Barry Gardiner Labour MP for Brent North is honoured today with a front page splash, double page inside splash and an editorial in the Times newspaper.
The story claims that Gardiner, currently Shadow International Trade Secretary has received more than £180,000 in staff costs from the law firm Christine Lee and Co that acts as chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy.
Further it is claimed that this partly funds the salary of Lee's son who works in Gardiner's Westminster Office.
The Times draws attention to Gardiner's championing of Chinese involvement in the Hinckley Point nuclear project. Clearly that is also sensitive to his previous role as Shadow Energy and Climate Change minister as well as his current international trade post.
In its editorial entitled Beijing Bling the Times says:
If the commercial relationship and Mr Gardiner's positions on China were merely coincidental, it betrays not venality so much as naivety. China has repeatedly demonstrated its appetite for overt interference in the domestic affairs of other countries in order to further its commercial interests and buttress its ambition for global superpower status. Its world-beating credential in cyberespionage and penchant for intellectual property theft are well-established.This blog has in the past been critical of Gardiner's close relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi LINK and clearly in his current role as shadow international trade secretary he has to be very careful to avoid any accusations of bias.
On the other hand devoting all this space to a story which the Times itself admits includes 'no suggestion of impropriety' may be part of the anti-Corbyn strategy of the Murdoch press. Gardiner is the only survivor of the three Brent MPs who were in Corbyn's shadow team until the Article 50 vote and several other shadow ministers have resigned or may face sacking as a result of the rebellion. Adding to that turmoil the forced resignation or sacking of a Corbyn loyalist, who has recently received some plaudits for his media appearances, may be the intention.
Today Gardiner placed this statement on his website LINK:
“Christine Lee & Co have generously supported my work as a Member of Parliament over many years since we first worked together to fight against plans to redevelop Oriental City and the loss of homes, livelihoods and community ties in Brent. The firm has enabled me to appoint a strong research support team to hold the government to account. This has always been transparently and appropriately recorded in the register of members’ interests. The Times article has revealed nothing that was not already in the public domain and they themselves admit that the secondment of staff was properly declared and state that “there is no suggestion of impropriety”.We are likely to know tomorrow whether a complaint to the parliamentary standards commissioner, Kathryn Hudson, will result in an investogation.