Friday, May 29, 2009

Keeping the Labour Whips Onside

Paul Waugh has a blogpost which every single one of you should read. He reports on a Radio 4 programme in which former Labour MP Jane Griffiths lays bare exactly how MPs come to claim expenses they have never been entitled to. Read this and weep.
"I don't drive a car, I never have, so didn't claim any mileage allowance for travel in the constituency. My whip said to me 'You don't claim mileage, why not?'

"I said 'well, because I don't drive a car'. He said 'You must get a taxi sometimes?' I said 'I do sometimes but not that often'. '

"No,' he said, 'There's an allowance of £250 per month for taxis and you don't have to give receipts, you just fill in a form that says £250 for taxis. And he said 'I want you to claim that'.

"So I did because it would get the whips off my back telling me to claim for things. So I had that money that morally I shouldn't have".

You can listen to the programme on iPlayer HERE. This corroborates what Ken Livingstone and other Labour MPs have said. I haven't heard a current or former Conservative MP relate a similar tale but it wouldn't surprise me at all if it happened across the parties in the past. One thing is for sure. It won't in future!

30 comments:

FloTom said...

Yes well Iain we all know whips are dodgy and the whipping of votes through the House of Commons is dodgier still.

It means the governing party can have a weaker argument and win the vote. What kind of democracy is that?

Jim Baxter said...

It's like 'Serpico' isn't it? If you don't take the graft the ones who do fear and ostracise you.

Plato said...

It is a very good prog.

Some of the revelations are eye-popping.

I heard it last night and kept stopping what I was doing as each segment was played.

On a cynical note - I wonder when Morley will announce his departure - during or just after Susan Boyle appears/doesn't on BGT.

no longer anonymous said...

The people who suggested this should be tied to poles outside Parliament. Members of the public should then be armed with baseball bats and asked to form a queue. Each member of the public gets one minute with the bat and the crook.

politicalphilosopher said...

Its quite sad really that the power of the whips is so strong and that our MPs cannot fight them, should they wish for a career in the Commons, without ending up on the backckbenches.

HarveyR said...

If her wikipedia entry is accurate, Jane Griffiths has "history" with both the Labour Party and the bankruptcy court.

That wouldn't invalidate her comments, of course...

Mr Angry said...

If this is true then when the prosecutions start the Whips should be prosecuted for inciting, or aiding and abetting, fraud.

Will said...

It has certainly come to something when "I'm weak and immoral" is a useful defence against accusations of being "greedy and dishonest".

These are people who are able to have me put in prison if I disagree with their collective desires. I care little whether they're in prison or not, but I certainly don't want them in parliament any more.

How can anyone who claims for a taxi they haven't taken still have the brass neck to think they can participate in forming criminal law?

Yak40 said...

And he said 'I want you to claim that'.
Like some sort of gang initiation to make sure there's no one untainted. Scum.

Scary Biscuits said...

It is all sadly reminiscent of the new boy at a factory who gets told off by the shop steward for working too hard and showing the others up. How many factories across the land have been closed because of backward attitudes like these?

Until they start naming names (who was the whip?) can we really be sure they still haven't got it?

jbw said...

I know it has been said before - but just as you think it can't get worse - it does.

Good grief:-(

Simon Too said...

Mr. Angry is right. Incitement to fraud is as much a crime as the fraud itself (and there is also aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the commission of a crime). Indeed, if whips have been inciting or counselling hundreds of their party's MPs to make fraudulent claims, it is much worse than the failings of individual MPs.

Time for the Serious Fraud Office to investigate the whips.

Mind you, if it is a whips' office collectively, there is the question of criminal conspiracy too.

Catosays said...

I live in the blessed Margaret's constituency and the anger felt by everyone is palpable. Not only with Quisling Davies and his £10,000 claim for window frames but with every bloody MP in the land...honest or not.

I've said this before but boiling point is not far off and those in power will rue the day if that point is reached.

orientalsage said...

As with all political stories, the full behind-the-scenes truth emerges over subsequent weeks, or more often, years. Expect this matter to be very fully addressed in the forthcoming memoires from the recently and soon-to-be deposed MPs. They're no doubt eager to settle a few scores in the process. Just don't let the accounts be as mind-numbingly dull as Blunkett's miserable effort.

Radio 4 doing what it does best, and showing up the risibly lightweight effort from Panorama this week.

golfwidow said...

It's also worth reading her blogpost of 14th May regarding the supposedly squeaky clean Martin Salter's expense claims between 1997 and 2001.

Plato said...

Some blogger detective work is required to unearth who the whip that she fingered...

Fausty said...

It's no wonder that MPs have uttered such lame excuses.

1) They didn't want to land their party whips in it;

2) They didn't want to admit that the allowances were in effect a bribe by the whips to keep them in line (instead of representing their constituents);

3) They couldn't finger the Fees Office;

4) They didn't want to incriminate themselves in case they were subsequently prosecuted;

5) They didn't want to step down, losing a year's salary, their exit parachute payments and their pensions.

Some powerful reasons for being as slippery and evasive as possible.

Paul Halsall said...

Here's a nice phrase from Peggy Noonan in the WSJ today:

"Comment-thread conservatives, like their mirror-image warriors on the left ('Worst person in the woooorrrlllddd!') are perpetually agitated, permanently enraged."

Anonymous said...

The thing is hardly any of these people have worked in the private sector, and yet they have convinced themselves that this is how the private sector behaves so they are entitled to match it.

My sister in law is a senior quangoista, and Nu Labour supporter. I remember having a very heated argument with her a few years ago when she explained that if only MPs and their like had deigned to work in the private sector, such were their skills and intelligence, they would be at the very least at board level on an investment bank with all the benefits that offered.

So in return for "sacrificing" themselves in the public sector, they were entitled to compensation for all the rewards they had forgone. You can see this thinking at work in MPs views about their second homes.

I have had no doubt the Whips office used the availablity of MPs expenses as a sort of honey pot. I still don't get how the Inland Revenue failed to kick up a fuss at any stage. Maybe the Chief Commissioner at a critical time (when they passed laws exempting themselves from tax on expenses) was too close to the government of the day?

JuliaM said...

"It has certainly come to something when "I'm weak and immoral" is a useful defence against accusations of being "greedy and dishonest"."

It works in our courts, after all, against even stronger charges, like burglary. Remember, being a drug addict or alcoholic is now considered mitigation...

talwin said...

I wonder if the whips, in cases like this one, are familiar with the term 'aid, abet, counsel or procure'?

Joe Public said...

And HMRC's reaction will be.........?

Delphius1 said...

I pointed this out earlier this month here.

Victor, NW Kent said...

Scary Biscuits

I really was fired from my first job because the Father of the Chapel complained to the National Association of Local Government Officers that I was working too hard and showing them up. So it really did happen. Started a life-long hatred of Unions and the Labour Party.

Anonymous said...

So the Fees Office and party whips were forcing money under false pretences onto MPs. Do I understand this right?

Did we vote in a bunch of 10 year olds unable to think for themselves and unable to tell right from wrong? Or did we vote in a group of morally bankrupt waste that were only too pleased to do exactly as they were told?

Not one of 646 had the guts, the morals, the ethics or the decency to actually spill the beans in 12 years. Not one.

That's why they should ALL go. They knew what was going on but did absolutely nothing to stop it.

David Hughes said...

Trouble is, the whips know where the skeletons are buried, and we - all of us - have not been totally blameless in our lives, have we ? If your future were to depend on these odious, bullying half-wits, would you ignore them or tell them to bugger off ? I think not.
(And the government whips have filled their boots too, haven't they ?)

Michael J said...

Gordon Brown used to say during the banking crisis that "...there should be no reward for failure"
Well, he let one banker off the hook by allowing a huge pension, so he had to stop saying that!

Now he is letting 13 and probably more MPs and Govt ministers off the hook by allowing them to "step down" at the next election.

In any commercial business these people would be fired, not rewarded with another year's salary etc.

Brown is only protecting his, and his friend's, jobs and wrecking the country. Can you imagine how the French are laughing at this mess.

Could a labour politician, for once, do the decent thing and call a general election and call in the police, we need to have at least one of these thieves in jail.

Duncan Cookson said...

Wow, I've just noticed this post and if it's true this is explosive. That basically means that whips are undermining MPs by making them complicit in unethical practices in order to gain leverage over them. There's no other explanation that I can think of for a whip to use the phrase I want you to claim that. What else? Honeytraps with compromising photographs?

Anonymous said...

Michael Portillo said a similar thing on 'This Week' recently. He said that MPs were 'told' to claim things.

jane said...

the whip was David Jamieson, not that it matters, he is out of the House now anyway, any whip would have said the same thing. And I did say things about allowances and expenses, publicly and quite loudly, for several years, and no-one would listen.