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Monday, May 18, 2009

Why Clegg is right to call for the Speaker to go

In many ways Alix Mortimer has already made the case brilliantly about what the Liberal Democrats need to do to adequately respond to the crisis of confidence in politics generated by the widescale misuse of the expenses system in Westminster.

I have argued consistently on this blog and to anybody else who will listen to me that there are two elements to this issue. On the one hand there is the excessive secrecy and a not-fit-for-purpose expenses system that has allowed systemic abuse, on the other there is the willingness of many politicians of all parties to take advantage of it. You cannot deal with one without tackling the other.

I said on Saturday that although it is important to remove the main obstacle to reform in the House of Commons, namely the Speaker and his Commission, we also have to be careful that this is not seen as displacement activity. My party also needs to set out its own position on errant MPs and Lords and make it clear that abuses will not be tolerated. We should also produce a clear set of rules and standards for Liberal Democrat MPs to follow in future.

It is up to the Federal Executive tonight to set much of this in motion and I have already e-mailed the Party President to let her know my views. But what Clegg called for yesterday is the important other half of this equation and because he did not just concentrate on the Speaker but also set out other reforms, it does not count as the sort of displacement activity I feared. Well, it won't do if the party delivers as well.

I believe that the proposals set out by Nick Clegg yesterday morning is just the sort of agenda we need to catch the mood of the country and put things right. The establishment of a constitutional convention, overseen by 100 randomly selected voters to draw up a short constitution setting out what rights people enjoy and making clear the subservience of Parliament to the people is a good start.

I think too that people will expect that party leaders should guarantee that the recommendations of Sir Christopher Kelly's independent inquiry into MPs allowances are accepted in full, no matter what they say and a system that ensures that if MPs transgress the rules then there will be a way for their constituents to sack them is just what the doctor ordered. I am more than happy to go on the doorsteps and argue for a method of "recall" so that a small percentage of constituents can force a by-election on any MP suspended for wrongdoing.

Finally, I think Alix and others are right. This is the right time to push for wholescale constitutional reform, to call for the empowerment of local communities with real devolution, to cut back the size and power of the Whitehall state, to eliminate central bureaucracy and above all to introduce fair votes so that we make all politicians more accountable to their electorate and eliminate safe seats where some of the incumbents think that they can get away with anything.

This is a big ask of any political party but we cannot duck the big issues any more than Labour and the Conservatives. There are a lot of angry and disillusioned people around who want to see some action. The future of our democracy depends on the right response.
we also have to be careful that this is not seen as displacement activity- also that the Speaker's attitude to expenses is but the last in a series of ways over the last year in which he has failed to uphold the dignity of the office.
Peter, I see that the pathetic moronic cowardly creep who runs the "Inside Out" Swansea web site http://www.insideoutswansea.blogspot.com/ is having a go at you over your home arrangements. Can you really get from Cwmbwrla to Cardiff Bay in just 45 minutes without speeding? This cowardly creep should be exposed for what has been several years of despicable cowardly bile.It is obviously run by a Labour hack in Swansea - probably a bitter cowardly ex Councillor these days who gets scraps of information from serving Labour Councillors and a local Press Officer.
That sort of displacement activity by Labour is not worth a substantial response at this stage because we have already been through this.

However, it is worth noting that I rent a fully furnished flat because I need to stay over on a regular basis during term time. The travel time is in fact an hour but that is not the point. Most Tuesday nights I have events with various interest groups that will keep me past 10pm and early Wednesday starts. I could stay in a hotel but that means that I am unable to work once I get back to my Cardiff accomodation, something that is also not possible while driving back.

The point is that I get no personal gain from this renting at all. The flat is not mine. I have not bought expensive furniture and even when the flat was broken into I assisted with repairs at my own expense and did not claim it back. At the end of the day I walk away and am not better off.

The other question is why just single out me? All of the regional AMs for this area have had a second home in Cardiff until recently as far as I aware. Some claim, some don't.

But even the Labour AMs who do not have a second home recognise the need to stay overnight. One stays three nights every week of term at the St. David's Hotel and claims back the cost as they are entitled to do. The job means that this is inevitable. The only difference is how individual AMs deal with it.
You don't need Bayesian synchronicity software in order to spot Ioanonymous postings.
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