Daily Archives: November 4, 2009

My colleague Matthew Engel once joked that Peter Mandelson’s career was “the greatest political story yet to be told”. Every improbable twist seems part of a carefully laid plot. Could he really go on to become Labour leader? It is a big stretch to even imagine the scenario. But that shouldn’t stop us from trying.

Now just picture David Miliband becoming the European Union’s foreign policy chief. Think what would happen once he quit UK politics. Most speculation has centred on Mandelson claiming his birthright as foreign secretary. But could Miliband’s constituency be as appealing? Read more

There are convincing arguments for and against the ban on family members. Many spouses do an extraordinary job. But even their supporters are often surprised to hear that almost a third of MPs put a family member on the Commons payroll. As Sir Christopher Kelly said today, it is out of step with most organisations in Britain and parliaments across the world. The US Congress outlawed hiring family members way back in the 1960s.

One other statistic that really stands out of the Kelly report is on pay and bonuses. Many spouses who work in the Commons no doubt deserve a bonus as much as any other hard working public servant. But should they they be receiving more than other staff? Take a look at this paragraph: Read more

Kelly certainly pulled no punches, particularly when it came to his dealings with the political class. He kicked off his press conference by blaming the party leaders for leaking incomplete accounts of his report and causing “distress”. He went on to suggest that none of the leaders were able to give him a straight answer on whether his report will be fully implemented. But his most pointed remarks were saved for Harriet Harman. She must be fuming.

You may remember that Harman took to the airwaves last Sunday to decry any recomendation that would force MPs to sack their wives. Kelly obviously found this a bit strange and told the assembled journalists that they may want to look at the evidence the Leader of the House gave to his committee, which didn’t quite tally with her TV appearance. Here are some extracts from her testimony: Read more

An excruciating moment after PMQs when the Speaker announced the appointment of Sir Ian Kennedy* as chair of the new IPSA expenses regulation body.

The announcement – and the fact that the professor will be paid up to £100,000 a year – was met by MPs with catcalls, jeering and laughter around the chamber. As Sir Ian was described as an “eminent” candidate, there were more hoots and jeers. At least one red-faced MP was jabbing his hands in the air with disgust. Read more

It was a long, long press conference that was half empty by the end. But for some reason Sir Christopher Kelly never called on me during the Q&A. Perhaps he knew what I was going to ask: has the Committee come to a view on wife swapping?

This is a pressing issue for the 200 odd MPs who hire members of their families. In the panic over the Kelly proposals, which recommend phasing out the practice over the next five years, many MPs have been mulling the option of employing each other’s relatives. Wife swapping sounds terribly amusing, but it is a serious issue for some MP’s families who would otherwise face a severe cut in their household income. Read more

So Sir Christopher Kelly has spoken. Here are some of his key recommendations and his response to MPs’ gripes:

Bad day for homeowners. MPs will not have to shift into rented accommodation for five years. But any capital gains on homes from today until 2015 should be paid back (apparently HMRC can easily work out how this is all valued) . In future there should be an agency to oversee the rental payments for MPs second homes. In some cases this will be more expensive than a mortgage. But most MPs who rent at the moment spend less than those with mortgages. And there are plenty of relatively cheap places to live near Westminster (i.e. welcome to Lambeth Mr MP) Read more