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The five things that David Cameron must do next

We have confirmation this morning from a poll for that voters have recognised that Cameron is outperforming Brown in the saga over expenses.  57% of voters think David Cameron handled the scandal best, compared with 11% saying Brown had.  But there is also warning in the poll: "More than eight in 10 voters wanted MPs caught abusing expenses deselected."  If the Conservatives do not clean house there is a serious risk that insurgent candidates will do so.

Here are five things that David Cameron should do next:

1 Unethical MPs including Andrew MacKay and Julie Kirbride must cease to be Tory MPs.  A ConservativeHome poll on Thursday found that 65% of grassroots members thought that repaying wrongly claimed expenses was "not nearly enough".  It is entirely proper that Mr Cameron is giving his MPs the opportunity to prove their innocence before his scrutiny committee but if they are on the wrong side of what is acceptable Mr Cameron should not hesitate to deselect them.  That surely must include Andrew MacKay and Julie Kirkbride?  Claiming two second home allowances and not paying for a first home is a clear abuse of the intention of the facility.  Neither are fit to remain as Conservative MPs.  Without decisive action the Conservatives will face Martin Bell-style candidates.

2 Introduce a power of recall for MPs between elections.  California has it.  If an elected official so abuses his or her position between elections, voters can force them from office before the scheduled time of election.  There needs to be a large threshold of signatures for such a recall election to happen but it should be part of a balanced package of reformas that also see backbench MPs paid more transparently and given more powers to scrutinise the executive.  MPs need to know that there is no such thing as a safe seat.

3 The leadership must stop hiding behind Commons convention and support calls for the Speaker to go.  His reputation has sunk so low that he was the subject of running jokes on a sports programme yesterday (Five Live's Fighting Talk).  As reported by The Sunday Times today, "the Speaker had vetoed radical reform of the expenses system in a series of meetings and had exploded with rage when challenged about his own second home allowance claims."  In today's Mail on Sunday, Douglas Carswell MP summarises the case for action against Michael Martin.  He is joined by former Tory leadership candidate David Davis: "We need a new Speaker who can live up to the courage and independence of Speaker Lenthall and whose eyes only see and whose tongue only speaks as the will of the British people directs.  The will of the people is clear. That will must be expressed firmly by a new Speaker of the House, and it must be done now. "  As Fraser Nelson writes in the News of the World: "This uber-stooge fought reform every inch. He spent £300,0000 of our money on a legal battle to keep MPs’ expenses private. Medieval protocol means no MP criticises him. But I’d say it’s time to tear up the old rulebook. The MPs have lost all moral authority. Someone needs to take charge."  The Tory leader should defy convention and urge immediate installation of a Speaker untainted by what has gone on.

4 Put together a plan that will substantially reduce the cost of politics.  A key reason that expenses-gate (Guido thinks we should call it Snoutgate) is causing so much anger is that it is happening at a time when millions of families are struggling to make ends meet.  They are sat at the kitchen table with bills they can't pay and they are reading about MPs who are claiming taxpayers' money for £700 massage chairs and to clean out moats.  Cameron needs to show that he has a plan to cut the overall cost of politics.  His abolition of the Communications Allowance and a 10% cut in the number of MPs are good starts but they are only starts.  We need a manifesto for Cutting The Cost Of Politics and we need it out there soon.  It should rule out taxpayer funding of party politics.

5 Put forward a bold plan to renew Britain.  There is a risk that voters will think that the three big parties are all the same - the same when it comes to sleaze and indistinguishable on policy.  The European Elections could see big showings for UKIP, the Greens and the BNP.  Our enemy is no longer just Labour but apathy and protest, too.  The next Tory manifesto must give people real reasons to vote Conservative and not for fringe parties.

Tim Montgomerie


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