Tuesday 12 May 2009

Kate Hoey Gets It Right. Shame She's In The Wrong Party.

Now I can finish what I was saying when I was interrupted in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon. I was halfway though a sentence about how wrong I felt it was that the authorities had called in the overstretched Metropolitan Police to hide the misdemeanours of some MPs, who have stretched their expenses way beyond anything that could be interpreted as within the spirit of the rules, when for some reason Mr Speaker stopped me in mid-sentence and gave me a severe ticking-off for having said exactly that when I was interviewed on radio and television over the weekend.

Judging by the deluge of support from the public that has overwhelmed my email and phone lines ever since, the House of Commons authorities might learn something from the observation made last week that you can't be seen as being on the wrong side of fair play for too long and expect to maintain public support.

Football fans may have recognised Mr Speaker's reaction to the point I was trying to make: a hectoring response reminiscent of the manager who, out of loyalty to his team, indignantly attacks a referee's decision.

But Speaker Martin isn't meant to be the manager – he's meant to be the referee. His role is to defend the Commons, not blindly defend the actions of MPs on either side of any argument, least of all one where the public's view has been made so very clear.

He does need to show leadership, but the leadership required is to sort out the unprecedented mess over MPs' expenses, not to lead an attack on the press for revealing what has been going on. It is not the press which has brought MPs into disrepute, but their own behaviour.

I can't help but reflect on how differently this would all have been handled by Speaker Martin's predecessor, Betty Boothroyd. She always managed to be firmly in control and in the driving seat. On this issue, the public perception is that if this driver is in control, we are being driven the wrong way up a one-way street.

I received one letter from a constituent who had applied to the social fund for the money to buy a bed and mattress for her one and only home. She had just been told she could have the bed, but not the mattress. It doesn't take much imagination to understand how someone like that – and many, many others like her – feels when they hear about MPs being given thousands for barbecues, chandeliers and other luxuries.

If I want a cleaner, I should have to pay for it like any member of the public. If I fear for my safety, I should go to the police, not get thousands from the taxpayer to have a personal security guard.

The public has every right to feel angry, and the Speaker seemed to be oblivious to that.

The damage has been done to Parliament not by the disclosure of the allowances, but by the abuse of the system that flourished for as long as MPs thought their far-fetched expense claims would all be kept under wraps.

In trying to exempt MPs from the Freedom of Information rules – even as recently as January – the Government and the House of Commons authorities have been on the wrong side of public opinion and fair play.

For the Speaker to believe that the damage done to Parliament is due to abuses being revealed, rather than due the abuses having been perpetrated in the first place, shows a lack of respect for the electorate. To close ranks and then use the forces of law and order to obscure the abuses makes people even angrier.

They expect integrity and honesty from their Members of Parliament, and even more from the Speaker. He should examine his conscience.

Kate Hoey is Labour MP for Vauxhall.

The Penguin


Catosays said...

Treat Martin as you would a rabid dog. Shoot the bloody thing.

As you say, she's in the wrong party and I can see her emigrating across the floor, probably to the LibDums.

Anonymous said...

Cross the floor Kate, your country needs you.

Oldrightie said...

A real Lady therefore definitely in the wrong Party. Cameron came across as a real gentleman, today. Gets my vote. As for Speaker Martin, Unspeakable Martin, more like.

Anonymous said...

I'm in two minds about this - I'd probably use silk rope rather than piano wire for her.

Her constituency is a complete shithole and she would struggle to hold it without a red rosette and promises of handouts. The people who vote for her are unlikely to be too aroused by the goings-on as long as their own troughs are not affected.

Still, mustn't grumble when someone shoves it up that cancerous balloon of organs and shit, Martin. I hope that cunt's entire family suffers from failing health, starting with the youngest.

Fidothedog said...

She has far more diplomacy than me, had that fat Jock turd spoken to me that way I would have offered the cunt out.

Actually that would have been cool had she just lamped the cunt one.