Friday, July 21, 2006

Prescott: It's Like Offering to Pay for Shoplifted Goods

It's not often that I post someone's Comment as a main post on this blog, but I thought Leo summed Prescott's defence up perfectly in this comment...

This is the new version of the Code, is it? You've committed an offence by not registering, this was pointed out months after said offence by Press and Opposition, so you then registered because you had no choice. So that's OK then, no offence after all. Surely that's like offering to pay if you get caught shoplifting?


9 comments:

Rog said...

Spot on.

I am incredulous that Prezza seems to be getting away with yet another sleazy cock-up (sorry about the imagery).

I'm not that old, and can remember when ministers and MPs resigned for FAR less.

tapestry said...

Prescott denied receiving any 'payments'. Why did he mention that as none are alleged?

Vienna Woods said...

I liked the tail ender in the BBC on line report...The added danger now, however, is that attention will turn to the prime minister himself with questions being asked over why he is so reluctant to see his deputy investigated..... Just what has Pressa got on him, perhaps witnessed a knee trembler, or two!

vikki said...

Rt.Hon John Prescott!!!

mise said...

Since I'm a recent convert to this wonderful blog, I feel I must have missed something.
What hold has Prescott got over the PM and others, as surely any right-thinking politician---if there's such a thing---would have sacked him or called for his sacking!
Puzzled---very puzzled.

Francis Walsingham said...

I really am in two minds about this.

On the one hand, accepting gifts and hospitality from someone looking for what is basically a government concession looks like less than straightforward behaviour. But on the other hand, the idea that a person nominally second in charge of this country could be brought down by a cowboy outfit and a couple of nights at a ranch seems utterly, utterly ridiculous. Only an absolute pauper could reasonably be thought to be put "under an obligation" by such "gifts". It is extraordinary that ministers of the Crown are regarded as such. Moreover, it is precisely this sort of hair-splitting analysis of whether gifts exceeded the pitiful threshhold of 590 quid of whatever that puts me off attempting to perform any sort of role in public life. People in public life never had this trouble in the past. An Empire was built in those days.

IF Prescott was minded to push for "Phil" to have the licence for a casino in the dome, and IF part of the reason for that was that "Phil" was nice to him, who cares? It matters if Phil's casino would be worse in some way than the other potential casinos that might have been set up there otherwise, but if it wasn't, really what the hell does it matter?

Please...I am no fan of Prescott. I do not buy the line about it being wonderful that he's become DPM from a deprived background. Indeed my preferred constitutional settlement would be to re-instate hereditary peers and then abolish the House of Commons. But subjecting public officials to ridicule and censure over matters like this makes it increasingly hard for public administration to carry on irrespective of the party in power. I could make the same point about "Blairforce One"...why should the head of government of this country not have a dedicated aircraft? It's a national embarrassment that he doesn't already have one. Mugabe has his own plane and his country is on its knees. Ditto HMS Brittania.

I accept Iain's point about hypocrisy - Prescott cited Norris as an example of "Tory sleaze", but it turns out Prescott was at it himself. It's right that that hypocrisy is exposed and ventilated. Hypocrisy is important to know about however trivial the hypocritical acts are because hypocrisy is a particularly disgraceful trait. But I think it's bad for the country generally that matters this trivial become as significant as they are.

If you remove the hypocrisy element from the sexual sleaze issue surrounding Prescott, the sexual sleaze element itself becomes insignificant. He had sex with his diary secretary. So what? He's overweight, northern, and in his late sixties. Bravo for getting it up at all.

Not to say that I'm not enjoying the vultures picking at Prescott. I am loving it. It is bewildering that such an incompetent figure can get to where he is and it is right that he be taken down. But much as I am enjoying the fact that he's being tied up in knots over various Parliamentary and Ministerial codes, the existence of these codes and the manner in which they're policed is exactly the reason why I'll never run for any form of elected office.

Chuck Unsworth said...

Prescott and/or his people knew exactly what the rules were. If they didn't then they should be fired for incompetence. But has he failed to observe the Spirit or the Letter of the law?

As far as Blair is concerned it's OK if you comply with the rules - eventually - or when obliged so to do. (That is, when someone makes a fuss, or there's the possibility of a political embarrassment). So an eleven month gap is all right, given that they are all so very busy 'getting on with the job' or in JP's case is that 'getting on the job'?.

After all, there's almost certainly no timescale attached to the requirement to declare - something any competent lawyer or legislator should/would have immediately noted. Maybe the 'rules' will have to be altered in the light of this 'tragic event'. And then JP might perhaps realise what his obligations are - assuming, of course, that there are no other loopholes.....

What sort of animals are these? Pretty straight? Whiter than white? Or are they just liars, freeloaders and crooks with no moral compass?

leo said...

Francis Walsingham - sorry, but I don't get your logic. Are you saying that wrongdoing is OK if it is trivial in the eyes of the wrongdoer?

Surely the whole point is not the value of the gifts concerned (although that seems suspiciously low - what do the Home Office know about the cost of cowboy boots?) - but the fact that JP didn't register them (or presumably, declare them to Customs). Why didn't he - he knew he should - it's not difficult. Surely the very concealment of these gifts is the suspicious part.

As for hairsplitting - no, I don't think it is - after all, honesty in small things is the mark of integrity. Is it wrong to rob banks but OK to dip your fingers in the office teafund? They're both theft, after all.

(PS: Iain, thanks very much for the kind remarks, still blushing as I type!)

The Remittance Man said...

Francis,

Could it be that ANY cosy relationship with one of the businessmen bidding for a lucrative and controversial concession from the government is iffy to say the least?

The cowboy suit and a couple of nights B&B at the Ponderosa are simply the tip of the iceberg. But, thanks to the regime being packed with lawyers it's only the tip that can be investigated so far.

But other questions that should be asked include: "Why, when Prezza's jolly was publicised, did we get several spurious and often conflicting explainations?" and "What role does the OPDM have in the awarding of franchises?" The regime claims Prezza has no say in planning functions and that casino licences are the remit of the Department of Culture and Sport. But Prezza has explicit powers (or at least had) to override local planning decisions. I'd imagine he carries more clout in NuLab circles than whichever nonentity currently sits in the big office over at Culture and Sport.

You're on the ball with the hypocrisy angle though. Let's face it, everyone believes that all politicians are a bunch of lying, coniving schysters. It's when they stand up and say we should all be good and then carry on being schysters that needs to be exposed. Major rightly got it when he failed to discipline MP's caught acting in ways that conflicted with his "Victorian Values" idea.

Blair proclaimed his regime would be "whiter than white". Every time he fails to discipline his troops for falling short of this ideal he should be pilloried, whether the troops are taking backhanders, shagging people or things they shouldn't or playing cowboys and indians with rich businessmen bidding for government contracts.

Every Time.