I woke up at the beginning of this week to find stories dominating that could have landed me in any week from the last 6 months. First up was MPs’ expenses. Having grown tired of tales of duck-ponds, moats and pornography at the taxpayers expense, the focus has switched to the demands by Sir Thomas Legg that MPs repay claims that in retrospect have been deemed excessive. MPs are aggrieved not least because of the retrospective nature of the new standards, but also because one gets the sense that they expected Sir Thomas to behave more like an establishment man and not rock the boat in the manner he evidently has. Cue howls of anguish from backbenchers and threats not to cooperate (in effect rendering the whole exercise a waste of time). As a result confusion reigns and the stock of MPs falls yet further.
“As political dramas go, this is hardly West Wing material”
The second story once again doing the rounds is the news that there is another ‘plot’ to challenge Gordon Brown’s leadership of the Labour Party. I say ‘plot’ in inverted commas because the shape of this one is this; the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) requires a backbencher to chair its meetings. Several MPs hostile to Brown plan to challenge the incumbent Tony Lloyd, a supposed Brown loyalist, for the Chairmanship. In other words, as political dramas go, this is hardly West Wing material; moreover, this is now the nth coup attempt I’ve seen reported or heard of first hand. In particular, I remember sitting in a restaurant with friends on local/European election night this year. I received a text from a Labour Parliamentary Candidate that James Purnell was about to resign from the cabinet; someone else informed me David Miliband would be next to jump. Purnell did go but in the end Miliband bottled it; Brown was able to assemble a cabinet, and the coup fizzled off half cock like a duff firework. The point of the story is this: the open musings of the Foreign Secretary about whether he should’ve stayed in the government did not make the Prime Minister’s position untenable. Given that (fairly astonishing) fact, it is highly unlikely that a change from one unknown to another on the backbenches of the Labour Party is going to register on the political Richter scale. More broadly, the danger for the Labour Party going forward is that if it can’t appear to run its own affairs, it becomes even less likely that it will be trusted to run those of the nation after the next election.
“Here’s a gratuitous reference to the blue tail-coat wearers in our midst”
Lastly, in light of the ongoing obsession with the Bullingdon (and because any mention of it in this blog seems to increase the number of hits), here’s a gratuitous reference to the blue tail-coat wearers in our midst. Sir Ludovic Kennedy, broadcaster, campaigner, and one-time Liberal parliamentary candidate died on Monday. And he used to be a member. There you go.