Monthly Archives: May 2009

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?

 Read more

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

The Telegraph has so far maintained a studious silence over the expense claims of husband-and-wife MPs.

Given the the levels of past interest in the affairs of the Wintertons, the Balls/Cooper family and the Keens, this is unlikely to last. Read more

Second home allowances were in part designed to compensate for MPs being too embarrassed to vote themselves big pay rises. But this argument suggests that MPs are paid too little. In fact, international comparisons show that British MPs are doing relatively well.

Sure, there are better paid places to be a politician. Parliamentarians in Italy, Canada and the US do much better than their colleagues in the UK. According to the Senior Salaries Review Body’s analysis of international political pay (the table is reproduced below), Italians are paid about 67 per cent more than British MPs’ base salary of around £65,000 (and that was calculated before the collapse in the pound).

But many other countries pay about the same or are less generous. Australia pay 7 per cent less, France 5 per cent, New Zealand 15 per cent and Spain an eye-watering 52 per cent. Read more

Jim Pickard

In case you’re wondering – it had to happen sooner or later – it’s the turn of the Tories. Tonight will see the expenses spotlight fall on the shadow cabinet as the Telegraph publishes more expenses details.

One source tells me that Michael Gove, shadow education secretary, is already consulting his lawyers. Read more

Jim Pickard

Plenty of speculation around today that HM Revenue & Customs is looking into the curious way in which MPs can designate a property as their main home (with HMRC) and as a second home (with the Commons) at the same time.

This phenomenon – which means no need to pay stamp duty – has been reported on before in recent years. Hazel Blears is the latest MP to be caught doing it. Read more