Saturday, May 23, 2009

Calm down dear

Some people have been saying that David Cameron has been seen to punish his MPs where needed.

So why have Bill Wiggin and Andrew MacKay still not said they will stand down at the next election while, for seemingly much lesser offences, three MPs are standing down?

Answer: the three standing down are old farts who are surplus to Cameron’s requirements.

Cameron has made an MP stand down for a duck house, but for claiming £140,000 for a non-existent second home, that MP - Andrew MacKay - is still battling on.

Similarly, nothing has happened to Julie Kirkbride. But as far as I can see she did exactly the same thing as her husband. But she's not standing down. The advantage of being a relatively shiny face in a party of many dinosaurs, perhaps?

One of the reasons I believe in the Liberal Democrat party is that after giving everyone a chance to have a good old whinge, due process is followed and both sides of the story are listened to.

Last week, I called for Chris Rennard to explain his situation adequately, or pay the money back, or resign. He’s done the latter, albeit with potential disingenuity by the party in dealing with the media and with a probable lack of transparency.

I am happy to trust the party to have the independent auditor to look at the Lords allowances and expenses, and to refer any wrong-doing to the appropriate commissioner.

What else could happen at the moment? He’s resigned. The only thing that could be done is that the whip is taken away from him in the Lords but I don’t think that would be appropriate until the whole thing is looked at properly.

The atmosphere at the moment , in general, is that of a hanging court (it’s even called the wrong thing. People and the media are talking about “expenses” but in virtually every case they are actually talking about “allowances”). I tend to agree with Archbishop Williams that the humiliation of MPs should stop. We've all (including me - yes) had our fun with the stocks. It's time for those stocks to be put away and proper process to be followed.

I did not join this party for any party member to summarily go through a hanging court. We’ve only heard one side of the story from a Murdoch paper. OK, so more should have come from Chris Rennard. But, time is a key factor here. Time should be allowed for due process and I respect that Ros Scott, the Federal Executive and Nick Clegg are going to follow due process, quite correctly.

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