Sir Christopher Kelly's recommendations are a form of bereavement counselling for expenses-stricken MPs. It's time to move on.
By Alex Stevenson
"Whether you like this or not, there's a lot to be said for just getting behind this now."Sir Christopher's message to MPs was rammed home again and again.
Politicians had to put the "abuses of the past behind them". MPs were kindly asked to "simply get on with it". Just as Gordon Brown has been demanding, the most important thing is to shut up and stop causing trouble.
Before the report's publication MPs were unlikely to take the sweeping reforms lying down. The ban on spouses has left many frustrated. Ending resettlement grants will make many worse off. The idea of renting in Camberwell or Walworth rather than SW1 will not be welcomed. Most MPs are gnashing at the teeth.
Yet the report is perfectly pitched to disarm MPs' attempts to challenge it. Many of the most controversial proposals - on forcing MPs to rent in London, scrapping the
Sir Christopher Kelly's recommendations are a form of bereavement counselling for expenses-stricken MPs. It's time to move on.Read More »from Kelly report: Time to move on
MPs have been fervently praying Sir Christopher Kelly's expenses review will finally put the scandal to bed. As the last few days have shown, this one is going to run all the way to polling day.
It turns out it's the new expenses watchdog which has the power to "edit" Sir Christopher's reforms. "The prime minister is never powerless, in any sense," Gordon Brown's spokesman insisted yesterday in response to the suggestion this meant he couldn't do anything about the recommendations. Assembled journalists were rather amused, but the neurosis underlying the remark was rather telling.
Throughout the expenses scandal Downing Street has been afflicted by a knee-jerk impulse to get involved. Brown's initial proposals for reform were warmly rebuffed by MPs; now, in the run-up to Sir Christopher's root-and-branch recommendations, the government has waded in with its usual blustering confidence.
On Sunday Harriet Harman pressured Kelly to water down his leaked proposal to banRead More »from Expenses scandal’s enduring potential
Ministers don't care about evidence and reason. They care about the views of tabloid editors.
By Ian Dunt
"It is the punishment of the wise, who refuse to take part in government, to live under the government of worse men." Plato said that. I always found it rather charming. Presumably Professor Nutt and his colleagues at the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) are mulling similar thoughts today, after the home secretary sacked its chief, and watched his colleagues resign in protest over the weekend.
The morning lobby today, in which the prime minister's spokesman tries to put as favourable a spin as possible on the day's events, was dominated by the subject. An extremely competent man, the PM's spokesman was unable to safely bat away the question of why the government bothers to appoint advisors if it plans to sack them for giving their advice. It wasn't his fault. The sacking was indefensible. Plato himself wouldn't be able to justify it.
Frankly, he struggled to decentlyRead More »from Drugs policy and the death of reason
For hundreds of years Britain's noble lords were trusted to abide by the concept of "honour". The expenses scandal means those days are now over.
It's been a "difficult year" for parliament.
That was the rather miserable assessment of Lord Eames, the man tasked with chairing the group which has redrafted the Lords' code of conduct.
They have spent the summer preparing a new code of conduct which seeks to give confidence to the members of the upper house.
They certainly need it.
In May, for the first time in 350 years, the Lords suspended two of its members.
Lords Truscott and Taylor had been caught by undercover journalists posing as lobbyists, appearing to offer to lay amendments to legislation in return for money.
Looking back at the brief debate which preceded the historic decision to suspend them for the duration of the current parliament, it's clear how many peers felt the reputation of the Lords had been seriously damaged.
As the attorney general, BaronessRead More »from Britain’s besmirched Lords
The government's lies about drugs have one big upside: they teach our children to be suspicious of power.
By Ian Dunt
The government's drug policy, like that of most states in the western world, causes death and suffering on an unimaginable scale. It pumps money into the black market, and kills thousands by opening the door for dealers to add pollutants to their product. It robs people of their personal freedom, lies to the public, and operates on a level of dogma and calculation rather than ethics or harm reduction. It is, basically, a hideous, immoral and idiotic way to go about the business of government.
But it does have its upside. It gives many British youths their first lesson in British government: don't believe anything they tell you.
There is a gap in politics, between what is discussed and what is known. Most political issues force the public to select the source from which they trust the evidence. Take the debate on equipment for our armed forces in Afghanistan. When DavidRead More »from Lying to kids is the first lesson of politics
The impending Lisbon treaty has triggered a rash of quibbling from our leading politicians far exceeding their usual reluctance to look ahead.
It's a long-standing, tried-and-tested rule: don't ever answer hypothetical questions. Doing so brings into play a minefield of potential pitfalls. Misguided comments can be quoted back at you with embarrassing consequences. Demonstrating commitment to a particular point of view is anathema to veterans of Westminster as a result.
Running into this brick wall again and again is part and parcel of being a political journalist, but it doesn't stop us trying. Lobby hacks are more than justified in pressing the question of what the parties will do if the Lisbon treaty is ratified. Only the signature of the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, is required to turn it from being a theoretical proposal to an impending reality. You might think it would be incumbent on politicians to explain what they would do in this scenario. Yet the lack ofRead More »from The Lisbon treaty and hypothetical questions
Tony Blair would make a perfect EU president. He's as morally bankrupt as the European project has become.
By Ian Dunt
It must be the dull monotony of the Brown years. For some reason we are harking back to Tony Blair, and his empty, reassuring smile. Only the national decline of the Brown years explains it.
It's foolish to deny the frisson of satisfaction we got watching a British prime minister command the globe as Blair did, even when his motivation was entirely disgraceful. He was charismatic, and we enjoyed the face of Britain he portrayed overseas - confident, trustworthy and influential.
But Blair holding the EU presidency would be a disaster for Britain, for Europe and the world. Of the two big issues of our time - the economy and the 'war on terror' - Blair got it dead wrong.
He helped instigate the most disastrous foreign policy blunder of recent years. Thousands lie dead because of the decision to support America's war in Iraq. The region lies destabilised. Even now, asRead More »from Blair and the EU deserve each other
The government can't win on Royal Mail, which is why the idea of a plotting Peter Mandelson intent on derailing talks should be discounted.
It's a Monday morning in late October. The post is already late, following two days of strikes last week. Further industrial action is due at the end of this one, imperilling - in addition to everything else - parents' applications to get their children into their first-choice school. Individuals are being affected, too. My great-granny won't be getting a card from me on her 96th birthday. My mortgage application has been hampered by delays, risking the whole stressful process. Forgive me for a bit of teeth-gnashing.
This personal reaction is not, yet, reflected across the country. A poll for the BBC carried out last week found twice as many respondents supported the unions as did the Royal Mail. Yet there is only one direction in which the public mood can head. More strikes will lead to growing public anger as the inconvenienceRead More »from Mandy lacks the power to meddle
Last night's Question Time was a victory for the BBC and all those who said giving the BNP airtime would expose them for what they are. Shame I've been arguing against it.
By Ian Dunt
OK so here's the thing. I never got past this sentence: For the free society to exist, it must take away the freedom of those who wish to destroy it. It sounds contradictory, but I think it's entirely coherent and true. It's logical. I've had problems before by deriving too many of my day-to-day political judgements by reference to a logical or moral principle, and I'm beginning to think my attitude to the BNP was a victim of the same habit.
I've lost count of how many hours I've argued with friends abut giving the BNP airtime. I agreed when they objected to the terrible mess of having a legal party treated as if it was illegal. We were turning the BNP into the tobacco of the political world, both of them existing in this weird nether-region of legality. Friends would say: 'We need to either make themRead More »from I got it wrong on the BNP
Cameron and Brown used their best tricks on each other this week, but both came across a little primitive.
By Ian Dunt
Something about politicians makes me come over all anthropological.
Not because they are simple beasts, not entirely anyway. It's because of their setting. These odd environments they trap themselves in and the importance given to them prompts the observer into a sort of David Attenborough mentality. The locations and etiquettes are so alien one instantly adopts a professional curiosity, like a Victorian traveller capturing tribesmen for the civilised world to gawp at.
Conference speeches, and the importance given to them, are absurdly anthropological. The biped enters the stage and hammers away with its noises and limbs while the watching bipeds regularly engage in the calculated decision to stand up and hit their limbs together, partly as a sign of agreement, and partly out of an unspoken group-think which insists everything must look good for the cameras.
PMQs isRead More »from The science of politicians