LET’S NOT ALLOW MPs’ EXPENSES TO DERAIL THE EUROPEAN ELECTION CAMPAIGN

Labour Party

I recently blogged that the European elections are not about Gordon Brown’s leadership.

https://thehoneyballbuzz.com/2009/05/05/the-european-elections-are-about-more-than-gordon-browns-leadership/

Neither are they about MPs, expenses.  Although I have no wish to comment on the revelations brought to us by that great bastion of progressive jouralism, the Daily Telegraph”,  in relation to individual MP colleagues, there are, I believe, some general points which need to be made.

Firstly, wherever this saga of MPs and their allowances goes, it plays no part in the European elections.  On 4th June the country will be voting for representatives in the European Parliament.  It is neither a vote about who runs Britain or a vote about the behaviour of British MPs.  It is, purely and simply, an election to chose representatives in the European Parliament.  The conduct of some Members of the British Parliament and the system used to pay their allowances has no bearing whatsoever on the 4th June poll.

Despite the fact that the Prime Minister has featured in the “”Telegraph’s” feeding frenzy, it would be quite wrong to  judge me and my fellow Euro candidates by the fall out from Gordon Brown’s cleaning bills.  Likewise, Jack Straw, Margaret Beckett, Davin Miliband, Geoff Hoon, Hazel Blears and even our own Europe Minister Caroline Flint, are not at all relevant to the European elections, at least as  far as their House of Commons expenses are concerned.

My next point concerns the  Daily Telegraph” itself, now in its second day of its “let’s get them” orgy.  This august newspaper obviously thinks MPs are fair game.  However, it should be remembered that the “Telegraph” came by the expenses information in a less than honest manner.   The “Telegraph”, we are led to believe, paid £300,000 for computer discs containing MPs’ scanned receipts and full expenses records over five years, rumoured to have come from an individual in company employed  by the Commons to process the receipts took the chance to make an illicit copy.

It’s bad enough that the “Telegraph” apparently paid for stolen goods.  It’s made even worse because all these records were due for publication in July.  The “Telegraph” acted to gain an advantage over its rivals without regard to morality or integrity.  And this is the newspaper which is now labelling MPs corrupt.

Finally, I want to cover the issue of releasing MPs private addresses.  Had the records we now have courtesy of the “Daily Telegraph” been officially released in July as planned, MPs’ addresses would have been removed.  There is a real issue here about MPs’ personal safety, surely something they are all entitled to, whatever you may think of them.  When I was first became an MEP I was targeted by the fascist organisation Kombat 18, which has a record of violent behaviour.  Whilst MPs addresses can’t be completely confidential, there is a strong argument for keeping them as private as possible.  Those in the public eye deserve to feel safe in their own homes.          

The European Parliament has now finished for the Euro elections.  I am therefore in London out and about on the campaign trail.  From now until 4 June, this blog will bring you news, views, photos and much more from the Euro campaign.  Please use your vote and cast it wisely.

WOMEN TO GO IN POSSIBLE CABINET RESHUFFLE

Labour Party, Women's Rights

While I would not normally comment on speculation in the “Sun” newspaper

I feel it’s necessary today as the report may have some bearing on the European elections.

According to Political Editor George Pascoe-Watson both Jacqui Smith and Hazel Blears are in line to be demoted from the Cabinet after the June 4 poll, my election in other words. Gordon Brown is, according to the “Sun”, going to drop these two women to improve his general election chances.

Jacqui Smith and Hazel Blears

Jacqui Smith and Hazel Blears

The Prime Minister’s choice of ministerial colleagues is obviously a matter for him. What I am concerned about is the treatment both Jacqui and Hazel have received leading up to Gordon Brown’s potential reshuffle – a reshuffle which will take place after what, as the “Sun” puts it, will be Labour’s ‘drubbing in the polls’. Thank you George. I really appreciate being told I’m facing melt down.

Both Jacqui and Hazel have, I believe, been hounded far more than any man in their position would have been. Jacqui has been made a scapegoat for the vagaries of the present system of MPs’ expenses, allowing commentators to then attack her performance as Home Secretary. Hazel, on the other hand, has faced a continual barrage of low level sniping.

Neither woman has deserved this treatment. They have both performed as well as most of their Cabinet colleagues. I suspect Jacqui Smith was singled out for particular scrutiny regarding her allowances and private life in a way most other members of the Cabinet were not. When an individual is targeted, things often come out. I defy anyone in politics to be so pure that they automatically survive the driven snow test.

The reason Jacqui has been picked out and Hazel ridiculed? They are both women. I remember when I worked for “Gingerbread”, the lone parent charity in the early 1990s, two high profile women suffered the same treatment. Barbara Mills, the then Director of Public Prosecutions, and the former Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency, Ros Hepplewhite, were pursued at every possible opportunity. Eventually they both left their posts.

Dame Barbara Mills

Dame Barbara Mills

I would have hoped that 15 years on things may have changed. Sadly not. Jacqui Smith and Hazel Blears are the unfortunate successors of Barbara and Ros.