Friday, October 7, 2011

UK: MP's (Traitors) paid thousands to appear on the BBC

Grand fee: Senior Labour MP
Diane Abbott was paid £1,000
to appear on daytime TV show 

Cash in the Attic

MP's are being handed thousands of pounds of licence fee money simply to appear on the BBC.

The cash is being doled out to politicians for guest slots on shows where they do little more than promote themselves or their party. Exposed for the first time in a week when the Corporation announced swingeing cuts that will leave BBC2 a channel of repeats, the practice allows MPs to receive ‘disturbance payments’ on top of expenses when they take part in programmes such as Any Questions? or Have I Got News For You.

Senior politicians including Diane Abbott, Hilary Benn, Sir Menzies Campbell and Caroline Flint have enjoyed being paid to turn up on panel shows, according to research conducted on the parliamentary register of members’ financial interests. It proves the BBC has become a money-spinner for the political classes.

One of the most lucrative shows is Have I Got News For You, which can attract a fee of £1,500, but BBC2’s Cash in the Attic – currently under threat of being axed – once paid Miss Abbott £1,000 for an appearance. Although the BBC’s stated policy is not to pay frontbench ministers or their Opposition counterparts, the Daily Mail’s research has revealed this has happened.

The BBC believes it is justified in paying politicians to appear on the panel programme as it takes place on Friday night and takes them away from their constituencies. Non political guests are also paid. Question Time does not pay guests and neither does the Daily Politics or The Politics Show.

But the register reveals that fees have also been paid for This Week, a Thursday night programme, also on BBC1. Among the other names paid to appear on Any Questions are Labour MPs David Lammy and Gisella Stuart, Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy and Jo Swinson and Conservative MPs Rory Stewart, John Redwood and Tristram Hunt. 

Labour’s Hilary Benn appeared on the show in June last year when he was Shadow Environment Secretary. He also appeared on the show in October last year but did not hold down a frontbench position at the time. As well as being paid to go on Any Questions, former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, was also paid to appear on BBC1 religion and ethics show The Big Questions. Shadow Secretary for Energy and Climate Change Caroline Flint has been paid for appearing on Any Questions and This Week. This she ploughed back into her local Labour Party coffers, meaning the public are indirectly funding her political activities.

Appearances as pundits on This Week, fronted by Andrew Neil, can net fees ranging from £500 to £800. Among those who have sat on the show’s sofa, alongside regular commentator Michael Portillo, are Alan Johnson, Hazel Blears and Alistair Darling.

Diane Abbott, who used to appear on This Week, is also shown to have been paid £800 in July by BBC North East Television to simply appear in a feature about the former Labour Party MP for Jarrow Ellen Wilkinson. She also got paid £1,000 to appear on the celebrity version of daytime TV show Cash in the Attic. There are also a series of claims from Welsh MPs who get paid to appear on the BBC Welsh language programmes and also the publically funded S4C service.

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