It was being suggested at the beginning of November that David Cameron intended putting an end to members of the Shadow Cabinet retaining lucrative outside interests.
However, the FT is now reporting that he has been forced to backtrack amid a potential rebellion from within the ranks.
It cites one anonymous shadow cabinet member as blaming the previous report on "kite-flying" by the well-paid strategist Steve Hilton:
“Even if no one quit, this would have created real unhappiness and why sour things now? You’d get people calling on the party to pay their tax bills for next year and asking why Andy Coulson [Mr Cameron’s press chief] is paid so much more than them."
Shadow business secretary, Alan Duncan, was typically robust in his defence of senior shadow ministers retaining outside interests:
“Better to be part-time wise than full-time ignorant.”
I am sympathetic to the view that a blanket ban on all outside jobs would be wrong and that there is only a problem if any outside interests are adversely affecting an individual’s ability to carry out his front bench duties.
However, in order to be taken as a serious government-in-waiting, politics has to come first and I was somewhat concerned recently to hear the following story about a member of the shadow cabinet: he had apparently already told David Cameron that he didn’t want a higher profile post than that which he currently holds in advance of the general election, because he didn’t want to give up other interests on account of time commitments or potential conflicts of interest involved in a different post.
Such an attitude at this juncture is unacceptable.