No real surprise to hear that 3 MP’s and a peer have been charged over the expenses issue. The three MPs are Elliot Morley, Jim Devine, David Chaytor and the peer is Lord Hanningfield who have all been charged under the Theft Act
There is condemnation in the media, press and public this morning of MP’s from all parties after heavily edited and ‘blacked out’ expenses were published. The redacted publication of expenses is according to our elected members an apparent step towards openness and transparency.
MP’s rightly feel embarrassed for outrageously abusing the expenses system but removing pages from their files of expenses prior to publication will only lead to more outrage and reduce their standing further. By taking this course of action, every MP has given the Telegraph several months more of expenses headlines as its reporters will now sift through every MP’s published expenses and compare this to what it holds on its database of expenses which it obtained and highlight what each MP has tried to hide.
Surely a better way forward would have been to publish every single detail, repay what was excessive and apologise for abusing the system. At least that would have given every MP the defence of saying that he had been open and honest with his expenses instead of the ongoing negative headlines and cries of dishonesty.
Tomorrow is polling day and if Labour is given not only a bloody nose but as expected a knockout blow it seems inevitable that Gordon Brown will quit as PM. Even if the election results aren’t as bad as expected, I believe that by next week Gordon Brown will face a leadership challenge. Brown has no leadership qualities, he reacts to events far too late and constantly dithers and isn’t up to the job of PM – he plotted and connived to become PM and has ruled by fear ever since and has never commanded or deserved any respect.
Through his incompetence he has taken the Labour Party to the brink of electoral annihilation which his MP’s have remarkably only realised now and it is therefore an absolute certainty that MP’s desperate to hold onto their seats at the next election will move to have him ousted. The fear factor has gone and with Cabinet member resignations being announced such as Hazel Blears this morning before the expected reshuffle, so has collective responsibility. With each day the case for a general election grows stronger as Brown’s government grinds to a halt with no policies being implemented, introduced or even being thought of. The Government is in limbo and the PM and his Cabinet unable to effect any change.
Today the Guardian has a damning editorial on the PM calling him to go. It says
The tragedy for Mr Brown and his party is that his chance to change it has gone. Although he still purports to be a radical, he has adopted the caution of an establishment man. He cannot lead a revolution against his own way of doing government, and yet a revolution is necessary. Grandstanding on his claims to good intentions, the prime minister demands the right to carry on, even as the cabinet implodes around him. The home secretary, the chancellor, and perhaps even the foreign secretary may go, and Labour faces its worst defeat in its history on Thursday, but the prime minister does not recognise his direct responsibility for the mayhem.
The truth is that there is no vision from him, no plan, no argument for the future and no support. The public see it. His party sees it. The cabinet must see it too, although they are not yet bold enough to say so. The prime minister demands loyalty, but that has become too much to ask of a party, and a country, that was never given the chance to vote for him…He is not obviously able to lead. He blames others for failures and allows them insufficient credit for successes, as the current dismembering of Alistair Darling’s reputation shows.
The next seven days will be crucial to Britain’s political future. Jacqui Smith’s pre-emptive resignation yesterday was the start of a reshuffle that Mr Brown may be imagining will defend himself from terrible election results. He is heading for the bunker. If Labour holds off now, at perhaps the last moment when a change of leader might be possible, it had better reconcile itself to sticking with its leader to the bitter end. … During the next few days it will become apparent whether Mr Brown still commands sufficient support among his parliamentary colleagues to carry on. If he suspects not, he would win much respect by announcing that he will be standing down, and let his party choose someone who can use its remaining time in power to reform parliament and then fight the election with credibility.
The case for a new leader has been made stronger by the expenses crisis. Labour needs to enter the next election having reformed parliament. But Mr Brown will never do it. The prime minister was absent from the start of the debate and cautious now he has joined it. His instinct is usually to hesitate, and to establish reviews and commissions
And it concludes with
Labour has a year left before an election; its current leader would waste it. It is time to cut him loose
Cut him loose, call an election and give the public the chance to vote out a tired, stale and useless Labour Government.
Patricia Hewitt, Beverly Hughes and David Chaytor have all decided to stand down as MP’s at the next election. At this rate, there will be a massive change in Parliament after the next election with possibly 40% of all MP’s being new ones!
Chancellor Alistair Darling is in more trouble after the Telegraph exposed his claims for expenses including the serial ‘flipping’ of his main residence. He has already agreed to repay £700 of the service charge that he claimed for, but Gordon Brown has stated that the disclosures relating to the Chancellor will have to be investigated.
I suspect he would have had to stand down pending a full investigation had it not been for the fact that he is likely to be removed from his post following Thursday’s elections and the expected cabinet reshuffle. Will he be moved to another senior post or have to wait for the outcome of the full investigation?
Two more MP’s from the main parties have announced that they will not be seeking re-election. Julie Kirkbride MP, wife of Andrew Mackay (who made his decision to stand down a few days ago) and Margaret Moran, Labour MP for Luton South announced their decisions to stand down at the next election within minutes of each other.
Margaret Moran was one of the first MP’s exposed by the Telegraph and was facing an anti sleaze challenge from Esther Rantzen had she remained a candidate. In her statement she said that ‘it is very important that I make it absolutely clear that I have done nothing wrong or dishonest in relation to my claim for expenses and have at all times acted on advice from the House of Commons Fees Office in relation to my family home in Southampton.’ And in fairness to her the fees office has confirmed that the advice it gave ‘at the time was wrong.’
While the defence of Margaret Moran as well as most MP’s caught up in the expenses scandal is that they weren’t breaking any rules (which is probably true), they were certainly abusing the rules for personal benefit and once the detailed information was made public, the ‘expenses being justified’ defence was simply not one that was going to be accepted by the voters or in the media. The pressure being exerted on MP’s seen to be fiddling the system whether from their voters, the media and their Party leaders is immense and it seems highly likely that there will be many more MP’s leaving before the next election.
As well as Douglas Hogg, two more Tory MP’s will be stepping down at the next general election. Anthony Steen and Sir Peter Viggers having been exposed in the Telegraph for questionable expenses have rightly decided not to seek re-election. Any attempts by MP’s to cling on to their seats who have been exposed making outrageous claims for expenses only serve to damage the Conservative Party’s attempt to gain power at the next election. All such MP’s will be vulnerable to anti sleaze campaign by their opponents and seats that the party should be holding on to would undoubtedly be at risk.
The Labour Party or its MP’s have yet to take similar action though two of its MP’s have been suspended and my local MP Shahid Malik has resigned from his post as Justice Minister pending a full investigation into his expenses claims. The public mood is one of disgust and if any party or associations drag their feet and leave in place those MP’s who to voters look to have abused the system, then they should not be surprised if ‘independent’ candidates stand on anti-sleaze tickets against them and turn the election campaign into an ‘expenses’ campaign only.
David Cameron thankfully has grasped the public mood and is one step ahead of the Prime Minister in his response. It is incredible that there are MP’s still peddling the ‘I didn’t break any law/rule’ defence instead of showing any remorse and contrition. Yesterday I met a person who said that those MP’s making outrageous claims were thieves. I wouldn’t use the same language or express the same sentiments and each case has to be looked at on its own but this does show how angry people are feeling and how badly let down they feel by their representatives.
This scandal will no doubt rumble on and there will be many more MP’s who will stand down before the next election.