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Archive for the ‘mps’ Category

Guido has the lowdown on the latest sighting of the Brown Pimpernel. Apparently, like Flash Harry from the St Trinians films, he’s taken to wearing a trilby hat low over his eyes and a long coat that makes him look like he’s gliding along without any sign of leg movement, slithering from Important Rich Luminary to Important Rich Luminary, touting for a bit of trade. “Inconspicuous” is the watchword.

After some excitement this morning that Gordon Brown might actually be in town to represent his constituents the truth unravels. While he may have put a fleeting five minutes in the chamber, (making the number of days he as been in two out of a possible forty-nine,) King of the Lobby Gary Gibbon has; what he was really down here for. A meeting with a Kennedy, a chat with Sir Tim Berners-Lee about his future employability and a natter with his old cabinet allies.

So it seems the great Brownian contempt for his own constituents, the public purse that provides his unearned salary and his abject lack of contrition for – or even interest in – his role in the debt disaster now confronting Britain thanks to him will just go on and on and on. Until someone in government has the guts to put a stop to it, preferably with legislation on the conduct of sitting MPs.

People should be a lot more angry about this than the painful budget Brown has brought down on our heads thanks to that sponging loser’s economic incompetence and political desperation.

As much as it was a Coalition budget, this was Brown’s budget. The Tories were right: let no one forget that. Oh, and if we are expected to make sacrifices for the sake of the future security of the nation’s finances, then might I suggest that everyone should be forced to pull his or her weight. We’re all in this together, after all.

Flash Gordon, that ex-wrecker and now dodgy shirker, would be a top target for me for the chop. Why should I be paying for him not to do his job? Cameron can lead by example, but he can also make them – preferably of the predecessor who is so frightened of facing the music to the extent that he is effectively now on the run.

It’s time Brown’s past caught up with him.

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Ich bin ein Old Holborns?

I use the term “political classes” quite a bit on this blog but I’ve never really bothered to define what the term actually means, at least to me. Well, Charles Moore on the Daily Telegraph used it too in his bit on the death of the Euro today (which, incidentally, is quite a good read in my humble, whether you are a Europhile, Eurosceptic or just curious). He talks about the “German political classes”, which, on the face of it, seemed to me to be sensible enough being, as it is, a sort of currency term that appears to refer to the totality of our, or their, elected representatives as some kind of separate entity to the rest of society, and harks back to days before universal suffrage and when hereditary entitlement was purely a class phenomenon.

However, I wasn’t satisfied with my own explanation so I phoned a friend and asked her what she thought it might mean, reminding her that “body politic”, for instance, by contrast refers to the entire electorate and not to the collective body of elected representitives (a confusion I’ve seen even on the more august political blogs). Couldn’t it be the case that we are all part of the “political classes” one way or other, given that in an advanced democracy the people, theoretically, are where political power ultimately rests? Isn’t the term therefore mistaken in this day and age?

“Oh no,” she answered, “that’s not right at all.” What did she mean, I asked, fascinated. “Well, it’s simple really. ‘Political classes’ refers to anyone who stands for election, lies to win it, spends the next five years planning how to get re-elected, leaves running the country to a professional civil service, and all the while gathers as much expenses money, lobbying patronage, consultancies and directorships as possible so that if the unimaginable happens and they’re voted out by an even more effective liar, then they’ve got all that to fall back on, plus the gold-plated pension plan. That’s what “political classes” really means, with very few exceptions and regardless of political affiliation”.

As she said, simple really. Or is it?

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Mandrake (Tim Walker) in today’s Sunday Telegraph reveals that one of Gordon Brown’s last acts as Prime Minister was to secretly cut the future incumbant’s salary by £250,000 over five years.

Gordon Brown’s failure to turn up for the State Opening of Parliament may well have been because he couldn’t look David Cameron in the face. Mandrake hears that one of Brown’s final acts in the Downing Street bunker was quietly to organise a pay cut for his successor which he must have known would leave him out of pocket to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

On Brown’s orders, the Prime Minister’s remuneration package was cut from £194,000 to £150,000, but this was done with such stealth that no formal announcement was ever made.

Now, some might say that that was done for sound economic reasons since the country faces economic collapse due the parlous state of the public finances – thanks, er, to Brown. That conclusion would be completely naive. Even Walker’s conclusion, jovial as it is, and quoting a ‘Whitehall source’ is wide of the mark in my humble opinion.

“This was pure Gordon,” harrumphs my man in Whitehall. “Quite prepared to make the big sacrifices – so long as it wasn’t him who actually had to make them.”

Not so. While his pocket-lining, self-serving instincts were certainly part of the motivation for his actions, Brown did this out of pure malice for his successor. That’s why he did it secretly. As a result, Cameron will earn little more than he did as leader of the opposition, and could well earn less in terms of salary alone given that he has also handed himself and the cabinet an example-setting 5% pay cut, unaware that Brown had already sabotaged that good faith gesture.

As far as I’m concerned, Brown is a seriously twisted individual who finished the way he started in office, by sticking two fingers up ostensibly at the hated Tories, but really at the entire population of the country he pretty much single-handedly ruined. He must be held to account, and, if fraud or corruption are ever uncovered, brought to book for his crimes against the people of Britain.

In the meantime, let’s focus on something else. It’s not just that he couldn’t face David Cameron at the Queen’s Speech, or that he hasn’t turned up in parliament once on behalf of his constituency since he was booted out of Number 10, or that he has continued to draw an MP’s salary while, in effect, going AWOL (I hear he’s been in up in Kirkaldy but effectively incommunicado since his ousting)…these things are bad enough. It’s not any of that, however, but something far simpler. Clearly, there is a strong case for him to be suspended from parliament pending a review of his activities, or lack thereof, since regaining that safest of safe seats, (and whether his supporters in that safest of safe seat like it or not)]. If necessary, legislation should be introduced to this end. It should be applied not just to Brown but to any MPs suspected of not discharging their duties of office adequately.

Well, I know it won’t happen – which is a pity – but, in the end, something must be done about Brown. He deserves some kind of punishment for his vicious spite and, ultimately, his cowardice both in and now out of office.

If nothing else, though, we should expect and demand better from our backbench MPs.

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As promised, part 2 of the list of superannuated troughers who’ve qualified (or nearly qualified) for their free bus passes, set to some appropriate music.

From outstanding YouTube channel and bottomless well of late 20th century musical and political nostalgia: ajs41

Part 1 is here.

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…Looks like Liz Truss’s failed to open, given her impact on the Conservatives (and others) in the Norfolk consituency that didn’t choose her as a PPC. “Lead balloon” springs to mind.

At all times, candidates for Member of Parliament should be local people. I would have thought that was blindingly obvious to all but Iain Dale, who’s banging on about it in yet another pretty bitchy little post today (you have to wonder whether his personal ambitions in the direction of parliament have coloured his judgment on this), Conservative Party Central Office – and, oh yeah, the Labour Party. I doubt if Dale would be in the running for MP anywhere were it not for the prospect of the helpful parachute. Mind you, it looks like he might have given up after coming third in Bracknell. Don’t get me wrong, however, I wish neither him nor Miss Truss any ill will. I just don’t like candidates foisted on people. It’s a stitch-up, it’s patronising, it takes the electorate for granted and it should never be tolerated. To put it another way, there should be a law against it.

Conservative policy on this really does need to be clarified, as the excellent DT commentary from Melanie McDonagh (see link above) states. To say there are mixed signals coming from the Tory high command on localism is a major understatement. Pickles’ presence, no less, is required.

==Update==
Iain Dale (I had no idea he read this little blog – maybe he has staff to do it for him) believes that the shortlist system helps to stop the “parachute effect” from ever happening, although he didn’t put it quite like that (see comments). I’m not convinced, frankly, although I concede that the picture is more complex than the one I painted in my slightly bilious initial remarks. It does not, for instance, answer the question that is being put by Swaffham’s Conservative Association: how much influence does, can and should Central Office bring to bear on local Associations in the selection of candidates? A better argument for universal open primaries (or open caucuses, to be precise) I have yet to hear. Mr Dale himself came a dignified cropper because of this excellent innovation as the people of the constituency for which he had hoped to stand opted for someone who, in terms of the crowded clusters of towns and villages in the south east of England at least, qualifies as a local man.

Interesting, that, and, I think, goes some way to proving my point. In the case of Elisabeth Truss, David Cameron on the radio just now said that he thought she would be an excellent candidate and that he hopes she is selected. I am sure he is absolutely right – she would most likely be an effective MP. But given that he sounds like he’s otherwise washed his hands of the whole affair, it seems she’s on her own, and we haven’t been given the policy clarification on MPs’ independence, localism and the relationship between constituency and party that is clearly needed.

We haven’t forgotten about the expenses scandal yet. Does David Cameron (and, perhaps, Mr Dale) really need to be reminded just who MPs are elected to serve: constituency, parliament and party in that order?

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One wonders how many of these venerable political veterans are actually going to make it to the next election, let alone keep their seats by fighting in it. Mind you, quite a few of them have been found with snouts firmly planted deep in the trough during the expenses scandal, so they’re already treading water until the arrival of the first gold-plated pension cheque that will signal the blissful, foggy forgetfulness of retirement has finally begun. And how they’ve earned it! Douglas Hogg will finally be able to build that drawbridge he’s always wanted, for instance. And Margaret Beckett won’t have to pretend her main residence is a caravan for tax (evasion) reasons any more (even though it is).

Groovy. The one I’m most impressed with is John Horam MP of the Labour, SDP and Conservative parties. What a tart! Now that’s a career politician. We shall never see his like again. Er…

PS: The YouTube channel from which this is nicked is one of my favourite nostalgia wells. You can find it here.

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The front page of this morning’s Telegraph will be worth a once over. In an extraordinary outburst Harriet Harman has threatened to block the new Kelly rules on expenses – or, in her slippery terms, has “warned” that “MPs” will block them. Whatever she hopes she means, she has already been slapped down by the troglodyte bunker dwellers of Number 10. They at least, in their dank darkness, appear to be dimly aware of the further damage her remarks will do to a parliament, and a Labour party, already and rightly regarded with total contempt by the general public. There are one or two other things to unpick from her dimwitted comments, however, but I invite you to examine the article first.

Ms Harman, the Leader of the Commons, said it would not be fair for MPs to be forced to sack their spouses or other family members working in their offices.

She also indicated that plans to stop MPs living in the London commuter belt from having taxpayer-funded second homes may prove unacceptable.

For months, the Government has led the public to believe that recommendations drawn up by Sir Christopher Kelly would be introduced quickly without MPs becoming involved.

Mr Brown has said it would be supported as long as it was “affordable”, while Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, said all parties would accept the proposals “unless they are in the realm of complete irrationality”.

However, the Commons Leader said that an outside body would now decide whether to implement recommendations from the Kelly review.

This new “independent” body will work under the auspices of a small group of senior MPs – many of whom have faced questions about their own expenses – sparking fears over its impartiality.

The MPs will be responsible for approving the appointment of executives running the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

Sir Christopher was appointed to draw up a radical overhaul of the expenses system in the wake of The Daily Telegraph’s disclosures.

However, his work has been fiercely opposed by some MPs who are threatening to rebel against the Prime Minister if the proposals are introduced. David Cameron is thought to back the introduction of Sir Christopher’s recommendations in full.

Asked whether IPSA could reject Sir Christopher’s proposals, Ms Harman said: “It’s entirely a matter for them. But they will, I’m sure, want to draw on his important work.

“But it’s a matter for them to decide, not for Sir Christopher Kelly and not for us either as MPs.”

Gordon Brown will meet Sir Christopher on Monday and is expected to warn that the reforms must not turn politics into the preserve of the rich, according to Downing Street aides.

However, it is not clear why Mr Brown is issuing such a warning to the official watchdog – or why his feelings are being made public – as Sir Christopher’s report and recommendations have already been sent to the printers.

The comments may therefore be designed to placate Labour MPs.

Sir Christopher, the chairman of the Committee for Standards in Public Life, will set out his recommendations on Wednesday.

He is expected to recommend that MPs are only allowed to rent a second home and that the taxpayer will not pay mortgage interest in future.

MPs will also be banned from employing family members under his proposals. Those living within an hour’s commute of Westminster will also be unable to claim for the cost of a second home.

When details of the proposed package emerged last week, they were attacked by many MPs who described them as “nonsense” and “ludicrous”.

Ms Harman appeared to yesterday back opposition to the ban on family members.

She said: “If Sir Christopher Kelly recommends that MPs shouldn’t be able to employ any family members for the future and if that’s what the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority decides I think two things: firstly there shouldn’t be any shadow cast over the existing spouses who are working very hard.

“I think it would be wrong to judge them all as not doing a good job, I don’t believe that to be the case.

“Secondly, I do think it would be fair not to sack existing spouses who are working for MPs. I think if they are going to suggest something it should be for the future, they can’t simply say ‘you have all got to be made redundant’.”

The comments from the leader of the House are likely to lead to intense lobbying of IPSA from MPs. More than 100 MPs currently employ members of their families.

On Sunday it emerged that Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP, has employed another of her daughters to work in her office after she failed to find work after graduating.

There are also growing fears that MPs may seek to influence the composition of the new IPSA board.

The chairman and other senior members of the authority have yet to be appointed – and their appointments have to be sanctioned by the Speaker and a secretive committee of MPs.

Several of the MPs on the committee have spoken out against Sir Christopher’s recommendations sparking fears that they may not wish to appoint a strong, impartial head to run IPSA.

For example, Sir Stuart Bell who sits on the new committee, said that Parliament may wish to “amend” Sir Christopher’s recommendations.

“The House would want to look at these recommendations very carefully, they will want to debate them and have the opportunity, should they so wish, to amend them,” he said.

Other members of the committee include Don Touhig, a Labour MP who led a backbench revolt against previous plans to tighten up the rules on MPs expenses, and Sir George Young, the shadow leader of the House, who previously chaired the Committee which punished MPs who broke Parliamentary rules.

The Committee has been criticised for failing to clamp down on abuse of the expenses system.

The composition of the new committee which will oversee IPSA was quietly announced in an evening session of Parliament last Wednesday. Several MPs complained that no younger or more progressive politicians were selected for the committee.

IPSA will also have to consult the new committee on the final revised package for MPs’ expenses.

Downing Street sources sought to play down Ms Harman’s remarks. They said she was expressing a “personal view” in relation to MPs’ employment of their relatives or spouses.

A well-placed source added that IPSA’s role was to introduce the Kelly recommendations and that any changes would be “small practical issues” not “big show stoppers”.

The endless spin in which Harman indulges must be making her giddy. It’s not Conservative MPs who will block these measures, it is Labour MPs and she knows it. Cameron has made it clear from the start that it’s either his way or the highway for Tory members. Rock the boat and you’re out on your ear, he’s told them. And they believe it – he’s got form. Not so with Brown, whose total lack of authority over his party has been revealed in all its inglorious truth by this scandal. The shameful and ongoing attempt, by Harman in particular but also by her enfeebled boss and some of his more slithering operators like Jack Straw, to muddy the waters about just where the hardening opposition to parliamentary reform is emanating from and is the most vocal and the most politically dangerous, only serves further to isolate Labour from an outraged public. The damage this issue alone is doing to Brown and Labour is clearly reflected in the polls. He can’t get a grip on his own troughing, fiddling MPs, many of whom are or were cabinet members. He is hopelessly compromised as a consequence. It wouldn’t matter if the economy rebounded by 30% next month and the deficit miraculously vanished, people would still not back him, thanks mainly to stories like this one. The apparently endless, mendacious, slippery manoeuverings of Harman, a woman so stupid that she simply does not know when to shut up, have caused more damage than Brown’s own litany of well-documented shortcomings have even caused him. All it clearly highlights is that whatever Cameron might or might not be, at least he’s got a grip on his own party.

People will know that if anyone blocks the Kelly reforms (which are hardly revolutionary in any case) it won’t be MPs generally that block it, it will be Labour MPs. Conservatives are under orders, as the article sort of makes clear, and they are expected to obey. Labour MPs are feeling bloody-minded, self-righteous and indignant in their ridiculous sense of depthless entitlement. They will not lie down quietly like the Tories after the whip has cracked. And they will certainly not “reform” willingly, if at all.

You can therefore guarantee from whence the complaints of “several MPs”, referred to in the article, about the make-up of the oversight committee (made up of MPs) for the laughably titled “Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority” (which is somehow meant independently to review MPs’ behaviour and finances, while being reviewed itself by, er, MPs) emanate. The complaints are coming from Labour MPs wanting what already looks like a bit of a stitch-up to be complete stitch-up, rather than the partial one the current proposals represent.

Out of all this it’s become pretty clear to me that there are really gold, silver and bronze medals of Olympian rottenness in Westminster today. The bronze medal goes to the current crop of MPs in general, whose almost total absence of common sense, decency and/or integrity (take your pick) in their venality and stupidity, and the ease with which they felt justified in fleecing the nation they were meant to serve, has besmurched the reputation of the mother of parliaments for years to come. The silver medal goes to Labour MPs, many of whose behaviour crossed the line into full-blown criminality long ago, and yet who, even now, like some sort of recalcitrant, slightly sociopathic recidivists, remain entirely convinced of their own moral superiority and determined to keep that golden goose laying.

But the gold medal – ah yes, the coveted Big Prize for All-Round Decay – that must go to Brown and Blair’s Labour government, in the form of two of the most corrupt prime ministers of all time, one of whom was never even elected, and a long, oh-so-long procession of totally inadequate, usually incompetent and quite frequently lawbreaking ministers, in or out of cabinet, finishing up with the likes of Straw, Mandelson and, of course, Harman. They have lined their pockets relentlessly and will never, ever admit they have done anything wrong. Ever. More, they will go on to rig the system, regardless of the public’s fury, like some second rate, corrupt politbureau jobsworths, so that it will always find in their favour, just so they get to keep the dacha and the Zil – and to hell with us proles.

The ethical rot was there among MPs on all sides, oh yes, but it flowed (and is still flowing, actually) from Labour for the past 12 years like an eighteenth century, open Parisian sewer. It took an awful lot of political reform and building work to rid Paris of an inundation of effluence and disease. The only way to begin to muck out this early 21st century British pigsty parliament is not with the Kelly destraction, it’s with a General Election. But hey, everybody knows that, right?

We can at least then rid ourselves of the main source of the stench: the rancid corpse that is this Labour government.

Two hundred and thirteen long days to go before the clean-up can finally begin and we can try again with the Tories.

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