When David Cameron was selected as leader of the Conservative Party it worried me a little. I knew a little about him, and found him to be relatively sensible, and feared that he’d be quite appealing to a wide range of voters – a real threat to Labour.
It’s interesting to think back to those times, and the more recent times when the Conservatives have been riding high in the opinion polls, lulling themselves into ever more confidence of a resounding election victory. Interesting because on the evidence of his current performances he appears to be losing his grip, and losing the election.
Today we’re told by various sources that David Cameron attacks Gordon Brown over expenses MPs , and MPs’ expenses: Labour in ‘headlong’ retreat, says David Cameron, and DAVID CAMERON ATTACKS BROWN OVER ‘HUMILIATING’ EXPENSES CLIMBDOWN
You might be forgiven for thinking that the Tory Leader was on the up, if you just went by the headlines. I think otherwise.
The three Labour MP’s that this story relates to and who are facing prosecution for abuse of expenses – David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine – have all, you might recall, been barred by the Labour Party from standing at the next election as Labour candidates – so the Labour Party had already taken some action against these three.
So what ? I hear the baying mob call – they’re still due to retire with golden handshakes !
Well of course, because there’s this really quaint old fashioned old generation principle built into British law – it’s the principle that says a person is “innocent until proven guilty” – so Labour’s / the Government’s actions in not taking rash actions, without fulfilling a legal burden of prof – actually improve the chances of the law taking its course, and a fair trial for them taking place. It’s what one would expect – and the Government have presumably taken legal advice on this issue.
It would appear that Mr Cameron has taken no such legal advice – shooting his mouth off in condemnation of both Gordon Brown and the alleged offenders. So much so, as to provoke warnings from not just Harriet Harman, the Leader of the Commons, (who lets be honest is part of the Labour Party) :
“He’s got to be very careful what he says or his comments might actually jeopardise the trial and none of us wants to see that happen,”;
but also the Speaker of the Commons John Bercow (who despite what some Tories say, is a Conservative with one of the largest majorities anywhere)
“The House will be aware that charges have been made against three members of the House and that therefore the sub judice rule applies to their cases.
“The matter is therefore before the courts and the House and members would not wish to interfere with the judicial process, risk affecting the fairness of a criminal trial or, furthermore, prevent such a trial taking place.”
I confess that I had visions of Stan Laurel standing up behind David Cameron, and shouting “Why don’t you hang ‘em !” – it would hardly have been a greater presumption of non-innocence.
Dave’s ire seems to be raised by the rumoured intention of the three accused to invoke Parliamentary privilege as a means of avoiding prosecution. Which would be fair enough – if it were any thing other than pure conjecture. Last time I heard though, solicitors were not in the habit of disclosing what their defence tactics would be ahead of a trial. Also, Alan Johnson – speaking on The Andrew Marr programme yesterday – clearly demonstrated that the Government would have no truck with that.
So anything else he’s bothered about ? Well he doesn’t seem to want the Labour Party funding their solicitors – well the Labour party say that the party
“has not and continues to have absolutely no involvement in the legal arrangements of these MPs, who were barred from standing as Labour candidates last year”.
Seems pretty clear cut to me.
Although let’s be honest, I’m a member of a trades union (the NUT) and as such if I were accused of a crime in relation to my work, I’d probably get my legal representation via them. Innocent until proven guilty remember – and that means entitled to legal representation – so providing they’ve paid their subs (stop it !) then maybe they are entitled to help from the party. But they’re not getting it anyway – so what’s Mr Cameron on about ?
It seems that what’s bothering him most is that the timing of Gordon Brown’s announcement that the three would be suspended from parliamentary activities, beat him to the draw with his planned (and widely trailed) speech about the issue.
So now instead of complaining that Gordon hasn’t withdrawn the whip, he’s now complaining that he has. Well which is it Dave ? because if someone is in “full retreat” in the way you want them to go, you’re hardly in a position to moan about it. If it had taken a long time then perhaps he’d have had a point – but no – the decision to prosecute was announced on Friday – the decision to suspend announced on Monday – that’s the next business day. Seems pretty quick off the mark in my book.
Mr Cameron said today that
“We are a new generation – come of age in the modern world of openness and accountability”.
Well he’s not (he was trying to get into Parliament in 1997 ), and neither is his sidekick William Hague, who’s been like an old man since he sucked up to Margaret Thatcher in 1977. William, viewers of the aforementioned Andrew Marr programme may have noticed, failed quite clearly for instance, to come of age in the modern world of openness and accountability when asked about Lord Ashcroft’s tax arrangements.
So – David Cameron – you’re losing it. Today’s bluster was a load of rubbish. I thought you could do better than that.