Emily Thornberry and Edward Garnier

Controversy over Emily Thornberry’s relationship with law firm Leigh Day won’t be the last outing for the tawdry practice of monied vested interests supplying staff to resource-starved shadow ministers — giving them a member of staff in Westminster and the inside track on policy development.

Indeed, the arrangement bears comparison with that between a leading firm of insurance lawyers and the Tories’ former shadow attorney general. But Edward Garnier QC MP wasn’t receiving free staff from the firm in question … he was working for them.

From July 2006 to May 2010 Garnier was paid at least £15,000 per year as a “consultant on legal and public policy issues” by Greenwoods Solicitors, a firm which acts for Britain’s largest insurance companies. He could have trousered a total of £75,000.

But the arrangement became a blatant conflict of interest, continuing after Garnier was appointed shadow attorney general: a period which saw proposals to clamp down on no-win no-fee lawsuits swiftly adopted by the Tories.

These became law while Garnier was solicitor general — a huge financial windfall for his former insurance industry benefactors, who no longer had to cough up “success fees” when they lost cases.

Doubtless the government will be soon be banning ‘free’ parliamentary staff and shadow ministers’ second jobs … errrr …


The legal bit: There is no suggestion that Edward Garnier had broken the law, failed to declare his work with Greenwoods Solicitors under Commons rules, or that work with Greenwoods continuedafter his appointment as a minister.

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