Monthly Archives: May 2009

Jim Pickard

I’ve written in Saturday’s FT that Ukip is becoming increasingly confident of its ability to beat Labour in Thursday’s European elections. The implications for Gordon Brown’s credibility hardly need spelling out.

A couple of recent have already put the two parties close. Tomorrow will see a Populus survey in The Times which puts Ukip ahead of Labour by several points (19 per cent to 16 per cent). Read more

Jim Pickard

TSSA are the white collar transport union* who have been leading the drive for Network Rail to come clean about six-figure discrimination payments made to former members of staff several years ago.

It emerged in recent reports that some of the departees had made claims about a senior director of the rail operator allegedly involving highly inappropriate behaviour. Read more

Jim Pickard

Julie Kirkbride’s resignation yesterday seems to have lowered the bar at which MPs are expected to step down (by the next general election, that is). Read more

Jim Pickard

It transpires that Cash rented his daughter’s flat even though he owned an apartment in Pimlico which was apparently not being used at the time*. Here is the story in full. Read more

Jim Pickard

The scene: an elections hustings in a market square. Senior MPs are surrounded by a baying mob.

The crowd: String ‘em up, string ‘em up, string ‘em up. Read more

Jim Pickard

There have been serious questions over MPs paying capital gains tax – or otherwise- in the wake of the expenses revelations.

Their defence has been that individuals can decided which of their homes are “first” or “second”, and this doesn’t have to tally with what they tell the Commons’ officials. Read more

Jim Pickard

Labour and the Tories are falling over each other to claim themselves the party of reform (missing the whole point, as I explained earlier today).

Jackie Ashley, the columnist, can barely believe how nimbly David Cameron is dealing with the expenses issue despite many of his MPs being implicated in a big way. Read more

Jim Pickard

Prepare yourself for a new MP expenses story; this time about Dennis Bates, an accountant who is married to Labour MP Meg Munn (pictured).

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Jim Pickard

The editorial in the Times by Alan Johnson (proposing proportional representation) was seen by that paper as a covert bid for the Labour leadership.

Well, possibly. But the alternative theory is that Gordon Brown is desperate for Labour to look like it is doing something about the expenses scandal that he has authorised senior colleagues to “go out there and talk reform”. Read more

Jim Pickard

I’ve heard of Esther Rantzen, obviously.

David Van Day, never. The former singer from Dollar, apparently an 80s pop duo, has said he could become the latest anti-sleaze parliamentary candidate. The 52-year old wants to stand against Nadine Dorries at the next general election.

Apparently he was appalled by Ms Dorries’ radio interview where she accused the Telegraph of “McCarthy-ite witch hunts” and warned that some of her MP colleagues were “beginning to crack”.

Van Day, an unsuccessful former Tory council candidate, wants to start a “No Expenses Party”. Read more

Jim Pickard

In retrospect I chose the wrong fortnight to be on holiday. But from my Cornish vantage point I couldn’t help wondering who had inadvertently come out of the expenses saga smelling of roses.

Firstly the central London MPs. They couldn’t claim the additional cost allowance so there was never any temptation – unlike those in outer London. Thus Harriet Harman sails through unscathed. Read more

Hazel Blears has declared that the prime minister has “full confidence in me”. Remember only yesterday Brown branded her guilty of “totally unacceptable behaviour” over expenses.

We’re wondering whether this is a first. Plenty of prime ministers have declared their full confidence in a minister before casting them off. But has any minister claimed to have the full confidence of a prime minister? We can’t think of another example. I can’t imagine it bodes well. Read more

The expenses reforms announced by the Speaker are pretty tough. MPs would have saved themselves a lot of trouble by unveiling them a few weeks ago. No more furniture claims, tax dodges, gardening, decorations or televisions. The future for expenses muckrakers looks bleak. But what about past claims?  Surely some reforms should be applied retrospectively? Read more

We’ve split the field of runners and riders to be Speaker into four main categories: grandees, mavericks, big-hitters and outsiders. The odds are the latest available from Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and the FT (we don’t take bets I’m afraid).

Before rushing to the bookies, remember that the debate is at a very early stage and dark horses often do well. Finally, if you think that expenses mess will convince MPs to pick a big reformer, you may be disappointed. Never underestimate the ability of MPs to elect someone completely inappropriate.

THE GRANDEES

- Sir George Young – Ladbrokes 8/1, FT 4/1, PP 5/1

Former Tory minister, popular in the Commons, head of the Standards and Privileges Committee. Gathered 200 votes when he ran in 2000. The establishment’s choice. But is he a reformer?

- Sir Alan Haselhurst – Ladbrokes 4/1 FAV, FT 6/1, PP 11/4

A well regarded deputy Speaker. Another Tory frontrunner for the job. But prospects damaged over some controversial expenses claims for upkeep of country home.

- Sir Menzies Campbell- Ladbrokes 10/1, FT 10/1, PP 5/2 FAV

The former Liberal Democrat leader is respected by many MPs across the Commons. Impeccable manners, approachable, experienced and open to reform (although he has some explaining to do over some expense claims). But there remains big doubts over whether the Commons will elect a Lib Dem Speaker, particularly after the party moved against Michael Martin.

THE MAVERICKS

- Frank Field – Ladbrokes JFAV 4/1, FT 10/1, PP 4/1

Well liked in parts of the Commons for his lively intellect and forthright views. But his rebellious streak means he has plenty of enemies. Would Gordon Brown allow it? The bookies seem to think so.

- John Bercow – Ladbrokes 8/1, FT 20/1

An independent soul who is brimming with ambition to become Speaker. But distrusted by many Tory MPs. Outsider.

- David Davis -Ladbrokes 33/1, FT 25/1, PP 10/1

The former Tory frontbencher has certainly proved his maverick credentials. Backed the motion to oust Martin, which may have lost him some more traditional votes. Some doubt whether he even wants the position. (UPDATE: Davis won’t be running: “There is one guarantee I can give you – it won’t be me. Under no circumstances. If they try to drag me to the chair I think I’m big enough to resist it.”)

THE BIG HITTERS

- Vince Cable – Ladbrokes 10/1, FT 15/1, PP 10/1

Saint Vince, the Lib Dem deputy leader, is one of a handful of MPs who could win popular support for a radical shake-up of Commons practices. But he is perhaps the Lib Dem’s biggest asset in the general election. Has yet to give any sign that he wants the job. Nick Clegg would never let him run – would he? (UPDATE: Vince says no. “It is a kind suggestion, but I am happy doing what I do and I am going to stick at it.”)

- Ken Clarke – Ladbrokes 14/1, FT 12/1, PP 10/1

The former chancellor seems to be enjoying his return to the Tory frontbench. Likely to be a popular public choice as Speaker. Loves the Commons. But would he give up the chance at another cabinet job? And does he really want to make another run for office that relies on the votes of MPs?

OUTSIDERS

Sylvia Heal - Ladbrokes 14/1, FT 20/1

Even more obscure than the other obscure deputy Speakers. And could there be a third successive Labour speaker?

Richard Shepherd – Labrokes 14/1, FT 16/1, PP 14/1

Libertarian. Tory. Won more than a 100 votes in the last Speaker election Read more

The details:

Martin to resign as speaker FT Read more

A couple of hours to go before the Speaker’s statement. Michael Martin will have an open mike to salvage his reputation and subdue the growing parliamentary insurrection. It should be a dramatic afternoon. The stakes are so high you could almost feel sorry for him. But any of you concerned about his well-being should remember that the Speaker, should he leave, will benefit from one magnificent golden parachute.

Martin will be able to claim his pension as soon as he steps down. And what a marvellous pension it is. He will receive half his annual salary as Speaker, which amounts to about £39,000 a year. This supplements his MPs pension, which will be up to £39,000 a year. It is guaranteed by the government and index linked, so nothing will threaten his income. The pot, in total, is worth about £1.5m. (Thanks again to John Ralfe for crunching the numbers.) Read more

Sacked media advisor: I told you so, Mr Speaker Guido Fawkes

How second-rate politicians brought Westminster low Matthew Engel, FT Read more

Who needs stocks these days?

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Phil Hope, the care services minister, has decided to pay back about £41,709 of expenses within “a week or so”.

He insists it is nothing to do with his slender majority. But the politics of this are a side issue. What we’re really interested in is where Mr Hope is planning to find the cash from. Not that many people have £41K sitting in a bank account. Read more