Well, folks, this has been a week and a half. Well, actually, it’s been one week, no more and no less, but you know what I mean. The morass of spurious expenditure claims issued by members of the Commons has now reached the point where even seasoned, charming, witty, dashing and drop dead gorgeous political animals like myself (cough cough) are finding that they’ve all got mushed up into one giant grey sludge of sleaze. Having said that, the duck island was entertaining.
Perhaps the island would be a good place for the UK Parliament’s most prominent lame duck: Michael Martin, who is still Speaker of the House of Commons but only for another month, having announced his intention to resign. Shuggy thinks Martin has been unfairly scapegoated, while Stuart deserves praise for an artful comparison of the outgoing Speaker’s plight with the humiliation meted out to X-Factor contestants. Cabalamat, meanwhile, picks up on reports that Martin may be complicit in the many acts of parliamentary fraud.
Nevertheless, Martin is going, and the popular line is that he is the first Speaker to be forced out of office since Sir John Trevor in 1695, but that has raised hackles over at Aye We Can, who points out that as Sir John Trevor was pre-Union, Martin is the first Speaker ever to be forced out. Meanwhile, Tom Harris MP refuses to acknowledge that the Speaker was forced out at all, arguing that he was right to go before he was pushed.
In any case, attention is already turning to race to sup from the poisoned chalice and take over. Tom Harris reflects on the early speculation; Bill Cameron isn’t overly impressed at the idea of Anne Widdecombe taking over, while Esther supplies concise yet enthusiastic reasons for John Mason taking over. Sadly, I can’t see him fancying it. Or the Commons going for another Glasgow MP any time soon.
And with Martin quitting the Commons, eyes will soon be turning to the Glasgow North East By-Election campaign. Jeff turns his attention to the parties’ possible candidates, while James Kelly notes how significant the By-Election will be, given how close we are now to a General Election.
But the Speaker isn’t the whole story, and Flying Rodent gives a summary of the various figures and their positions, as well as his particular reasons for being less than chuffed with them. He also comes up with a fitting collective noun.
Anyway. With the Daily Telegraph leading the charge against profligate Parliamentarians, one MP has grown particularly uneasy: Nadine Dorries MP has compared the paper’s exploits to the McCarthy witch hunts, and has raised the possibility of a Parliamentary suicide. The general consensus is that she’s madder than a tray of snakes and Bill Cameron is one of the many unsympathetic voices. Also unsympathetic are the Barclay Brothers, owners of the Telegraph, who have contacted their lawyers and had her blog taken down. Ewan Watt, Jess the Dog, Mr. Eugenides and Richard Havers all reflect on this development, and while the general thrust of bloggers’ opinion is that she’s posting out of her hat, the Voltairean approach of the blogosphere has once again emerged and people are troubled by the legal intervention.
But one of the more realistic consequences of the scandal is raised by Stuart, who looks at the possible rise of the Independent candidate, and wonders if that’s all it’s cracked up to be.
Chris Stephens reminds readers of the importance of perception in all of this, and Julie Hepburn reflects on perceptions of her as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, while Osama Saeed is baffled that the latest MPs to be dragged into proceedings seemed to be caught unawares when they must surely have noticed what was happening to their colleagues.
Kezia, meanwhile, notes how the fiasco is detracting from the key issues in the European Election campaign. Fitaloon notes that UKIP’s dash for the moral high ground isn’t all that appropriate given their exorbitant claims for expenses as MEPs. Over at Holyrood Patter, however, there’s surprise that the scandal hasn’t made its way into the election leaflets being dished out. My guess is they were printed ages ago.
Meanwhile, bloggers have started turning their attentions to what needs to happen to clean up the system. Kirsty Connell opts for mandatory re-selection of candidates. Andrew Burns, with his Electoral Reform Society hat on, opts for PR for the Commons. Neil Craig suggests that the matter ought to be considered by Citizens’ Juries.
However, Political Dissuasion argues that state funding of political parties is not the answer, while Calum Cashley argues that the subcontracting of regulating members out to an external body is unconstitutional given the supposed sovereignty of Parliament, and wonders how MPs can be trusted to fix the economy when they can’t even be trusted with their own expense accounts. In a similar vein, Cabalamat looks at how politicians have handled housing policy in recent years.
In related news, those calling for a General Election must surely have thought that they’d got their wish this week, when Tory Bear appeared to discover a tweet from Labour Chief Whip Nick Brown MP suggesting a new Speaker would only have a few weeks in situ before a poll was called. Kez, however, denounced it as a hoax, suggesting that the source was TB himself. He then accused Kez of lying while Jess the Dog looked at other plausible explanations for the scoop that turned out not to be. And Jeff argues that the bloggers at the centre of the row have previous: it’s well known that Kez works as a researcher for George Foulkes, while it’s no secret that TB is written by Iain MacWhirter’s campaign manager in the recent Edinburgh University Rectorial Election, in which TB’s man beat Kez’s employer.
To elections of a different kind now: the revised boundary changes for the Scottish Parliament were published on Thursday, and bloggers have been reflecting on them: Malc runs through the headlines; Calum Cashley likes what he sees; Jeff notes that Fiona Hyslop faces the difficult decision of standing in the East Central Scotland region rather than Lothian, or quitting Linlithgow to stay in her current region; Stephen notes that Livingston gets renamed (gaining the oh-so-delightful appellation Almond Valley) and reflects on the effects the changes may have on the LibDems’ organisational structure in the area. Yousuf, meanwhile, is gutted for Ken Macintosh, whose Eastwood constituency loses Barrhead and Neilston, costing him his majority.
On more recent elections, Subrosa draws our attention to a story that hasn’t received much publicity: that a number of ‘Shadow MEPs’ will be elected next month, and will receive a salary despite only being able to observe proceedings in the European Parliament until the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. Then and only then will they be able to take full part in the work of the Parliament despite claiming a wage.
But of those trying to get elected as full MEPs, Richard Thomson takes a look at the LibDem leaflet in his area and suggests that it doesn’t make much sense in the context of a European election.
Speaking of LibDem election strategies, another story has gone largely un-noticed but may prove to be significant: the Party’s Chief Executive, Lord Rennard, has stood down. Caron and Stephen pay tribute to his efforts at the LibDems’ Election Guru.
It turns out that the feud between and Neil Craig and SEPA over the radioactivity in Dalgety Bay has a rather long half-life (boom boom): the story has now made the Dundee Courier.
Meanwhile, a major row has been settled at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland: Stephen and Caron hail the vote in favour of openly gay Minister Scott Rennie taking over the Queen’s Cross parish in Aberdeen, which received a storm of criticism from more traditional voices in the Kirk. Surreptitious Evil, meanwhile, takes a wry look at some of the people attacking his appointment.
Finally, don’t wind farms come in for a lot of stick? Not from Political Dissuasion they don’t…
And that’s very much your lot for this week. Ewan Watt is in the chair next time, and you can send in your suggestions using the thingmajig on the right, or dropping us a cod to firstname.lastname@example.org. Bye-de-bye!