Second jobs, woke nonsense, stolen artworks, a taskforce that’s done literally nothing – what your MP’s been up to since the new year
Follow the money. Oliver Dowden features in this big Sky News exposé of payments to MPs, from which we learn that our legislators have taken £17.1 million from second jobs in this parliament and that almost 90% of it went to Tories. We already knew about Dowden’s extra income but it was interesting to learn that his twenty-five grand* barely gets him into the top 35% of all MPs – although, according to Byline Times, Dowden is also one of ten MPs – all Tories, of course – who have taken jobs with party donors in the last year.
It’s all culture wars all the time. Have you noticed that whenever things get bad for this Conservative government – strikes, small boats, sexual predators in the police, flatlining economy – they seem to develop a heightened interest in university radicals and unisex toilets? This time the Scottish Parliament has provided a handy opportunity for Sunak’s government to win some culture wars points. Oliver Dowden has a role here – he’s been asked by the Prime Minister to appoint an ‘Anti-Woke Czar’ to clamp down on political correctness in universities. Expect much more of this in coming weeks. It’s all they’ve got.
The strikes taskforce is apparently on strike. In December Dowden was appointed head of the government’s Winter of Discontent taskforce. There were a couple of TV appearances but since then it looks like he hasn’t actually done anything. We’ve continued to research this and we still can’t find any meetings, new policies, announcements or action of any kind, in fact (if you’ve spotted any activity from the taskforce do let us know in a comment. We’ll update this post). Our MP has also been out defending the government’s proposed new anti-strike legislation while the rest of us wonder how threatening nurses with the sack can possibly help resolve the deepest crisis in our public services in decades.
Clinging to the loot. Oliver Dowden opposes the return of stolen artworks – Benin bronzes, Acropolis friezes and so on – appearing on the telly, making it all part of his anti-woke campaign, writing stern letters to the museums and so on. Meanwhile, the museums are just getting on with it, finding clever ways around the government’s rules and sending artworks home anyway. There’s even been progress in the gnarliest of disagreements – the one between the Greeks and the British Museum. The new Culture Secretary, Michelle Donelan, has returned to the matter, and is also insisting that artworks must not be returned. This one is going to run and run.
* To clarify, as we reported here, some of Oliver Dowden’s money in this parliament has come from Caxton Associates, the Mayfair hedge fund known to have made money from shorting the pound and for bankrolling Liz Truss’s short-lived assault on rationality last year. Some has come from the slightly less notorious South Hertfordshire Business Club – a club with no web site, no staff, no premises, no accounts and, apparently, no members (looks like it shares an address with the St Albans Conservative Association). According to the Electoral Commission, though, the club has given £82,741.09 to Hertsmere Tories since 2017. Details in this spreadsheet. And more here about the very careful timing of Dowden’s second jobs.