The Ex-Ministers' Club

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Ex-ministers are making big money from consultancies.

David Blunkett resigned from government after his office interfered in his lover's nanny's visa application. Tearfully Blunkett vowed to spend time getting close to his biological son, 'that little lad'. It seems his battle for the boy's heart and his work duties representing the electors of Sheffield Brightside are not enough: he has a new part time job 'giving seminars on the relationship between government and business' for Indepen Consulting Ltd. It will welcome Blunkett's tips on how businesses can have a 'relationship' with ministers: Indepen Consulting represents privatised companies including United Utilities, Anglian Water, Thames Water and South West Trains. Blunkett's employers also work for mobile phone firms mm02 and T Mobile, which took the government to the European Court in a desperate attempt to squeeze a refund out of Gordon Brown for the £1 billion licences they bought from the Treasury for '3G' mobile phone services.

Blunkett is the latest member of the ex-ministers' club spending more time with his consultancies. Former Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine is a consultant to Hutchinson Whampoa plc. Hutchinson subsidiary 3 Mobile is also involved in the court case trying to get cash back from the Treasury for the '3G' licences. Employing the government's former chief law officer while taking the government to court is a neat move. Hutchinson also runs the Felixstowe and Harwich ports. Since Irvine was appointed, Hutchinson was fined a quarter of a million pounds by the Health and Safety Executive after a new worker was crushed to death during his 'familiarisation course'.

Alan Milburn resigned to 'spend more time with his family'. But once he stopped being health secretary he actually started spending more time with his money. Milburn became a £30,000 a year consultant to Bridgepoint Capital, winners of a £95 million contract to run MRI scans for the NHS, while hospitals' own scanners lay idle. Milburn has now left Bridgepoint to run Labour's election campaign, pushing a manifesto promising more NHS contracts to firms like Alliance.

Tory 'sleaze' helped bring Labour to power in 1997, but Labour ex-ministers have not exactly set a shining example either. Former culture secretary Chris Smith is literally a Mickey Mouse politician, combining his MP's job with a consultancy for Walt Disney. Cabinet minister Baroness Jay has an 'advisory contract with Currie and Brown on public/private sector business, particularly on the relevant health service developments'. Former education minister Baroness Blackstone is a director of Vosper Thorneycroft, a firm that makes warships and runs privatised careers advice. Blackstone also has a seat on the board of Granada Learning, which wants to sell schools educational software. Ex cabinet office minister Jack Cunningham now runs a lobbying firm called Sovereign Strategy, representing firms including German privatisers Siemens.

Supposedly busy 'taking on' Labour, several of Howard's shadow cabinet also have part time private jobs. Most hypocritical is Tory 'shadow minister for deregulation' John Redwood, who declared last year, 'Every week there is up to 100 pages of public sector jobs. It sticks in the throat to realise that you are paying more tax for the whole new army of regulators and administrators.' Yet Redwood is also a director of BNB Resources, a recruitment firm making money advertising public sector jobs.