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Sunday, October 07, 2007

No General Election, that book about Lembit and the over-zealous Plaid MPs

I am going to impose a new discipline just for today, I will restrain my urge to rant at length about news items that make my blood boil, so that I can get some work done. That does not mean that I will not refer to them, just that I will do so in a restrained and succinct manner.

First up in this trilogy has to be Gordon's postponement of the General Election that never was. Like many others I predicted that he would go to the Palace on Tuesday, however I did so because he seemed to have painted himself into a corner and because a senior Labour Party figure told me that he would. That is my excuse anyway.

We all forgot to factor in the prudence that made him the Chancellor he was, but also mitigates against the sort of risk-taking which is sometimes needed in any successful politician. As Gordon's bounce consequently deflates we can almost hear Tony Blair informing anybody who will listen that he told us so.

Second on my list is the report in this morning's Wales on Sunday that Plaid Cymru’s three MPs have been told to declare adverts they put in newspapers a week before May’s Assembly Election as election expenses. Those who considered that adverts paid for by parliamentary resources had been mistakenly placed at a time and in a way that would give Plaid Assembly candidates an electoral advantage appear to have been vindicated.

The Electoral Commission has told the three that the adverts were electoral and must be declared as expenses before November 2. It means the party will have to pay the money back to Parliament. But let us be clear, it is not just Plaid MPs who have used this facility in ways that might be open to question. During the Assembly elections my household received a glossy report from my Labour MP detailing all the work she was doing in the constituency. Included in it was a picture of her cutting a ribbon at a local community project with the Labour Assembly candidate for the same constituency.

I should record that the Plaid MPs concerned are insisting that they did nothing wrong. They have pointed out that the Communications Allowance was introduced to allow Members of Parliament to inform constituents of their work on their behalf. The MPs concerned individually used the allowance to issue an annual report to constituents via newspapers which covered their constituencies: "The content, timing and use of the advertisements were approved by House authorities,” they say.

Of course if the mechanism is there then MPs will use it and who can blame them. However, the whole process is both flawed and suspect. Assembly Members do not have this facility and nor should they. It is a means of using public money to re-inforce incumbency and as such is open to mis-use. If a local Council offered this facility to their members then MPs of all parties would come down on them like a tonne of bricks and quite rightly so.

What is worse is that the Parliamentary Authorities refuse to provide details of how this and other allowances such as postage are used. As a result there is no transparency or accountability in the process. If we are going to move to a system whereby the state subsidises political parties we should at least do so in a way that is open and subject to scrutiny.

My final piece concerns the long-defunct relationship between Lembit Öpik and Siân Lloyd. You would think that this was past history by now, but no, we are informed that Siân intends to lift the lid on the whole sorry business. Her 'candid' autobiography, 'Sunshine and Showers' is about to be sent to the publishers and is due out in March next year. These two quotes sum up the situation: “I’ll be telling the truth, and talking about lessons learnt. I’ve always been one for honesty,” she said. An insider said: “This book will bury Lembit.”

I have been harsh on Lembit in the past, as have many others of his colleagues, but for goodness sake Siân, move on. No relationship break-up could possibly be as one-sided as she and her friends paint it. She is happily ensconced with somebody she describes as her 'soulmate and a wonderful partner' and even she admits that she only stayed with Lembit because he had suffered a bereavement. Surely we can be spared another blow-by-blow account in the media, no matter how much money it makes for her. I, for one, am totally bored by the whole thing.

So much for avoiding rants.
Very true.
Sorry Peter, I know Mr Opik is a colleague and friend of yours, but I have no sympathy with him whatsoever. He has been on a political suicide rush for some time, not just because of his private "affairs", but because of his continued silliness on TV, and him backing several dead losers in leadership campaigns! The man does not deserve a Welsh seat in Parliament. The Lib Dems should deselect him now in order to hold onto that constituency seat.
Re the dodgy MP annual report. I was passing near the Vale of Glamorgan during the Assembly Campaign and was amazed to see a local newspaper with its front page transformed into a John smith love-in. Paid for by parliamentary expenses. It was a full wrap around of the paper with four pages of John smith.

The cost of this must have been phenomenal and is an absolute abuse of public money in my opinion.

It was very clever though and because they kept the masthead of the paper, you would almost believe that it was a genuine newspaper front page.
They did one in Penarth too. Looked like official Lab-prop (photos of MP, red and yellow colours) but it was 'just' his report, nicely timed.

Utter waste of public money.

I suggest that perhaps you might want to consider witholding judgement re. marcus warner until you are in full posession of the facts and have heard the other side of the story.
why should she move on , he hasn't he is still making a mockery of an MPs role and gravitas If i were in his constituency I would be furious.
I think its time he went off into the sunset with his women
You are mistaken. I am astonished at your puritanism. Lembit has clearly moved on. Nobody is saying that he is perfect but he is getting on with his life. He is also an excellent constituency MP and an effective Parliamentary spokesperson and advocate. What saddens me is that Sian still seems obsessed with him and with what happened.
Hear hear, the people that his constituents should be annoyed with are the press. Politicians have personal lives. FACT! It is the press who choose to focus on this instead of their records as politicians.

Sian played the game, if she stayed with Lembit while unhappy, it was because of her own celebrity profile and nothing else.
Peter, As far as Opik goes you are seriously out of touch with public opinion - have you been living in a glass house recently or away on extended holiday? Get real on this issue - just because Opik is a Lib Dem you don't have to support such an idiot - such opinions if made widely public will damage you. Whilst your BLOG here is widely read as one of the better BLOGS - in reality it is only a teeny weeny weeny few of the public really read this BLOG - anoraks like me and just a few others. Nobody at all even reads the Blogs of many of the other AMs. You'd be best forgetting that buffoon Opik and concentrating on your own constituency where you are well respected! There are only two really good Assembly Members in South Wales West - they are YOU and Mrs Edwina Hart who work like stink for their constituents across the political divide - all the others are either incompetent or minnows! Get real about Opik now!!!! He is finished!!!!!
so I take it Lembit is not on "Green Man's" Christmas Card list?

Always felt the Sian-Lembit thing was a tad uncomfortable - BUT IT'S OVER !!!

Boy meets girl; boy gets girl; boy and girl split up; boy meets new girl; first girl writes book.

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