A victory for bile and spite
Posted by Fraser at 8 59 PM on Saturday, June 20
YOU may think our MPs are conniving, greedy, vindictive and self-serving. And tomorrow afternoon, I suspect they’ll prove it.
Fiddling MPs robbed you through expense claims. Then conned you with blacked-out receipts. But there’s one trick left.
They can choose a new Speaker to police their behaviour. And they want to elect a watchdog who is totally, hopelessly useless. By now, you’ll have the message that most MPs couldn’t care less what you think. That’s why they censored receipts.
They saw the outrage and still, even then, decided the public should have the minimum of info about their claims.
The real threat isn’t Freedom of Information laws. It’s someone on the Speaker’s chair who would drain the septic tank of sleaze.
Tomorrow would be a disaster for the lazy and the venal if someone like Frank Field were to be elected and get to work reforming.
But he hasn’t made it to the starting block He realised, early on, that his colleagues in the Labour party want someone else.
That someone is this nonentity named John Bercow, whose only virtue is that the Tories in his own party simply despise him. And little wonder. For years, he’s been angling for the cushy Speaker’s job — sending cards and letters to Labour MPs, crawling.
As one of his supporters told me: “We still have a majority. This is our last chance to foist on Cameron someone he doesn’t want.”
He added: “Never underestimate the power of spite in politics.” Or never over-estimate the honour of honourable members. A hustings of the Speaker candidates, held last week by the Hansard Society, showed them all letting slip coded assurances to MPs.
Sir Patrick Cormack, a Tory, said if elected he would be “protector of the House.” Protect it from what? The prying eyes of outsiders?
Slimeball Bercow said he would “put Parliament first.” He may as well have said: “I’ve achieved nothing so far, and won’t stop now.” Even Anne Widdecombe said pay should be high enough not to “deter people of modest means from aspiring to parliament”.
She got a huge murmur of applause. Those guys genuinely think that £63k is a bad deal for a job with four months’ holiday.
The bookmakers’ favourite is Margaret Beckett, who charged the taxpayer £1,920 for a new pergola and plants for her home.
She even voted AGAINST reform last year. The best thing she could do to clean up politics is to leave it.
But the real problem isn’t the candidates. It’s the electorate. We just can’t trust these poachers to elect a new gamekeeper.
I can’t stress too strongly that there are MPs, on all sides, who are disgusted at the abuse of expenses. They want change. But they have been silenced by the old guard in their own parties. The good are outnumbered by the bad and the ugly.
The general election will change this. With retirements and defeats, more than half of today’s MPs won’t be back.
Even the Great Reform Act of 1832 changed just a third of MPs. It is a massive infusion of new blood, and badly-needed.
You can bet the newcomers, of all political persuasions, will be elected on a clear ‘no sleaze’ mandate. They should decide a Speaker.
That’s why this talk of reform is a joke. For as long as this tawdry lot are in, nothing will change. They shouldn’t even try.
You’d be amazed how many argue, in private, that if the election is delayed then voters will forget about expenses. As if.
Our democracy may be in a dismal state but it is still a democracy. We still have the power of booting MPs out. Sure, they can elect Beckett as Speaker. Pad things out for ten months or so. Try to fool voters with fake reform.
They can try. Delay. Blow smoke. But the longer they evade reform, the greater the vengeance will be on polling day.