The Professors passion for "The Science of Deceit" started here...

Employed by the Ministry (in a covert capacity) to help introduce the law ending dishonest politics, you can see his hand all over the posts of past.

Current political circumstances have forced him to reveal himself and as we speak, MPs are signing up to re-introduce The Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill for debate with over 80,000 voters supporting them.

Posts before Jan '08 are purely for the record (with hindsight they make fascinating reading). Posts after May 13th mark the Professor's return.


Meet the Professor

Friday, July 17, 2009

MInistry of Truth out of business at last

Last day in Parliament before Summer Hols will see the passing of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority Bill - hailed as a constitutional milestone, the product of a very English revolution.

Indeed, you'll recall Ministers amidst the expenses scandal telling us it will mark the "end of self-regulation" for Parliament - the kind of landmark legislation that would certainly put the Ministry out of business (and we'd go to the campaigning grave with a smile on our face).

So far as the press is concerned, you could be forgiven for thinking it was all over. Having upped their circulation with details of porn films, bathplugs and moats... the dull business of constitutional milestones and actually making MPs accountable to the country need not trouble us.

Actually, that's not quite fair.

The Times, in their "more news" section under the strapline "MPs to begin an 82-day break, after shortest session in decades" were concerned enough to get a quick dig in at the PM and mention in the 12th paragraph of their article that the Bill perhaps wasn't as robust as was needed,

"...But with Mr Brown having imposed the tightest possible timetable for the Bill, MPs and peers have forced him into climbdown after climbdown. As a result many of its original offences and sanctions have disappeared.

Yesterday in the Lords a clause that would have created an offence of failing to comply with the register of financial interests that will be maintained by the new authority was removed."
'Nuff said.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Gainspotting

For those of you who may not know of Neil Hepburn's (aka BeauBo D'or) fine work or don't read Guido...




Progress report/Do you trust the police ?

As previously mentioned, much to report on behind the scenes progress at Westminster.

Much as we'd prefer transparency, we're honour-bound to keep schtum until absolute clarity and confirmation has arrived. In essence, it would appear one of the major parties is on the way to supporting the Bill with some re-drafting. Very, very exciting, however...

Their primary concern is - if you give the public the ability to instigate criminal proceedings, you're effectively giving the courts power to prosecute elected representatives. We never had a problem with this, we trust the courts more than we trust Parliament to police itself and in any case there are plenty of other areas where courts hold sway over Parliament, it's members and it's sovereignty (the European Court, Cash for Peerages, 1916 Prevention of Corruption Act etc.).

That's when they dropped the big one... if it's a criminal offence it'll end up in a courtroom via the police... so, do you trust the police ?

Hmmm...

This writer has had the pleasure of dealing with the constabulary at different levels of the food chain. The bottom trawlers have invariably been a disaster, leading to dealings higher up where things have normally been straightened out in a more reasonable fashion.

Which begs the question, "what is the best mechanism for refering deliberate deception by elected representatives to the courts ?". Answers on a postcard please.

We're looking at a couple of weeks before answers on this. In the meantime, posting will be sporadic whilst your humble servant attempts to take a little time off.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Conflicted, but making progress...

Apologies for the lack of posting. There's much to report on Parliamentary horse-trading for the bill. Whilst we're gathering our thoughts, take a moment to enjoy this video. It deals quite admirably with one of the continual sources of conflict inside the Ministry - to love or hate Berlusconi...

video

Monday, July 13, 2009

Clive Betts MP

Clive hasn't appeared on our radar before but his history certainly makes for colourful reading -

He is the only MP to our knowledge to have been suspended from the House for 7 days (this writer was once given a 7 day suspension for organising an impromptu firework display underneath the housemaster's living quarters - so let it never be said I'm without sympathy) after it was revealed that his new research assistant was in fact a Brazillian rent boy some 30 years his junior.

As the Times points out today - he was also the man behind the MPs housing allowance increase of 42% - defeating his own government.

Let's just put this into perspective.

May 2001
Robin Cook tells a Select Comittee the expenses and allowances practises are a car crash waiting to happen.

June 2001
Labour wins a landslide victory with one of the largest majorities in our electoral history - 167 seats. It is an undefeatable majority. One which will allow it to legislate without fear of defeat in an unprecedented manner.

July 2001
Robin Cook, leader of the House tries to persuade the Commons their allowances and expenses should be referred to an independent review body. Betts succesfully moves an ammendment, defeating his own government's extraordinary majority (and Robin Cook, then Leader of the House) - pushing through the 42% increase in housing allowance. Funny that.

For further amusement, check out Bett's expenses statement on his own website. He's quick to point out that he's always acted within the rules as they were. Today's Times effectively dissects his second/main home record. It doesn't look good, but naturally, it's all within the rules (bound to be - he is a member of the Finance and Services Committee you know. Ed)

We wrote to Betts in May of this year asking whether he was in favour of our Bill. We await his response. Understandable, he is extremely understaffed and forced to employ his live-in partner as a Parliamentary assistant. If he's your MP why not drop him a line at bettsc@parliament.uk ? Better still, he does sound like the sort of person who could do with a Kantometer evaluation.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A little off-message

Apologies, it's Friday and this is simply too good not to share...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Ministry at the Institute for Public Policy Research


Yesterday saw the Ministry at the Institute for Public Policy Research (Guido has much to say on this think tank) who were kind enough to invite us to their "fixing British politics" seminar offering "reflections from leading thinkers on some of the major challenges that will face policymakers in decades to come". We don't want to sound ungrateful, but it would be an understatement to say we were bemused/surprised by the experience. I suppose we shouldn't have been.

On the panel were, Tony Wright MP, (newly appointed chair of the all-party parliamentary reform committee), Vernon Bogdanor, (Britain’s leading constitutional expert) and Dominic Grieve QC MP, Shadow Justice Secretary and Shadow Attorney General. In attendance were an invited audience of "academics, journalists and policy makers".

Questions to be covered included ;

  • What should be the priorities for any reform of the political system?
  • Can political reform address the decline of the moral authority of parliament and MPs engendered by the expenses scandal?
It quickly became abundantly clear from the rhetoric in the room that if "No-one really knows the real root of the public's anger over expenses" was the forward thinking in politics, Great Britain PLC is in the deepest, darkest smelliest brown stuff for some time.

The word "trust" went entirely unmentioned for an hour and a half before the Ministry pointed out this may just be an issue with the public. The ability to re-establish it will be the benchmark for any proposed reforms.

In the real world we have two options once you've lost trust in someone. In business, marriage, you name it, there is no third option. There are no exceptions to this rule. You either continue the relationship in the knowledge that ultimately you can turn to the courts, or disengage. Naturally, this holds true of the relationship between citizen and state.

Over the last two decades Parliament and Government have successfully eroded trust to the current unprecedented level, compounding the issue by implementing half-baked reforms which have repeatedly been exposed as inadequate as their ability to maintain the public trust.

Cut to the IPPR discussing the need to de-centralise power, holding primaries, referenda etc.
Cut to Sir Alan Beith MP telling the Commons "The House has already shown that it is capable of producing a code of conduct"
Cut to the electorate disengaging.

The real un-answered question of the seminar was "What will it take for Parliament to wise up and give their employers the real-world option of holding its' representatives to account ?"

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

IPS A memory lapse

We await the revised form of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority Bill. Meantime, scrutiny of the debate shows the House reverting to past form. With the press and public sidetracked by Michael Jackson, a goldfish could outgun our honourable members in the memory stakes.

Take Sir Alan Beith, (shadow constitutional something for the Lib Dems) on whether the courts should have any power over dishonest MPs

"Does the Secretary of State recognise that, if the code of conduct were to become justiciable, that would constitute a questioning of proceedings in the House? The House has already shown that it is capable of producing a code of conduct, and Members can discuss with any outside body the improvements that should be made to it. It is therefore unnecessary to include this provision in the Bill in this way."
Yes Sir Alan, the House has already shown how capable it is of producing a code of conduct. The House has also shown how capable it is of sticking to it. Remember ?

We had the good fortune to spend an hour or so with Sir Alan Beith, if memory serves, he spent his time trying to convince us that proportional representation is the answer.

Sir Alan is the MP for Berwick upon Tweed. If he represents you, feel free to drop him a line at alanbeith@berwicklibdems.org.uk . Alternatively, you may care to sign his much vaunted petition for more dentists in Northumberland .

Monday, July 06, 2009

Yet another 2 MPs

Slowly but surely, day by day etc. etc.


Almost in direct response to Parliamentary castration of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority Bill the numbers supporting the Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill are swelling. This just in from Harriet Harperson in direct response to whether she'd support our Bill.
"The Government has recently set out its draft legislative programme for
the coming session."
Nice to get a straight answer.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Maintaining Standards

"I think we've got the balance right... No-one has a greater interest in policing the code, setting high standards for Members of Parliament, than Members of Parliament." Sir George Young - Chairman, the Committee for Standards and Privileges, May 2007

"Too right mate." The Fees Office, April 1st 2009


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Two more MPs seen the light

Another two signed up to the Bill. That's 5 more MPs in as many days.

Nice work all round. Keep the pressure up with your local MPs - templates etc. on the main site...

Parliament - Normal Service Resumed

If you've been watching the last couple of days debates in the HofC you may have had that deja vu feeling. The IPSA Bill - heralded as the "end of self-regulation" is slowly but surely echoing the promised reforms of scandals past. We've had the Nolan report, MPs Codes of Conduct, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards...

"We are not the master now. The people are the masters. We are the servants of the people. We will never forget that." Tony Blair, May '97

"Let the work of change begin." Gordon Brown, June '07 (on succeeding Blair)

"Who guards the guards ?' Adam Price MP Oct '07
The post expenses rush to regain the public's trust...
"I'll consider anything that makes the political elite accountable to citizens."
Gordon Brown, May '09
... seems to be slowly but surely steering towards another "independent" Committee that dutifully reports back to Parliament and a reversion to type for the honourables. Yesterday. a misty-eyed Jack Straw recalled how he was the first MP to be taken to court by a constituent over an administrative error which led to them being branded a drug dealer. The dozen or so MPs in the chamber nodded wearily. The threat of vexatious claims, a field day for lawyers etc. etc. Whilst some papers painted the picture as a "government defeat" on the various amendments to the proposed Bill, the temperature in the house read more like a governmental sigh of relief. Make that an all-round sigh of relief.

The gov can now say, "we wanted accountability, but were defeated by your elected representatives".

Cameron attacked Brown's dishonesty on spending cuts at PMQs, whilst outside the primetime show, with only a dozen members in attendance the chamber agreed dishonesty was best dealt with in-house and proceeded to castrate anything that smelt a little too much of "the end of self regulation".

No doubt we'll get another committee which will in effect do what the fees office should have been doing all along, whilst the real issue, the source of public mistrust - accountability - will wait until a few more scandals - and certainly the coming general election are in the past.

We're in the process of uploading the head-spinning sequence from the DVD where the existing self-regulatory bodies for Parliamentary standards are unravelled and exposed. Sir George Young puts in a fine performance - glorious to watch with hindsight and an expenses scandal behind us...
Sir G"nobody has a greater interest in keeping high standards than Members of Parliament"
Interviewer, "errr... the public might have"
Sir G ignores him and continues convincing himself.
Shame he didn't make it to the speakers chair.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Ministry and Mark

Full feature on the Ministry, Radio 4 tomorrow, 6.30pm, the Mark Thomas show.
What will the BBC studio audience make of the law against dishonesty for MPs ?

Unmissable
(with iPlayer - Ed)