UK’s first Chancellor of Asian heritage – Mr Javid seems unconcerned about how this move might diminish his reputation and that of his colleagues.
It is reasonable for voters to expect that an MP’s primary role is to represent them in Parliament. Regardless of the time commitment of his new role, the perception that Javid’s contributions in Parliament represent both his new employer and his constituents (in whatever order) will be hard to shift.
An elected official taking up additional private sector responsibilities at a time when the UK is reeling from the worst economic shock in living memory, managing the COVID-19 pandemic and determining it’s post Brexit future suggests an unusual sense of priorities. Added to that, there will always be a suspicion that part of Javid’s value to JP Morgan is his Whitehall contact book, and his intimate knowledge of the corridors of 10 and 11 Downing Street.
As an Ex-Chancellor, Javid is in a position to make a unique and valuable contribution to public life from the backbenches. This move indicates he no longer sees a meaningful role for himself supporting the Government, and that his prospects of a return to front line politics are low. That an experienced MP thinks a role advising a bank is more important than his Parliamentary role is a poor reflection on Westminster and the erosion of Parliament’s role.
The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which scrutinises moves such as this, has approved Javid’s role despite flagging “potential risks” in his privileged access to information.
The move has shone a spotlight on the links that exist between the City and Westminster. This is not a new issue – within all the main parties, there are examples of senior figures who have passed through the revolving doors between finance and politics. The manner of this appointment is, however, more likely to reinforce a perception of special favours and cronyism between finance and politics. This will make it harder for politicians and the City to have a genuine dialogue which often translates into bad policy and more difficult politics.
There is no reason why an entire career need be spent on only one side of the rubicon and there are obvious benefits to having a more rounded view of the world. But with barely six months passed since Javid stepped down as the man in charge of Britain’s economy, it is hard to see his latest career move as motivated by anything other than self-interest. Such unseemly haste will do nothing for his reputation, or for the reputation of the Conservatives.
By Nick Smith, Chair, Labour in the City