The Washington Post

British Lords stung by media stings

The Palace of Westminster including St Stephen's Tower housing the famous Big Ben clock in London (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

Ulster Unionist Lord Laird resigned his job as the party’s whip pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations that he offered to work on the sly for a fake company in Fiji, the BBC reported.

He also allegedly said he would start a parliamentary group for Fiji using the promise of a trip to the tropical island as a “bribe.” Some folks had already signed up for a trip, the Guardian reported.

“I’ll deny having said this, but it’s a bribe,” he said during a recorded conversation with reporters posing as lobbyists trying to overturn sanctions on Fiji for human rights violations.

Laird emphatically denied wrongdoing, saying he suspected all along he was “the subject of a scam.”

Two other lords, both from the Labour Party, allegedly offered to raise Fiji’s situation in parliament and to lobby ministers in exchange for cash, the Sunday Times reported after undertaking its own sting. The Labour lords also denied breaking any rules, with Lord Mackenzie saying he suspected journalism afoot. Both have been suspended.

Much bleating and harrumphing — not to mention some embarrasment — naturally followed the news reports.

“The party expects all peers to comply with the lords code of conduct,” a Labour spokeswoman told the Sunday Times. “Where there is genuine evidence of wrongdoing,” she said, the party “will consider appropriate disciplinary action as and when necessary.”

See? Lots of countries have their own congressional delegations (codels) to tropical island paradises. Fiji’s travel office boasts of the “soft coral diving, white sand beaches and pristine natural environment.” Maybe what the British need are more “nonprofit” and “educational” groups sponsoring intense fact-finding travel?

Yes. That’s the ticket!

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.


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