Any election, local or national, is preceded by a frenzied process of interviews, reference requests, checks and counterchecks, all to ensure the fitness of those wishing to stand. Whilst each party has its own vetting system to wheedle out past misdemeanours, with party HQs keen to field a candidate in as many seats as possible, prudency can swiftly fall victim to necessity, particularly when an election is called with little notification.
Rushed into seats they were never expected to win, there has been a suspicion since December that a number of the Conservative Party’s 109 new MPs – or ‘Boris’s babies’, as the intake has been dubbed – will fall foul of the scrutiny that comes with being elected to public office. Skipping the frequent councillor to candidate-in-waiting route lots of MPs take, it is for many their first role in politics. Throw into the mix some very young, impressionable individuals, a number of whom are only in their early to mid-twenties, it’s easy to see how problems may arise.
Indeed, the fallout has already begun. Shortly after Christmas, news emerged that the new MP for Bridgend, Jamie Wallis, co-owned a sugar daddy website which, regardless ‘whether you’re a boy, girl, straight or gay’, could ‘solve your money worries.’ In a separate case last week, footage was uncovered of Leigh’s new MP, James Grundy, exposing himself in a pub thirteen years ago. Another of the new intake, Fay Jones, has similarly found herself on the receiving end of criticism for publicising a canned water brand based in her constituency, which is now being stocked in Parliament’s canteens, from whom she received a £10,000 donation in January – sailing mightily close to breaching the MP Code of Conduct rules.
Of course, we’re not unaccustomed to MPs falling into hot water for various lapses in judgement, and whilst many of these will be embarrassing but, on the whole, naïve and innocuous, others will, no doubt, be far more serious. This new tranche of MPs is just beginning to find its feet in Parliament, making their weight felt on issues like HS2. But with such discernible inexperience and new-found power, over the coming months don’t be surprised to see more names in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.