11 May 2009

Expenses revelations: Should there be an election?

There have been various comments, not least by the former Tory MP and deputy speaker Lord Naseby (Michael Morris), that there should be a general election on the back of expenses scandal.  Ben Brogan has also given a view.

A couple of general observations.  Calling an election on a single issue would create a dangerous precedent for the future and should be resisted.  All parties are tainted by this scandal, so on what grounds would an election be called?  The logic follows that we would then vote for 600+ candidates who were not tarnished by this scandal, meaning no existing MPs would be returned.

By-elections would also solve very little, and it would be wrong for individual MPs to stand down immediately.  If MPs are to be deselected, it is a local constituency responsibility.  Voters will have there say in due course.

However, what this scandal has done is to change the dynamics of the election date.  It is doubtful that Labour now has the moral authority to continue until 2010, no matter if Brown stays or is replaced.  In the present climate the next election will not be solely about the economy. 

Jackie Ashley adds to the debate about Brown’s leadership in her article this morning.  She suggests that Brown could stand up and take the blame for the expenses scandal and the regulatory failures that caused the recession, and then subsequently call an election.  She continues:

Meanwhile, the promise of a quick election, presumably in the autumn, would also kill off leadership speculation. Brown would have re-established the right to lead his party into the fray. The trouble is, I just can't see him saying this. A full and frank levelling with the public only works if it really is full and frank. There could be no party political point-scoring, no shifting of the blame. How likely is that?

Not as likely as the alternative, which is a bloody stagger towards the ­summer recess, with a parliamentary revolt over Royal Mail, more scandals and more semi-public disloyalty by senior ministers. If that happens, I'd predict frantic phone conversations through the summer about a putsch. Alan Johnson, Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband are relatively untouched by the expenses scandal. If MPs got behind a single candidate and a new team, and confronted the prime minister with the majority of his cabinet, they could get him out.

….the Tories' case for an instant election, after a further leadership change, would be strong. Even so, maybe all that adds up to a risk worth taking, to get Ed Miliband or Alan Johnson – in my view the party's best bets – into No 10. Either of these would have some moral authority when it comes to reforming the system.

She concludes:

The easy headline remains: "Brown must go." It's the country's mood, if the polls are to be believed, and a lot of Labour people are saying the same thing. This is his last chance, and he's in a very grim place.

Where I take issue is with the timing, although the logic of what Ashley is saying is sound.  If Labour is to replace Brown, bearing in mind what I have posted below, it has to be June.  Alan Johnson would then have four mouths to clear up the mess and go to the country in October.

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  1. Have you entirely lost the plot? You really don't think that the whole lot of them stealing from the public purse is a good enough reason for them all to be sacked?

    Gis a job?

  2. I agree with Obo, this is a great chance for the public to get Westminster cleared out from top to bottom. Let parties put up people who promise integrity. Stop giving them expenses, they earn enough already and make them take their staff from the civil service pool within the building. Then they won't have the worry of staffing expenses, only constituency ones where much of the basic work is done by volunteers anyway.

  3. Fine. It may well come to that. Firstly it is not everyone, secondly let us wait and see what happens. If no action is taken then I agree.