Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sunday Open Thread

I'm off to Wiltshire in a minute so will be out of commission for most of the day. So please treat this as an open thread and I will try to approve comments as quickly as possible from my Blackberry.

Feel free to talk about anything. You may wish to speculate on...

* The 42 days vote on Wednesday
* Does sleaze hurt all politicians, not just the party of the politician concerned
* The invisibility of Nick Clegg and the LibDems
* Is two party politics back?
* The latest ICM poll

UPDATE: I completely disagree with his conclusions, but Dizzy has a quite brilliantly written article on the Caroline Spelman case.

46 comments:

Mike said...

Are we throwing it away? Will all these stories of MPs and MEPs fiddling their expenses disillusion the public? Will people think that the bad old days of Tory sleaze are back?

I can't shake the feeling that our time is coming - a new Conservative government under Cameron. I also can't lose this fear that the - frankly - selfish activities of these expense fiddling idiots is hurting the party, and our chances...

CityUnslicker said...

2 party politics - you mean the Tories and Lib Dems.

At the rate of decline being suffered, Labour will be the 3rd party after the next election.

auntie Flo' said...

Is two party politics back?

Not in Harlow when David Cameron answered questions last Tuesday evening it wasn't.

We had a mixed, and open public meeting attended by at least one prominent local trade unionist, the organiser of the local pensioners' action group, a man who stood for election as an Independent, numerous Liberals, a local green space campaigner and a man who said he hadn't voted for 20 years.

Not one of them jeered David Cameron yet I have often seen them jeer other politicians. Instead, Cameron was very warmly welcomed and applauded.

As the chief reporter of one of Harlow's local newspapers posted on Nick Robinson's blog afterwards:

"As a local reporter in Harlow (who was there for the whole of the meeting), I think Nick is slightly wrong about the make-up of the audience.

I agree Cameron got a disappointingly easy ride, but I certainly recognised a good number of non-Tories and supporters of other parties, who could have given him a much harder time had they so wished.

By the way, the man who siad he hadn't voted for 20 years told Cameron:

"You seem genuine"

That comment would probably sum up the response of the majority and would explain why we're backing David Cameron.

The fact that they didn't perhaps suggests that Cameron is better able to communicate to people across the political spectrum than previous Conservative leaders"

Perhaps it also suggests that there really is only one party considered fit to form the next government.

Victor, NW Kent said...

Mike is right. We have found the only possible way to allow Labour off the hook.

And, yes - it destroys trust in the Conservatives but also in all politicians. I suspect that most were never worthy of trust to start with.

The amount of time they must spend on fiidling their expenses must be truly exhausting. In the case of the MEPs the amounts involved are staggering. If these are due to errors then the politicians are so incompetent that they should never have been elected. Benefits frauds go to jail for such errors and they cannot bost of equivalent education to some of these sinecured grandees.

Naturally, Labour and LibDems MPs and MEPs will not attack the Conservatives over this. Only a few, like Dennis Skinner, would be entitled to do so.

mckenzie said...

With regards to the Spelman case, it is only natural now that people are watching very carefully. We have been force fed lies and deceit by Gordon Brown and NuLabour in a most contemptuous and overtly condescending fashion. People have had enough of this and are now naturally suspicious of everything politicians have to say in their defence of spending tax payers money.
The Spelman case seems to be following a classic Labour spin response to the whole controversy of MP's claims allowances and breaking of the rules.
The conclusion here for David. C is simple if he wishes to convince a very disillusioned public, and repair the substantial damage which has been caused recently. I hope he can see through to make the right choice.

mitch said...

the libbys donor is in court I think better not throw stones.

Martin said...

I see the vile BBC has dropped the Caroline Spelman story quicker than a tart dropping her knickers.

Poor old BBC. The phone goes from No10 with the great clunking fist on the other end(so now we know who Brown rings up at 6am) to demand they help him out.

So the BBC gets a single source story by that idiot Crick (a journalist? I don't think so) and makes it the TOP BBC STORY FOR 48 HOURS (when everyone else is talking about Zimbabwe, Obama or the weather)

Then, as soon as the story is seen to be little more than vapourware, the BBC let it go.

Time to scrap the TV tax. I don't see why I should fund these left wing scumbags.

Iain. How do the Tories feel about the continual attacks from the BBC and is there much interest now in killing off the state funding of the BBC? After all if the Tories do win the next election, the BBC will be at the forefront of dirt digging.

Toque said...

Good post by Anthony Barnett on 42 Days - well worth a read.

Darrell G said...

City has a point...so much for Clegg and the Lib Dems being 'invisible'....on the 42 vote it's simply a vote that the government has to win (from it's point of view, in mine it shouldn't)...if it does then you may see a slight poll 'bounce' back in Labour's favour because the same poll showed 65% on it's side...

If Labour loses the 42 day vote then it will simply reinforce the impression that the government is weak and ineffective and will strengthen both opposition parties....

Anonymous said...

Giles Chichester and Den Dover 'stand down'. It makes you laugh - Cameron MUST take the high ground here - sack the pigs and sack them now.

Pravda is making hay whilst this goes on and on and spreads like bird 'flu. Cameron has to come out, state that every MP and MEP's expense account for the last 3 years will be audited over the next 6 months.

If, during that time, MP's come forward to admit 'failures', they can stay in their jobs but pay the monies back. If something is found after the audit, then they are banished from the whip and deselected - and I don't care who it is!

This goes on and on and on. It makes me sick. And Iain, a hint. Don't mix persoanal nd business lives. These guys may be your mates but, sticking up for them makes you look just as bad.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Marr: "Where did 42 days come from?"

Jackie Smith: "the number is the important issue"

Richard Dale said...

Mike

This is relatively minor stuff, and mostly in the European Paliament. It reflects badly on the EU. Also the Labour party seem strangely silent on this one. I suspect they know that they have similar or worse just waiting to be found.

As far as i can see Spelman didn't actually do anything wrong.

judith said...

I would envy you being in Wiltshire at any time, but especially on a lovely day like today.

In my view, Malmesbury is heaven on earth, but plonk me down anywhere in the triangle between Tetbury/Cirencester/Malmesbury (I know the first two are in Glos) and I never want to leave.

Anonymous said...

Richard Dale said...
"As far as i can see Spelman didn't actually do anything wrong."

Only fraudently claiming for her nanny on expenses.

Anonymous said...

Martin said...
"I see the vile BBC has dropped the Caroline Spelman story."

It is still prominent on the BBC Politics website and was on the Radio 4 news this morning.

Anonymous said...

Auntie Flo said ...
"..the man who siad he hadn't voted for 20 years told Cameron:
You seem genuine"

You forget that Cameron is a PR man by profession who has developed a veneer of apparent sincerity. Many people who had dealings with him at Carlton TV think differently. They detested him.

Anonymous said...

I am absolutely disgusted on the behaviour of some of our MEPs. One of my friends told me once ‘If you want to make money then be an MEP’. The expenses they get are unbelievable.

MPs and MEPs should not be allowed to employ their family. It is frankly wrong.

javelin said...

A comment on the Telegraph covers the UK political situation back to front and inside out.

"Every Labour Government since 1945 has ended with a dire shortage of money"

... and that just about covers it all.

javelin said...

Anon said

Andrew Marr: "Where did 42 days come from?"

Jackie Smith: "the number is the important issue"

Jackie Smith thought. "42 Days Detention (42DD) that's my bra size of course. It will make us all feel safe.

Anonymous said...

One of BBC's current Have Your Say topics:

Is the government creating a 'surveillance society'?

Most recommended postings are a series like this below:


"UK has 1% of the world's population yet around 20% of the world's surveillance. A highly sinister move by highly sinister PM Brown's government.

Just as worrying, anti-terrorist law is increasingly used against ordinary people for minor infringements such as recycling.
What are Brown and his government so frightened of? Seems to me they're scared of us and intent on over-controlling us.

You scare me more than the terrorist threat Gordon Brown!"


I second that. Why won't Brown ever listen too us?

Anonymous said...

I share the view put forward by 'mike said' .

Whilst the Spelman story is not as shocking as the Conway shocker, or Chichester and other MEP's - in the eyes of the public they are all Tories!

David Cameron has done a huge amount to ensure that the party is looked upon in a different light. BUT as the past few days has shown and, possibly, the next opinion polls may prove, a day is a long time in politics.

Spelman should not wait untilshe is pushed. She should show gumption and resign. Then when everything is cleared the path for her to be given another position by Mr cameron is there!

She has adopted the Labour way. See how the story develops and if it still looks bad after a few days go then!

That is certainly not the way a whiter than white party should act.

Mrs Spelman. For the sake of the party resign this day.

stuart said...

Come on, Iain. I know that a return to two-party politics would suit the Tories as much as Labour, but that is not what is happening.

The Liberal Democrats are consistently polling around 20%. That's not much less than the party of government, and if you remember the LDs actually beat Labour in national vote share on 1st May.

Oh, actually, the penny has dropped. It's a nice sunny day and you thought that you'd have some fun LibDem-baiting. Damn, I always fall for that!!!

Anonymous said...

mike:10.32

Meanwhile, in the real world - fuel prices - food prices - energy prices.

John Trenchard said...

anon -spelman is an easy target. a woman who has the problem of balancing being an MP versus being a mother of her kids.

an easy target.


there's something very distasteful about this case - i for one would not begrudge her an allowance to pay for her nanny - if anything, we should allow that to encourage more women to have a political career.

now compare that slip up to the GROSS corruption going on with the MEP expenses - and note how the BBC over-egged the Spelman case instead.

hmm.. nothing to do with the Irish referendum coming up soon?

Desperate Dan said...

The public aren't stupid. They voted for Boris and Edward Timpson because Labour's attempts to discredit the Tories are absolutely pathetic and at times verging on the criminal. Labour are the equivalent of drugs cheats - they can't win anything by fair means so they resort to foul means. Crick bigging up the Spelman story is no different to the Tory toffs stories - and that didn't work either. All Labour are doing by trying to discredit the Tories is demonstrating what nasty little shits they are. The public don't want to be governed by nasty little shits.

Daily Referendum said...

I have to agree with you about Dizzy's post on the Spelman case. It's well written but I think he's barking up the wrong tree.

Anonymous said...

The Times reports that The nanny did not answer a single letter or deal with any constituents enquiries. She did some filing, answered some phone calls and posted the mail. Well that must have taken absolutely bloody ages...

Iain/ Dave/ Osborne and the numerous posters attacking the BBC along tribal lines need to sit back and realise that with everyone in the UK feeling squeezed by higher taxes and higher fuel/food prices the idea that the chairwoman of a political party gets we - the hard pressed taxpayer - to pay the wages of a woman who patently was doing very little political work but was her nanny stinks.

What would the combined earnings of a consultant and an MP (Mr & Mrs Spelman ) be? £150,000, £200,000 and still they want us to pay for their nanny. How the hell can the Conservatives hope to connect with we ordinary folk if that sort of activity is condoned?

The Times today is directly contradicting the spin from Spelman/Central Office yesterday. If it emerges that the nanny's secretarial duties were minimal (presumably there will be records of all letters she sent as a secretary so this is not hard to check) then not only do the Tories look (again) like sleazy expense fiddlers but this also looks like a cover up.

Spelman/Cameron better hope that they can show a stack of letters/etc - hard evidence of work undertaken. If they cannot produce those letters and clear evidence of work Spelman has to quit at once , even if only to go away to clear her name and Cameron/Osborne need to think long and hard about who they promote & back to the hilt.


The jury is out on Spelman. If she has the evidence she can refute the Times story and kill it tomorrow. If she does not then an uterly cynical population will draw their own conclusions about her and also Project Cameron. So come on Spelman, lets see the phone logs, the boxes of letters answered, it canot be that hard can it?

If Spelman does not end this tomorrow (by quitting or by showing evidence) it will be very hard to get back to the real agenda of ZaNu labour sleaze and incompetence which is on a far bigger scale than this poor nanny.

Tone made me do it - he's a bad influence said...

How many times has Shami Chakrabarti appeared on Question Time?
How many members has Liberty actually got?
What is the equivalent right-of-centre organisation?

neil craig said...

The problem with sleaze stories is that if you answer them defencively, even by resigning, you have lost the momentum & the other side have the advantage.

You can get away with anything if you say the other guy is a crook.

It is pretty nasty & does no good for politicians generally but the Tories have to fight back - all those Labour promises that if anybody did anything questionable they would have to resign.

Getting in a Parliamentary Ombudsman who can act without fear or favour would help, Ms Filkin got fired for doing exactly that - perhaps she should come back.

Tone made me do it - he's a bad influence said...

Who is the "independent journo" Crick who saw the "grinning photo" of Blair at Oxford and published the top half.

AFTER Blair left office the "independent journo" Crick revealed the bottom half - showing the "grinning Blair" was in fact a juvenile Blair making the "wanker" sign at the camera.

This blatent air brushing of history FOR 11 YEARS was THE most corrupt bit of BBC journalism that occurred during the Blair years.

Who else has seen the "full" photograph?

ps guess which party Crick has run for in a local election.

Anonymous said...

Mr Cricks 'outstanding' reporting of the Spellman case is coming in for some stick on his Newsnight blog here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2008/06/questions_that_sir_john_lyon_might_like_to_ask_car.html?moduserid=movabletype8_28599&pid=64560465&upm=False&asb=False&pmp=False#dnaacs

Anonymous said...

The interesting point about the expenses issue is the BBC does not seem to jump on the bandwagon unless the MP or MEP is somehow linked to the Tories.

One Liberal Democrat MEP even admitted to siphoning off travel allowances on Newsnight to bolster LD party funds.

Whilst there have been some interesting stories in the press about Labour MP's abusing allowances why do they not get critical mass by being an indepth study on Newsnight? Recently we have had the Labour MP who got life assurance for their spouse at tax payer expense, Blair had his £300K mortgage on a £150,000 house and the communication allowance are regularly seen as being abused by Labour members of parliament. Does Newsnight or the BBC start phoning people up about this - no!

If anything it shows that the number of MP's should be cut by a third. Allowances scrapped and a higher rate of pay for MP@s who would then only have access to money for running an office, stationery, postage (reasonable) and travel (reasonable and by the cheapest method). The Conservatives should convert this weakness into a stregnth and demand a reform of parliamentry pay, abolision of alloances and a redyuction in the number of MP's at the following election. The House of Lords should be reformed into an elected senate of not more than a hundred as well - who are paid a salary.

Paul Pinfield said...

..."from my Blackberry". Iain, you mean to tell us that you are not an iPhone user????????

I thought you had better taste that that...

PS: Watch out for the new, whizzbang, you-can't-bend-it iPhone, tomorrow.

verity said...

I hate to say this, but if Ms Spellman had a two-year old at the time (and maybe another child) there is no way a nanny would be available for serious secretarial work while Ms Spellman was in the House. She could have answered phone calls and taken messages, yes, but done serious secretarial work, no.

Perhaps the MP panicked when she was suddenly dropped in the middle of all this but the notion of having a constituency secretary who was also a nanny is clearly silly. And the public has no interest in funding her childcare arrangements. It all sounds a bit mumsy and unprofessional.

She should step down while the investigation is going on, or just step down permanently, on direction of David Cameron.

OTOH, there has been so much blind-eye turning to expense abuses by MPs that it would be a shame to make her the example. Conway should be history by now, for starters.

Adam McNestrie said...

I wish that the 42 day controversy had lasted only 42 days. This issue, and the wider complex of civil liberty issues like ID cards and CCTV cameras of which it is a part, acts as a sort of aesthetically enticing political sideshow for the guilty affluent middle-classes who need a cause with which to placate their consciences. The battle to keep the state free from Orwellian tentacular intrusion, and to keep citizens free from the state, distracts the attention of too many people from marginalised social questions. If the intelligentsia satisfies the ache of conscience by fighting the would-be totalitarian state, then they absolve themselves of the need to look at the part which they play in constituting a society in which the life chances of children are overwhelmingly determined by the socioeconomic status of parents. This more serious, more complex, more intractable, (and therefore) less appetizing set of issues should be the primary concern of all serious-minded progressives.

I have written at greater length on this in my blog at:
http://adammcnestrie.wordpress.com/

Old Codger said...

Politicians Trustworthy?

I can't say that none of them are but as a group I put them below journalists, estate agents and second hand car salesmen.

42 days detention:

I would be at the head of the queue for locking up terrorists and throwing away the key but one needs to ensure that they are in fact terrorists and not some old doddering party worker making a bit of a nuisance of himself.

There is a law which states that work expands to fill the time available. This will apply to police investigations, just as to any other work. There may well be occasions when it really is impossible to gather the necessary evidence in limited time against someone who is almost certainly a terrorist. I think the starting time limit should be low, as low as it is for ordinary offenses. Any requirement for more time should be justified through the judicial process and after some predetermined point, say two weeks, approval should be via a senior judge who should start from the presumption that the police should have been able to make the case in the time that has gone and that therefore the person is not a terrorist. The police must satisfy the judge that the requested extension is unavoidable, that no investigative time has been unavoidably wasted and that such evidence as is available indicates a high probability that the person is a terrorist. Under no circumstances should any politician, let alone a government minister, be involved in this process.

Anonymous said...

It's time to clear the decks. The abuse of expenses in UK and EU is endemic, and has to be ended if the political process is to regain any trust from the electorate.

The authorities in Westminster and Brussels have shown themselves unwilling to take any serious action. There is a lot of mileage with the public to be the party that get serious about reform of these processes. If the price of clearing the decks to be able to do this is to declare and deal firmly with past problems them the quicker Cameron does it the better.

If that means Spellman has to pay back the money and serve some time on the back benches, and some MEP's are deselected then so be it. Only firm action will leave the party free to mount a serious attack on the multiple and more serious transgressions of ZanuLab and the rest.

It should also be followed by a formal complaint to the police about the criminal destruction of MP's expense records and if they fail to investigate to start a private prosecution against Gorbal Mick and the HoC officials.

Anonymous said...

Adam McNestrie said...
"I have written at greater length on this in my blog at:
http://adammcnestrie.wordpress.com/"

You only seem to come on this site to advertise your own blog. Have you never heard of nettiquette?

I notice that you get hardly any comments on your blog. Maybe you should ask yourself why that is.

Bill Quango MP said...

Anonymous said...
"You scare me more than the terrorist threat Gordon Brown!"

I know I do. That's why I'm watching you.

Richard Dale said...

anon 2:31

If you believed that you wouldn't post anonymously. Your comment is in fact libelous, but only because you are wrong.

There is no strong evidence in th public domain that the claim was fraudulent, ample evidence that Spelman needed help with correspondence and phone calls, and the only person doing so seems to have been the nanny Why should she not be paid for it?

While I agree that she was well-advised to cease the arrangement for appearances that is not evidence of fraud.

javelin said...

I was thinking about where Labour will go in opposition. The last time their natural core vote had any power was when the cold war was still in it's closing phases (i.e. the Kinnock/Smith years).

So really they have nothing that is relevant to turn back to. They will look like an old man who is still fighting the war. This is what we saw in Crewe and why it seems so out of place in the modern world.

Yet also the Tories haven't a visible grasp of what the modern world is either. Perhaps they do but they are just sending out sothing words to match Labour's endless spending.

It seems to me this benign time after the end of the cold war is simply a economic precursor before the next "war" which is looking like a global fight for resources.

I couldn't blame the Indian or Chinese government if demand from their populations crushed the EU and US economic models that rely so much on the price of oil and food. What can, or should, a Government do if 2 billion citizens demand cars and meat? They certainly have no duty to protect the EU and US.

From this perspective the past 10 years have been a period of economic armament by India and China. Instead of buying tanks and bullets they have been buying Treasury bonds, they have been building strategic industries by outsourcing ours.

In the 21st century the economic war will be a passive aggressive war requiring citizens to lower their standard of living as inflation digs into their assets and their spending power. Requiring governments to cut taxes and services to compete. Adam Smiths miracle of free-trade never worked for an inelastic supply of raw materials.

The Lakelander said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
auntie Flo' said...

I was thinking about where Labour will go in opposition.

Not back to Scotland, that's certain, as the Scots don't want them either.

Harriet Harmans House said...

"Protester Jolly Stanesby speaks from Harriet Harman's roof" 8/6/8


http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7442435.stm

Protester Jolly Stanesby speaks from Harriet Harman's roof
"We believe it's just a big cover up for the corruption that's going on and that has been going on for years..."

Ignored by the Beeb reporter who simply parrots Harmons response
"It's not fair to tie up the police resources and inconvenience my neighbours." Thus avoiding the issue completly.

DR ANDREW JOHN KITCHING said...

If you go to Wiltshire regularly- Harrow at little Bedwyn has 1 michelin star and is a delightful place for lunch

verity said...

John Trenchard wrote: "anon -spelman is an easy target. a woman who has the problem of balancing being an MP versus being a mother of her kids...

"there's something very distasteful about this case - i for one would not begrudge her an allowance to pay for her nanny - if anything, we should allow that to encourage more women to have a political career."

This is wrong on so many levels. If she has "problems balancing blah blah blah" then she's in the wrong line of work. It is not up to 40m voters to accommodate themselves to her life.

I, for one, would begrudge her, big time, any privileges over any other Member. We should organise Parliament so "all more women to have a political career". Aw, diddums! She's a mummy of young children and she wants to have a political career so can we change the rules for her and have the taxpayer stump up for her childcare arrangements?

No. thank. you.

Mothers of young children are rightly focussed on their children She apparently had a two-year old when she first started in Parliament - mothers will tell you this is the most intense year of tending to a child. Do you think that child was not front and centre in her thoughts all day?

I want someone engaged in running the country to be is 100 per cent focussed on the job of running the country. Not a mummy out doing a job.

I'm sorry, but it is not the business of the electorate to finance Ms Spellman's career with financial assistance with childcare. These people help themselves to enough from the taxpayer already.

I accept that this lady is honest, although she managed to persuade herself that having a nanny who she paid to answer the phone and take messages (which any nanny does automatically)and post letters out of public funds was OK - and later became uneasy about it and ceased.

Nature dictates that young mothers be with their children nurturing them for the first few years of their lives. Let's stop trying to turn the world on its ear. That's the job of the Gramscians. Conservatives are practical and deal with the realities.