It is entirely reasonable logic to insist that the one person cannot serve the two masters. Conflicts of interest are going to happen if they try – and we’d prefer not to have such conflicts in the manner we are governed.
The thing is this civil servant who worked both for Greensill and also in a part of the Cabinet Office dealing with procurement, that’s just the start. It also most certainly shouldn’t be the end:
The real scandal is that the revolving door between government and business is still open
The thing is, why would we assume that it is only business that pollutes government?
Take, for example, that bird who became Baroness Worthington. She was a Friends of the Earth campaigner who was hired by DEFRA. That’s something of a conflict as it’s at least arguable that that’s two masters. She then went on to write much of the Climate Change Act. So, that was written not by someone carefully considering all of the difficulties and trade offs but by, well, a campaigner with all the prejudices that implies.
This week’s revelation that, for a couple of months in 2015, the government’s chief commercial officer was also working for supply chain finance company Greensill Capital was called “extraordinary and shocking” by the shadow Cabinet Office minister, Rachel Reeves. Yet as part of a culture in which gliding from a position of public responsibility into one of private gain is now the norm, the overlap in roles looks no more than a curiosity. The dual role had been approved by a Cabinet Office at the top of which sat the late cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood.
Tottering off to run a trade union – or partially leaving one in order to join the civil service – would come under the same rubric.
Or, being a tax campaigner who was brought in to do work on taxes, just to make an absurd extension of the case.
The actual argument here is not that business is unique in polluting politics. It’s that politics is polluted by any form of lobbying or dual hat wearing. At which point we should stop it happening at all, shouldn’t we?
That this will piss off the entire NGO and third sector is just an interesting bonus.