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A very good move.

Seems he's reacted in exactly the right way - not over-reacted and not under-reacted! The general public should be able to see that we are taking action and hopefully the response should be positive.

Good for Cameron! Don't understand why this only applies to front benchers though.Why make a distinction?

Just wait, I bet within 24 hrs, we will all see Gordon Brown saying the same thing.

Malcolm, DC has no formal powers in this area. He can 'encourage' but not 'compel' backbenchers to reveal this information. They are, after all, MPs by virtue of personal election and 'independent' in the eyes of the law/House regs.
Front benchers, being paid, can either comply or lose their jobs and salaries.

Tory frontbenchers are not paid extra Baskerville. A few jobs in the Whips office command salaries but otherwise it's only the Leader of the Opposition who receives extra money from the taxpayer for his duties.

The only sense in which Cameron resembles a hare is that he is being chased hither and thither by the snarling dogs of the media.

If this was always the right thing to do, why didn't he do it when the Conway story broke (never mind, why hasn't this always been party policy)? Come to that, why is Cameron foisting this obligation on Tory MPs for their publicly funded employees when he's blatantly disregarding it for the vast majority of his publicly funded employees? After all, out of that same, inexhaustible pot of taxpayers' lolly, Cameron employs in his substantial Leader's Office (with public funds provided to him for this precisely set out purpose), a great deal more 'public sector workers' than any backbench MP does. So why hasn't Dave said he'll list all of the interesting personal relationships entailed there?

But then if we're wondering any or all of that, we may as well wonder, why did Cameron have CCHQ put out a statement endorsing Conway's initial punishment by the House, and seek to leave it at that? Moreover, Cameron *didn't*, contrary to the ever so slightly gushing note struck here - "last week David Cameron ordered frontbenchers to declare if they employed relatives. Within hours the Prime Minister was making similar noises" - set some sort of flying pace. What he actually said, after he had been beaten by the press into saying it, was - frontbenchers will only come April declare all of this information. Whereas Brown said *all* Labour MPs would. But that's the thing, why should any MP have to publicly list who works for them? If we're going to continue this senseless pretence that MPs are just public sector line managers, where exactly in the public sector is it obligatory for junior employees to be publicly announced for the supposed 'benefit' of the press (for which read, the fantastically hypocritical press)? This will, at the first hurdle, fall flat on its face, as it plainly breaks privacy rulings MPs' employees will be able to claim in their own defence, when they argue, as they wil, that their human rights are being affected by this unique, arbitrary & retrospective imposition. Another week, another policy c/o being pushed about by the press, another Dave gimmick that will yet again backfire.

Editor, I stand/sit corrected. However, they would still face losing their much sought after frontbench job and accompanying status, handmaidens and research staff.

I'm overjoyed. Our unilateral action versus Dither McAvity's gang going along with Mr Speaker's delicious fudge.
'Dave' will fill out the form like everyone else. He's a Conservative frontbencher.

Well done to David Cameron. I am pleased he has told his MPs to declare their expenses.

He is sending a very important "dont put your snouts in the trough" message to MPs.

Once again well done to Guido and to Tim for highlighting this snouts in the trough story. Thanks to them MPs will never again be able to get away with using taxpayers money to pay for their kids education. If they do Guido will out them.

Well done David Cameron. Yet another issue where he has thought on his feet, set the agenda, and left Brown floundering.

Has Wendy Alexander resigned yet, or is she still, in her immortal phrase, "delivering for hard working families" - even though her party is no longer in Government in Scotland !

George Orwell in his wildest dreams could not have created people like Wendy Alexander.

To be honest, it's slightly sad that our Dave should feel he has to do this. Surely 'the mother of Parliaments' should be able to keep its own minions in order?

Not sure what pointyou're trying to make ACT. what would you suggest we do?

No more honour and individual responsibility. Just follow our rules. Seems to be the case in so many ways now. Do we no longer have honourable MPs?

I'm not sure it's ever been reasonable to assume that any MP must necessarily be honourable. After all, there are any number of reasons why a person might be an MP, and not nearly all of them are even slightly honourable.

As it happens, in a well-regulated parliament, that shouldn't necessarily matter, because a broad coalition of the honourables and the enlightened-self-interests is supposed to reach some kind of broad consensus of the public good.

The only flaw in this little utopia is that our parliament is clearly not well-regulated, if indeed it ever was.

MPs should have a choice. Either tell us what money they get from the taxpayer and dispense with or stop taking it.

I entirely understand why DC had to do this.

But there is a deeper more insidious problem that has to be addressed namely the group of arrogant back benchers who are going nowhere and because of their large majorities feel immune from being held accountable.

Transparency only addresses the current hole that these people have embarrassed us with. Doubtless other holes will arise as long as we have a large group of them. But who is tackling the problem? That Mr Editor is the fault line that lies underneath this scandal.

They are worse than bed blockers as they do not just consume a role someone else should get, they actually think that they are above the normal rules of behaviour we would expect and think that they are "owed a living".

Where though is the Party Chairman?

I find the expression "bed blockers" rather offensive. And FWIW I cannot see that it would be much of an improvement should it be the case that any new younger entrants to parliament have little or no experience other than politics.

That is a fair point about the Party Chairman. She is invisible, on this and other issues. The Pentagon's most sophisticated radar would struggle to pick up any sign of life from the Good Ship Spelman.

People like Conway, and Winterton for that matter, seem to regard it as an impertinence when these subjects are even broached with them.


Agree with you on the term bed blockers but it is the case so far that it is the "experienced" old hands that seem to have set the rules and exploited them for all they are worth (though on the Labour side Mr & Mrs Balls seem to have grasped the opportunity well) while its the newer generation that have been more willing to offer transparency.

The Winterton's "only following the rules, guv" approach is typical of the arrogance of privilege that seems all too common among MPs that sit in safe seats they have held for decades.

Too little, too late.

Unfortunately, whilst DC can claim to be a hare and is taking positive action, the continuing revelations just simply goes to further alienate the political community from the electorate.

NuLab will seek to soften the blow to them, with the majority of sleaze and corruption, by simply tarring everyone with their brush.

Perhaps DC needs to make the next victim a real example, chiltern hundreds, thrown to the dogs and wolves and serious encouragement to plod for a custodial sentence, no matter how short. Only then can DC and party hold heads high and demand similar of NuLab and seek to gain votes.

In the meantime perhaps he might take a leaf out of the hustings in the US with their caucus gatherings and take the party back to the people. If the electorate won't engage then it really is time for the politics to go local, very local, ignoring TV in favour of local radio and local meetings.

The Conservatives should now move towards unilaterally putting all their expenses on the net . Labour are unlikely to follow .

I think the Conway situation has shown that it can take years to build up trust and confidence in politicians, but it can all be blown away in a single day.

He is moving as fast as is reasonable. Presumably he sought the agreement of the Shadow Cabinet before announcing this, both for reasons of (quasi) cabinet rule and to make sure that they and the other front benchers would go along with it. Regarding privacy etc, it does not seem unreasonable to have to list who is working for you - in the rest of the public sector would not this be discoverable under freedom of information? In any event it is usually publicly available information who you are employed by. It is only relatives where the salary band would have to be disclosed.

With regard to backbenchers, I understand that he may have limited powers over MPs in this respect mid way through a Parliament, and he would not want to risk some of them refusing to comply. But, with the agreement of the Party Board, would it not be reasonable to ask every currently selected/re-selected candidate, as a condition of continued endorsement as the Party's candidate, to sign up to the rules as announced for frontbenchers? This would apply to all MPs wishing to stand again and thus would swiftly include the majority of backbenchers. Only those who are standing down would not have to comply, but many of them might do so voluntarily.

A final suggestion: the Whips should collect all the returns by the end of March and then publish them all together on 1 April (better make that 2 April!). That way there will not be a "drip, drip" of disclosures providing endless prurient press coverage, but just one splurge and then that would be it. The Party could put it all up on a special website, which would be updated monthly, and that would be that. If MPs want to have a link to their entry from their own websites, that would be fine but they should be asked not to publish separately until 2 April.

Cameron however is still going to have to return to the subject of the other allowances and the over-generous pensions. The timing is absolutely right now for the unveiling of an election pledge to legislate to scrap any further MP and Ministerial final salary pension accrual from the date of the next election and to replace it with money purchase pensions with a decent employer contribution for all future service. This is not only right, but would be very popular, and would enable the future Government to consider other public sector pensions with "clean hands".

Malcolm, DC has no formal powers in this area. He can 'encourage' but not 'compel' backbenchers to reveal this information.
He can remove the whip from those who don't toe the line, in fact in opposition there is little else he can do because Leader of the Opposition is the only official opposition frontbench position and opposition frontbenchers draw the same salaries as backbenchers.

opposition frontbenchers draw the same salaries as backbenchers.
With the exception of The Leader of Her Majesties Opposition which has been an officially recognised position since 1935 when the first person in that office was Clement Attlee.

As for employment in constituency offices, I think there should be permanent offices with staff recruited according to standardised recruitment methods with MPs having no direct involvement in the running of their local office - apart from anything else this would make them non-partisan where one party had held the local seat for decades and in areas where there was a high turnover of MPs it would also mean a lot more continuity rather than having with a new MP then having to start from scratch with many issues they would be handling - especially in the case of senior ministers, how much time do they have for sorting out the affairs of a constituency office - there are recruitment procedures in place in government ministries, it would reduce the potential for nepotism and other forms of favouritism, although naturally there will always be scope for influence on such processes.

But there is a deeper more insidious problem that has to be addressed namely the group of arrogant back benchers who are going nowhere and because of their large majorities feel immune from being held accountable.

We need all sitting MPs to go through a primary style reselection process before each selection. That would solve the problem of arrogance. Good MPs would have absolutly nothing to fear.

Cameron gets good coverage in the Times, and indeed that coverage I suspect he aimed for. In every article about this issue, whether leader or sketch, he is portrayed as making the running. Brown is merely an afterthought.

"with MPs having no direct involvement in the running of their local office"

The difficulty with this sort of proposal is that MPs' offices are, necessarily, political in nature. In addition, there are confidentiality issues and trust issues.

I don't think that having offices staffed by civil servants is either realistic or sensible. What would make life easier for MPs would be for the staff in an MP's office to be managed in terms of their salary and other such non-political matters from a central office who publish relevant material - such as number of staff employed, salary scales and so on. This would then increase the distance between the MP and the financial benefit received by an individual employee and would enable checks on staff working hours etc to be managed centrally.

Brown will probably wait a little while, then announce a policy that bears a striking resemblance to David Cameron's suggestions. Wouldn't be the first time. Something is going to have to change but Brown is never going to take the lead on this.

OT Here's a must see on ITV tonight at 10.30pm: Repossession, Repossession, Repossession.

Jeff Randall looks at the state of debt-soaked Britain after 10 years of Brown running the finances, and he doesn't like what he sees.


"...Gordon Brown keeps telling us that, under his stewardship, this country has enjoyed its longest-ever period of economic growth. Were a business to make a similar boast, you might expect it to have cash in the bank.

Yet, according to a survey by KPMG, 22pc of Britons are struggling to repay their debts and 35pc fear that this year it will become even more difficult to make ends meet. The Brown boom has, perversely, produced a massive explosion in the numbers going bust..."

Another way to be seen to be reducing the 'snouts in the trough' problem is to reduce drastically the number of MPs at Westminster. Halve them, at a stroke cutting the public liability to keeping so many, so wealthy 'til the end of their days. No one would be able to tell that there were half the number. They hardly ever all sit at once or even ask questions anyway. If constituents need advice there could be a sort of NHS direct for questions perhaps called 'Parliament Direct' manned by very nice helpful people who could give advice or refer on to others. This could be in confidence and do away with the necessity of constituency 'surgeries'. In this age of the computer who needs an MP in the locality - the constituency area could be huge and the MP could answer emails whenever convenient and follow up any problems referred to him/her by 'Parliament Direct' Any support for this cost cutting venture?

The difficulty with this sort of proposal is that MPs' offices are, necessarily, political in nature. In addition, there are confidentiality issues and trust issues.
So are government departments which have confidentiality issues, no one suggests that ministers should be able to hand pick members of goverment departments.

Civil Servants wouldn't be the only possible way of doing it, perhaps some kind of private trust, or even using contractors, another alternative would simply be to scrap local constituency offices - some MPs hardly ever hold Constituency surgeries anyway, if I recall correctly when Ann Winterton got in trouble over one of her little jokes and had the whip suspended it turned out that in all the years she had been in parliament she had only ever held 2 constituency surgeries.

Not only would say cutting the number of MPs to a third of the current number reduce the costs, it would make it easier for a check to be kept on what they were doing, a lot of MPs go through their parliamentary careers and few people in their constituency even know who they are or even what constituency they are in.

I think though it would only make things a bit easier to monitor, their still needs to be more control and restrictions on what MPs are spending public money on.

Really there should be minimum atendance requirements or they should be fined or even dismissed from parliament - it is shocking the way George Galloway swans around playing at being a DJ and celebrity and failing even to attend votes and debates he has said before hand he considers priority issues. Does he hold constituency surgeries these days I wonder?

MPs don't represent their constituents, they represent their party leader via the whips. Do we need MPs at all? They seem to be there just to maintain their own jobs. Let's Close Westminster down for one year as an experiment. Unpaid leave of course.

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