MacKay must go if Tories are serious about cleaning up Parliament
ConHome never believed that repayments were enough and it's good to see David Cameron hardening his stance. What I cannot understand, however, is why Peter Viggers (duck island within £30,000 of gardening claims) is a more serious offender than Andrew MacKay (claiming £283,000 with Julie Kirkbride for two second homes). Both acted within the rules but both acted completely against the spirit of those rules. Is it simply because the duck island thing creates a bigger headline? I regard the expulsion of Andrew MacKay as a Tory candidate as a test of the leadership's seriousness. Friends of the leader can't be seen to be getting special treatment.
Local Tories can, of course, deselect Andrew MacKay. Many media outlets are concluding that MPs are safe from deselection if they get the backing of their Association officers. Not true. If deselection happens it will be because the wider Association revolts. A strict censure from the party leader's scrutiny committee might be enough to trigger some deselections but much more likely is that the mere likelihood of a deselection consent will produce a pre-emptive resignation. That seems to have been the story behind the resignations of Douglas Hogg and Anthony Steen. Both won backing from their Association big wigs but grumblings from their Association at large caused them to go quietly. John Strafford writes a guide to deselection on Platform today if any readers are looking for inspiration.
The encouragement of certain MPs to go quietly is being coordinated by Patrick McLoughlin, the Chief Whip. Mr McLoughlin - who some thought would be usurped by Andrew MacKay as Cameron's Chief Whip - should the Tories win the next General Election - has been doing a "magnificent behind-the-scenes job" according to one member of the shadow cabinet. His stock has risen markedly in recent times, I'm told.
A few other quick thoughts...
- Good to see our candidates taking the initiative in setting out their own code of conduct on expenses should they be elected. See this, for example, from Simon Hoare in Cardiff South & Penarth.
- Bill Wiggin's mortgage misclaiming does seem to be a genuine administrative error and The Telegraph's suggestion that his case is similar to that of Elliot Morley and David Chaytor is a very unfair charge. Mr Wiggin issued a statement yesterday evening (satisfactorily) explaining himself (see end of this post).
- I understand from a third party that the new Chairman of the National Convention Jeremy Middleton has been pressing hard for grassroots representation on the leader's scrutiny committee and that that representation will be delivered. Good news. It's important that the Westminster village involves wider voters in this process.
- JuryTeam is getting its act together. Esther Rantzen appeared at its launch yesterday and former Tory MP and Treasury minister Philip Oppenheim is threatening to stand if disgraced MPs stand again. Another reason for David Cameron's purge to be thorough.