Critics of Louise Mensch often say, “ignore her, don’t feed her insatiable appetite for publicity”. Understandable but not so easy because, even though she lives across the Atlantic, Mensch won’t leave Britain alone.
She writes for Murdoch’s Sun and Times, she tweets incessantly to her nearly 73,000 followers, she hovers from New York over her former constituency in Corby and comments daily on events in the UK, from Prime Minister’s Questions to the Jimmy Savile scandal.
And is she about to be a face of Britain in America, forming US opinion and perceptions of the UK? Does Fox Television beckon?
Thus, for good or bad, Louise Mensch has a sizeable and probably growing influence both in Britain and about Britain. The difference now is that it is without a shred of accountability.
It is not the desire of this blog to be uncivil to Mrs Mensch, or to comment on her private life or politics. And she has the right to work for whom she chooses. But there are serious issues around her tenure of the Media Select Committee investigating the activities of News International, and her subsequent actions. These give genuine cause for concern in a parliamentary democracy.
Would it have made a difference to the Select Committee’s report and its impact if Mensch had been less supportive of Rupert Murdoch? Undoubtedly, but maybe her contribution was entirely genuine. Even so, there are other fundamental principles at stake about conflict of interest, or the perceived conflict of interest.
How would it look, for instance, if a member of the Treasury Committee left parliament and, within months, was working for the bank he has just been investigating?
At the end of the day, this is for Parliament to address. But Louise Mensch should be open about her own situation, even if our unease is groundless. Only she can set the record straight.
Copious tweeted questions to her in the last month have been ignored and the time has come to place them in a more serious format. This is not least because, for reasons hard to fathom, no MP (as far as is known) has raised all of them publicly. Similarly, even the non Murdoch press is more entranced by the Louise soap opera than the underlying issue of democracy.
We ask those 12 (plus) questions now in the hope that Mrs Mensch, known for neither her reticence nor, to her credit, cowardice, will provide the answers that the British public has a right to know.
So, Louise, even though the chances of receiving a reply are as great as witnessing pigs in flight, we nonethless ask …
- When did you take the decision to stand down from parliament before the next general election?
- When did you take your decision to establish your online business, menshn?
- Did you inform the Chairman and/or colleagues on the Media Select Committee of your intention to stand down this year? If so, when and to whom?
- While you were still on the Select Committee, and when he was new to Twitter, Rupert Murdoch tried to send you a tweet, which just had your name and was then abandoned. Did he indeed tweet you and, if so, what did he and you say in undisclosed tweets?
- Since you were at least considering moving to the USA while you were still sitting on the Media Select Committee, did you in any way or at any stage converse with Rupert Murdoch, or any of his staff, about working for him when you moved to the USA?
- When did any kind of written or oral discussion take place between you (or your representative/s) and Rupert Murdoch, (or his representative/s) about the possibility of you working for News Corp – either from the USA or anywhere else?
- Why have you constantly ignored genuine questions about this on Twitter, despite numerous requests by DemocracyFail and hundreds of others?
- Can you see how questionable it looks if a former member of a select committee only a few months later takes a job with a company being investigated by that committee?
- How can any reasonable person be assured that the prospect, or even aspiration, for a job with News Corp had no influence on your deliberations on that committee?
- Do you believe current select committee rules are sufficient to ensure that MPs have no conflict of interest?
- How do you reconcile your much declared feminism with writing for The Sun, particularly at the time of a very serious campaign to stop the Page 3 portrayal of women in a family newspaper?
- Were you genuinely offended by Austin Mitchell’s tweet? Or did you, in fact, see a three-fold opportunity to: (a) deflect criticism about your exit from parliament (b) attack the Labour Party (despite a swift Labour Headquarters instruction to Mitchell to withdraw his remark) on the most spurious of grounds and (c) satisfy your ongoing quest for self-publicity?
Finally, before you brand us “lefties”, we assure you that, despite any political leanings, we would ask the same questions of a Labour, Lib Dem or any other Member of Parliament in a similar situation – particularly if related to a media empire. It may sound annoyingly high-minded, but the issues really are democracy, accountability and integrity.