21 May 2009

A day of miscalculation by the political classes

How convenient, the Whitsun break. Have you ever wondered how many weeks the political classes absent themselves in a year?

But the problem today is not absenteeism. In some cases it’s a lack of it.

Margaret Moran, the MP for Luton South, already under fire for funding the treatment of dry rot at her house 100 miles from her constituency, is now under fire for using parliamentary resources to help run a company out of her constituency office.

But has she been suspended? No.

Nor, of course, have Cabinet ministers Hazel Blears, James Purnell and Geoff Hoon, who stand accused of serious tax avoidance. Not illegal but hardly the function of individuals charged with disbursing taxpayers’ money.

In the end, today is a day of miscalculation. Miscalculation in Downing Street that the electorate will smile on such prime ministerial tolerance.

Miscalculation, too, neatly expressed by the Gurkha debacle in which a clever west end actress has run the government ragged over a policy rooted in a failure to get the figures right, aided and abetted by a failure to read the public mood.

It must seem to some as if judgement, leadership, decisiveness and integrity are simply draining away like sand in an hourglass. The only lasting question: how long is the hour?

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43 reader comments

  1. Gordon Brown-Nose says:

    Agree Jon. Mr Brown has been very very quiet this week.

    We also need to know what’s happening abour Blair’s shredded expenses!! Why has Brown not ordered an investigation – or has he something to hide over that too?

    1. jesus says:

      well he wouldnt have somthimn to hyde if he dint where leather hyde shoes

    2. Stuart Tunstead says:

      Actually I’d much rather the grinning lunatic stayed in the shadows as much as possible.

      Brown’s attempts to deal with this growing constitutional crisis have been inept and misjudged at best, and downright counter-productive at worst.

      He continues to employ a cabinet which includes individuals of questionable moral stature and yet expects the public to trust him.

      I’m sure the public are more concerned with addressing the theft of public money by sitting MPs rather than dredging up the memeanours of people like Blair who we can do nothing about.

  2. Annie says:

    I really despair of Gordon Brown and his wet attempts to sort things out – he just doesn’t get it that their claims may have been “within the rules” has nothing to do with the brass neck that they had to claim what they did from taxpayers money in the first place, we struggle hard to pay what they’ve been claiming, even those who didn’t ‘overdo it’ are as much to blame for letting such a system continue for so long. I still think the small changes (£1,250 for rent or mortgage interest) is still to much, they have a salary of nearly £65k plus office running costs most of which are over £100k. I for one am seriously looking at any independent candidates that will be standing in any future elections. To many of those gluttons (particularly in the labour party) just seem to be getting a slap on the wrist from Gordon. Where is their sense of decency and pride!!!

  3. John Cochrane says:

    Fair play to Mr Brown, he has finally done the right thing by the Gurkhas.

    How much longer will it take hime to recognise that the right thing with regard to this discredited Parliament is to ask the Queen to dissolve it?

    1. Stefan Isendahl says:

      ‘Fair play’? He had a political gun to his head!

  4. phil dicks says:

    ‘How long is the hour?’ Try the End of Time.

    Why do these MPs insist on saying ‘I didn’t break the rules’, when rules are concise, rules are straight, rules are tight. Why not say ‘I didn’t break the blancmange’, or ‘I didn’t break the candy floss’, or ‘I didn’t break that blob of mercury’? These things are, indeed, notoriously difficult to ‘break’.

    1. Natasha says:

      I agree with you phil dicks..they are incredibly hard to break. Especially that blob of mercury !!

    2. Sarah says:

      My question Phil as regards breaking of rules, who is the rule breaker that should be investigated by the police, the office that administrated the allowances or the low integritied MP’s?; who should be disciplined or more. – It is as if the ‘Bills office has been complicit or the encourager to break these rules so they cannot be that ‘concise and straight, they sound to me to be very bendable.

    3. phil dicks says:

      Natasha -thanks.
      Sarah – my point was the rules are so bendable, they can’t be called rules, and they knew it 100%; as to how it can be policed (an ugly but now necessary word) in future, I think (tentatively) we have to be talking about a completely different system.
      Does anyone seriously think Blears/Hogg/et al are ‘evil’ people? No, just silly, out-of-their-depth people.
      How you get a new batch of people who put public service first, I don’t know. If I was an MP on 70grand+ a year, and my mate was a GP, I wouldn’t think “I deserve at least that” – I’d think “tough! Public service means some sacrifice, probably financial”.
      There’a cart-and-horse thing going on here – the wrong system has thrown up the wrong people.
      Answers on a postcard!

  5. Jane Kendall says:

    I think we know how long the hour will last – until next May. This bunch of chancers will not give up £64,000 a year (and the rest) even for a gold-plated pension. I was glad to see you highlighted their pensions in tonight’s bulletin.

    1. phil dicks says:

      You sound as depressed as everyone else is. If Week 1 of the Telegraph’s stuff was amusing/angrifying, by now it’s making us cold/hard. This was supposed to be our democracy, not theirs.

  6. neil says:

    Your interview with David Miliband the Foreign Secretary encouraged me to go and read his speech to see if that was more coherent in respect of the British position on Hamas than what he said to you on camera. It seems the stumbling block is not that they are the elected representatives of the people but that they do not allegedly support a two-state solution? But in Washington last week Mr Netanyehu was also proving coy on that issue as well was he not? Yet we talk to him?!

    As you say: a day of miscaculations. I also followed the hyperlinks from the FCO text of Miliband’s speech to see what other organisations they hope to include in this new coalition building strategy with every Moslem in sight in every other theatre apart from Hamas.

    It led of course to the appalling British Council but also more surprisingly to a UK “Government Hospitality Advisory Committee for the Purchase of Wine”!

    Shurely shome mishtake?

  7. Derrick S. Nicolson says:

    So many M.P’s caught up in the expenses scandal, who have excused claiming mortgage interest on non-existant mortgages as “accounting errors” – that one cannot help thinking that scool leavers leaving school unable to count, is not a recent failure of the education system at all!!!

  8. john braddock says:

    hello Jon – perhaps they need the time off to look at their expenses and come up with some sort of reason why we shouldn’t pay for a gold plated dog flap! Seriously it seems la Blears has fallen foul of Gordon for her remarks earlier whilst the rest who follow the line escape censure . Isn’t amazing how a politician can be outmanoeuvred by a citizen armed with facts and figures – not so unusual regarding the debacle surrounding the FOI which led to this situation . This begs the question – just how alert to their duties are these people ?! .

  9. Anthony Martin says:

    The time of reckoning will be the result of the general election. But who will the public vote? Well, I’m sure the BNP will do rather well. British politics have been ruined as a result of the corruption, sleaze and down right arrogance from the majority of politicians, their wealthy connections and the deliberate set-up of the ‘Gentlemens Club’ lucritive benefits.

    1. Evie Murray says:

      This is a reality sadly… People are actually seriously thinking this way!!!!
      BNP UKIP –
      AVOID AT ALL COSTS and TORY

      New Blood – There are some serious phantoms discussing this stuff on the news or discussion groups and people are all getting clucky -geared up- ready, ready to step in with the same old ideas. Fab?

      What is really sad is that change has to happen as the environment cannot cope with this way of life!

      Time to go Green Perhaps?!

    2. Cliff says:

      I hope the British National Party DOES do well. It simply isn’t enough for its critics to continually talk of ‘knuckle-dragging skinheads’ and ‘Griffin the holocaust denier’ – they should engage in rational public debate with Griffin and co. in the same way they question the ‘respectable’ parties who have 1)ripped-off the British public to the tune of millions 2) allowed our schools to become rowdy, undisciplined places of low-achievement 3) allowed the judiciary and the criminal justice system to become a tragic joke 4) allowed our country to fill up – without asking US – with people from alien cultures 5) created Orwell’s surveillance society.

      Compared to all of this, why on Earth would anybody seek to stifle an opposing view? You couldn’t do much worse than the present mob!

  10. Mavis says:

    Integrity, honesty and moral judgement is virtually non-existent in Parliament and the conduct in both Houses is going from bad to worse.

    I think the MPs are hoping that we all have very short memories. Well they couldn’t be further from the truth.

  11. Peter Lloyd says:

    It strikes me that the Parliamentary environment is stunned and traumatised by the exposure of these revelations.

    Both the ‘electorate and the MPs’ that collectively form the core of our governence have not yet come to terms with the impact.

    The MPs are both players on the parliamentary stage and also members of the audience at their weekly surgeries.

    Looking back at the stage set, extensively damaged by resignation, possible deselection and further investigation by the media, police and perhaps the tax authorities…..the actors will have to rehearse a new play ….that play will be acted out by new leading actors and a rebuilt set. We, the audience must ensure that we demand presentation of an enduring and top quality ‘West End’ production that will attract rave reviews and record audience attendance.

    Please feel free to name the future actors and the parts that they will play..

  12. Dave Rothwell says:

    I am so angry at the selffish manor of these self rightous individuals. When they talk about it being “Within the Law (Rules)”. This is so partonising for those of us in the real world. Who have to watch every penny.

    As for talking money out of the motorbike account to pay the tax, we mere mortals have to pay when we sell our property. How does she think, that we come across to the public.

    If I was in a company so badly run as these shower preform, it would have gone out of business years ago.

    Then have that stupid SMILE, is she the Jokers Sister. I sorry for ranting but we need an election NOW. Not next year.

    And we don’t need more of the same, the (CONservatives=New Labour). they have been running the country since 1980.

    And why only the past four years expenses being looked at,Why hasn’t Mr & Mrs Blair being brought to task of this.

    Where do find £3m for a house on the PM money??? Isn’t that a liitle suspect…

  13. phil dicks says:

    You need to calm down. Things don’t change. I’m thinking of starting a Neo-Fatalist Definitely Suicidal Party.

    1. Mavis says:

      Your party sounds like a very good idea phil dicks. When will you start looking for members ?

    2. phil dicks says:

      NFDSP -roll up, roll up. Had various second thoughts about this, but due to Popular Demand (3 thumbs-up), this is A Serious Launch.

  14. Justin Ellis says:

    New Labour always get their preliminary figures wrong . If I was a cynical person I might say they did it deliberately. For example exaggerating how bad something will be so that when the actual figures are released every one is relieved that its not as bad as they were expecting.

    As far as I know nobody has actually been sacked. They’ve all resigned. Falling on their swords for the greater good. I don’t think their permanently of the scene. They will probably be given roles within their respective parties. Maybe even stand for re-election in a couple of years, when people have forgotten who they are (Of the top of your head can you remember the names of everyone who’s resigned over the last couple of days?). Going against the grain.

    I didn’t know that peer ships were unpaid and I do think that any public service role, including sitting in the House Of Lords, should have RESONABLE remuneration. Other wise they might have to start a buisness. Selling things. Like amendments. And that would be bad. They might even get suspended for a few months.

  15. Brendan Sweeney says:

    Two things still puzzle me on this whole debacle. How many MPs are not fessing up to their misdemeanors, gambling the Telegraph wont discover them against some credit for coming clean. What weazil like behaviour. Honour is still lacking in the house.

    Secondly, for the confirmed miscreants, why are they allowed to sit until the next election before standing down on handsome salaries and perks? Cameron seems to think these people are not fit for office, yet they can stay in office for perhaps another year. Ridiculous. Surely they should be forced to immediately stand down and a by-elections called. Another example of the Gentleman’s club if you ask me.

  16. Dennis Junior says:

    Jon:
    [Have you ever wondered how many weeks the political classes absent themselves in a year?]

    Yes, I would like to know the number of weeks that they are working each year!

    ~Dennis Junior~

    1. Dennis Junior says:

      Jon and the research staff:
      Could you do the numbers (of days) the Members of Parliament worked a year…

      Thanks, Dennis

  17. Elfen Safety says:

    Keep the pot boiling during the recess. The public have been treated with contempt and are not about to slip into forgetfulness or be easily distracted.

    Excellent points made here about Mr Blair’s expenses. A great many questions have gone unanswered for too long. We have to ask WHY?

  18. Sunrise says:

    Really need the whole Blair issue out in the open! Come on Jon, you can do it ;-) we all trust you now! Fancy standing for PM? ;-)

  19. Tina Louise says:

    Time for us to re-group and keep talking this. I want to know why only 4 years of expenses are being reviewed? Surely we need to go back as far as required to find truth.

    As to those who leave but will one day find their way back – we must find a way to stop this. I was stunned when Peter Mandelson reappeared.

    It seems govt is not only a law unto itself but works with a wholly different interpretation of decency and honour too.

    Hope the Telegraph carries on and that the rest of media keep on highlighting and questioning the disaster.

    Naked politicians – they are finally open to public opinion.

  20. Steven J Humphrey says:

    May 21, 2009 Dennis Junior wrote:
    Jon:
    [Have you ever wondered how many weeks the political classes absent themselves in a year?]

    Yes, I would like to know the number of weeks that they are working each year!

    I think it’s 22 weeks of the year but that wasn’t Jon’s point: there’s important business of the House (call for a Generall Election, fix our backyard, put solar power on our roof, the middle east, afghani women’s rights et al ‘before this decade is out’) and ALL our elected representatives take a breeak and bugger off to the bahamas for a well-earned rest…

    I think Our Joanna [lumley] sorted out Gurkha’s Right to Settle in two weeks, (on top of all the behind-the-scenes lobbying we dint see) and Our Gordon and Our Parliament finally accepoted The Truth and Nothing But The Truth and fixed a particular unfair situation…

    If it takes such pressure to fix a relatively minor problem, can We, The People put similar effort into fixing Parliament, My Local Council and really Save the World in a similar amount of time please??

    Koz me and my friends (incl GreenPeace, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, MAKE POVERTY HISTORY, Help the Aged, among many others) have bin trying to fix our backyard for decades now and we’re still waiting for ‘massive’ and ‘significant’ change for ages now!!!

    It’s my birthday and I really hope I get a General Election annoucement for a prezzie today!!!

    1. Evie Murray says:

      Who would you vote for in a general election? How can you be sure enough people will vote this way also?! The reality is the country is divided and everyone has very different ideas about what might be best.

      Its not just parliament that is bust – it’s the prison service, the social work dept, the benefits agency- police force, hospitals, children panels, the list goes on…They are the bust institutions of a bust society. Britain does not just need a new parliament the problems run deeper, we need a new culture!!!

      I’d say its time you took all your friends there mentioned, and create one big happy gang who might want to work through towards solutions.

  21. Steven J Humphrey says:

    May 21, 2009 Elfen Safety wrote:
    “Excellent points made here about Mr Blair’s expenses. A great many questions have gone unanswered for too long. We have to ask WHY?”

    That’s an easy one to answer: koz they’re all idiots and havent really got a clue on how to run this country or even their own expenses system!!!

    MAKE POVERTY HISTORY for example: none of them have ever bin as poor as a church mouse so how can they fix POVERTY and make it history??

    The one motto that rings all the church bells here is: all for one and one for all!!!

    If one of em is bad then they must all be bad unless they can be proven innocent: isnt that how this government thinks??

    In my book We, The People are 97%innocent of all charges of abuse, bankruptcy and corruption and it’s the other 3% who are ‘rotten’…

    The trouble is 97% of that 3% are the richest, baddest landlords in the country and they give Us, The [British] People such a bad name!!!

    Now it’s upto We, the British people to prove these idiots innocent or guilty in a court appointed for that purpose otherwise these idiots are gonna keeping digging themselves a very deep yet very comfortable hole in our public purse!!!

    Drop those lies and pick up The Truth and Let’s rock’n’roll people!!!

  22. Aungar Dibb says:

    I do enjoy these wonderful comments posted by so many intelligent people who are courageous and honourable. I am glad Britain still has many decent people left.

  23. Ann Weatherly-Barton says:

    Good on yer Jon. Keep at these robbers and don’t let them off the hook. I am not in favour of an election at this moment as the rotten to the core types need to be given the boot and the system needs to be radically changed first.

    I agree with many of the people that have written and especially Aungar Dibb about people being very intelligent and honourable.

    What I find so deplorable with these MPs is that because they believe they have acted within the rules that their expense claims are okay. Even after everything that has been said and written they still don’t get it. I wrote to my MP and made my feelings quite clear. Response was good with a expense claim sheet. Nothing untoward but I did flinch when I saw the travelling expenses which were more than I earn in a year! I am sure he has a good explanation but isn’t that the nub of the problem. They think it is okay to charge these huge expenses whilst a great many people are wondering whether they will have a roof over their heads because their jobs are on the line.

    What about all these work breaks they have? Most of us have 4 weeks if we are lucky. “Jealousy?” No just outraged.

    Keep at them Jon and ruin their holiday because a lot of us are having our lives ruined by their antics.

  24. Charlie says:

    Talking of space travel I heard Nadine Dorries MP’s comments the other day and wonder just planet she is speaking from? does she live in the real world or what?

    According to her, MPs need their ‘expenses’ because they are not paid enough, well no one asked them to take the job and if I recall correctly they were happy with £35K in 1997 and since then it has effectively been doubled.

    Next time one of these MP’s start work at Macdonalds and dont like the wages, and start taking the ‘ Happy Meals ‘ home with them without paying– see how far they get till the police arrives?

    1. phil dicks says:

      35k – back then! Excellent cash.

  25. MM says:

    A general election right now would just replace one parcel of rogues with another parcel of rogues – and divert attention from the core problem – which is a rotten and out-dated system that encourages politicans to exploit it. Human beings are intrinsically greedy and self-serving and unless the administration is transparent and politicans are made accountable, the next government will continue to sanction the milking of the tax-payers – regardless of whether it’s Tory or Labour. It’s the system that needs changing first.

    Example Alex Salmond. He didn’t fiddle his Edinburgh parliament expenses – because the system didn’t allow him to. He did fiddle his Westminster expenses – because the system made it possible. And I don’t imagine he’s much different to any of the rest of us.

  26. John of Bath says:

    My concern is that when there is an election we wont be given a choice. We will be offered two (or three at the most) alternatives. If the polls are to believed David Cameron will be the next PM. But why will he win?

    Because Gordon Brown is unpopular? Yes.

    Because every ruling party runs out of steam after three or so elections? Yes.

    Because we like (not just prefer) his policies? No

    Because after having had a chance to look at a range of potential leaders we think he will do the best job? No.

    I could go on. Cameron will become PM because he is in the right place at the right time. He wont have to do anything or present any policies to win.

    Although polls say that people want Cameron as the next PM, I wonder if his popularity is just versus Brown or in an absolute sense. We’ll give him a chance because to quote Maggie ‘there is no alternative’.

    My belief is that the furore over expenses has been fueled in no small part by the fact that the elctorate has not got great hopes for Cameron and doubt whether there is a group of MPs with the skills to run the country.

  27. Cliff says:

    If the government truly – TRULY – believes we live in a democracy and does, indeed, want reform at this scandalous time, why not give the British public a referendum on the kind of governance it actually WANTS. We might then free ourselves of the Windsors and have an elected Head of State. Personally, I feel a bit of a ninny as the ‘subject’ of a ‘Royal’ family.

  28. James priest says:

    Dear Jon,
    Who writes David Cameron’s speeches, or did he come up with the phrase ‘New Politics’ all by him self.
    He is the leader of the oldest political party in the UK, so entrenched in it own out dated ideology it is hard to believe it would really change, The new Con’s. Maybe what is needed is not New Politics but new political parties. He does seem to like the sound of his own voice.

    Does he really think he is the man who can convince us he is the right man to bring trust back into politics?

    It wasn’t so long ago he stood on stage in front of a live Television audience in his bid to be leader of the Con party and lied to the nation. I know the issue of cannabis is controversial as it is illegal, but to spread false information about any subject is to lie.

    Cameron claims ‘Cannabis kills’ and everyone who knows the truth on this subject, knows this is not true.

    Cameron is a cheap man in an expensive suit, who leads a party who hopes the public have a short memory. A party who would say anything to regain the power it fully exploited last time it was in government.

    Maybe it is time for a true protest vote.

    At the next election Vote for any independent candidate available and kick all the main parties out.

    James Priest

  29. Adil Hasan says:

    I hope that the media will latch-onto the real underlying disillusion of the Public. The Public generally feel that they do not have a voice. Increasingly they feel that the MPs that are meant to represent them do not represent them. They feel disenfranchised. That is the real problem. The expenses is sadly how this problem is articulated since money is pretty much the only thing considered to be of importance.

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