Sammy bids to take the lead in Westminster crisis

I felt so proud of Ulster this afternoon as our Green MP Sammy Wilson urged MPs to follow where the DUP leads over MPs’ expenses reform. Could the fate of Parliament rest in Sammy’s fragile hands, even for a fleeting moment? The Speaker even remembered his name, which was more than he did for some! But then Sammy was offering support to the Speaker – which is not always the rule for the DUP with Speakers. (Sammy’s Hansard quotes are below the fold) Speak for Britain” Sammy, I thought to myself. Then I caught myself on. I’d been in an historical daydream since minutes before, the grandee Sir Patrick Cormack had compared the fraught scenes involving the Speaker today with the Norway debate of April 1940, when so many MPs withheld support from Neville Chamberlain that he quit as PM. “Speak for England” shouted out a Tory rebel – and that’s when I came to. Compared to the emergence of Churchill as national leader, the Speaker’s defiant stand was a tawdry affair, a skin-saving tactic. But then, MPs were hopelessly overwrought, with the axe poised over so many heads. Nevertheless as his request, Peter Robinson (I assume he will be the DUP nominee) is due join the other party leaders who will put their plans for expenses reform to a Speaker’s conference- if it isn’t overtaken by events. The betting now is on the Speaker announcing his departure after a face-saving emergency expenses system is agreed. MPs will be praying for this: a claims freeze is in force until the deal is done.The DUP nipped in first to publish, not actual MPs’ costs but averages for last year, which show that each DUP MP cost on average £128194, including staff and office costs, personal expenses away from home and communications allowance. It’s quite a package and it doesn’t include ministerial and Assembly costs at the reduced rates. Is it really value for money? The spotlight should fall on all that constituency machinery. How much of it has real public value and how much is it a permanent election campaign, carried on at public expense?

The immediate agenda is much bigger. Wholesale de-selection of MPs, an early general election and a vote of confidence are among the cries, eagerly taken up by the press. Personally, I’d rather vote on the economy.

Sammy’s Point of Order

Mr Sammy Wilson: First, may I say that I welcome the opportunity not just for the main parties in the House but for the minority parties to have a discussion on the issue with you and to make recommendations? I believe, as other Members have said, that the very reputation not just of the House but of the future of good governance in the United Kingdom is at stake. May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you can give us an assurance that, after those discussions, a report will quickly be given to the House as to their outcome so that the matter can be put behind us and settled?

Mr. Speaker: I will do that—I promise that I will do that.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    There is of course a ridculous scramble to show ‘leadership’ on this issue – by being the first to recommend review/change of the system. With some even having the brass neck to try and claim the moral high ground by claiming that they got in first e.g. PoshBoy DC.

    The fact that the front benches of both main parties have been deeply implicated makes it all the more ridiculous that either of the main party leaders can try to work some advantage to themselves whislt under THEIR watch their senior party members ran amok.

    It is not the speaker who should resign but the respective chief exectutives (El Gordo and PBDC) over their appaling stewardship.

    SF who boycott this – the mother of all parliaments/troughs – seem to be the only party with a princpled position on the issue with a system that prevents individual members trousering dosh like there is no tomorrow.

    It is also good to see the DUP trying to (belatedly) put its house in order and at least not totally hypocritically trying to scapegoat the speaker. Well done Samuel.

  • Big Maggie

    ITSMW,

    The Sunday Times spoke to John Stonborough about his time as media adviser to Michael Martin:

    “Stonborough claimed that 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.

    “He said the Speaker took control of the rules on expenses and allegedly personally edited the key 2004 edition of the Green Book on parliamentary allowances – thus squandering the opportunity to clean up the system. The rules approved then are at the heart of the current scandal.”

    I hardly think this is “trying to scapegoat the speaker”. If these allegations are true then Martin blocked reform and gave the piggies full access to the trough for the past few years. He must go, despite what Sammy Wilson may say.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    That is a fair point but all roads lead back to the chief executives – I am struggling to think of an another ‘industry’ where someone such as a party leader has such a close working relationship with his front bench/directors who are clearly in breach of the regulations and would not be under pressure to go.

    I have no problem with Martin going in the context of dealing with the ‘corruption’ as a whole but not in advance of us having the full facts and without the others (party leaders) accepting part of the blame. It simply looks like deflection to me.

    …and why are the MPs who voted against the freedom of information act applying to expenses not having the whip withdrawn?

  • The noted anti-environment environment minister must be blessed with no sense of irony as he speaks so eloquently about the ‘good governance of the United Kingdom…’

  • “other party leaders”

    Will Gerry be there?

  • iluvni

    The fortune being paid to Robinson to provide him (and his wife) with accommodation and food in Westminster, yet he wasnt in the Commons yesterday because he was doing his other job.
    Dont know what her excuse was. Maybe out buying some posh wallpaper or something.
    Sammy was there on his own.