Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Michael Gove Lances the Boil

David Cameron is encouraging any of his MPs who have faced accusations from the Telegraph to take their case to their constituents and face them in public meetings. One of my regular readers, Crossfire, went to a meeting in Surrey Heath last night, addressed by Michael Gove. Here's his report...

"Michael Gove attended a public meeting at 7.30pm this evening in Camberley in his Surrey Heath Constituency. He called the meeting shortly after the expenses scandal broke to provide the opportunity to answer questions from constituents and to listen to their concerns. By 7pm a large crowd had already gathered at the venue, a church hall near the town centre, together with national media represented by BBC television, Radio 4, and other local radio stations and print media. By the time the meeting commenced there were approximately 3-400 people in attendance.

"Michael opened the meeting with a statement in which he explained his actions and specifically addressed the allegations made against him by the Daily Telegraph who had accused him of 'flipping' his second home, of spending £7000 on furniture for his second home, and of paying £500 for a single night stay in a local hotel. Michael explained, in detail, the events surrounding his house move. He explained that the allegations of 'flipping' were unfounded. He had not changed the designation of his second home to profit from it, or to avoid capital gains tax as was the situation in other cases where the term 'flipping' first became public parlance. Instead he had simply re-designated his London house as his primary residence, as it had become his family's main residence. He had not sold any property or made any profit at the expense of the taxpayer.

"Michael went on to explain the situation regarding his purchase of furniture. He explained that following his election in Surrey Heath he had to furnish 2 homes and had therefore had to buy furniture for his second home. He spent in excess of £7000 but claimed legitimately for this sum. However, he had decided upon reflection, and in response to some of the allegations, that with the benefit of hindsight he should have considering buying cheaper furniture and rather than claiming a lesser sum he had decided simply to repay the full cost of the furniture. Similarly he said that the 1 night stay in a hotel had been decided on the basis of convenience as he had a constituency event late the previous night and again the following morning but on reflection he wished he had taken the time to find more cost-effective accommodation for his family that night - so had again decided to pay the entire sum back.

"Michael then took questions from constituents. The questions were very direct and ranged across the whole spectrum of issues regarding his personal circumstances and the question of how the democratic system needs reform. Michael answered very directly, openly and honestly to all the charges made against him. When asked about the future potential for profiting from purchase of a second home when he sold it in the future he pledged that if any profit were made from it, he would pay any profit made back to the taxpayer – an undertaking which whilst surprising to many of his constituents was well received.

"To call a public meeting whilst public anger is so apparent was a real political gamble. He submitted himself to his critics and showed solidity and integrity under fire and emerged from the evening, if not with his reputation enhanced, then at least with the allegations addressed and with a demonstration of openness and self-effacing honesty to which many paid tribute."

It would be interesting to know of other MPs who are doing this and to have reports from those meetings.


Mickmustgo said...

Seems a bit of a biased report. Where was his 'integrity' when it actually counted ? When he made all the furniture purchases and £500 a night for a hotel etc ? To be fair though his account of his expenses seems transparent enough. I've read Nadine's account of her expenses and can't make head nor tail of them. Totally baffling.

Mike Thomas said...

I hope other MPs caught up in this farrago with dubious expenses claims read this and show the same courage.

Well done Mr. Gove.

Simon said...

Gove has been caught out on the fiddle. No amount of "Truth and Reconcilliation" meetings can change that. If he had any honour he would resign and let the electorate pass judgement. All this mealy mouthed flannel just makes him look worse in my opinion.

He's not brave. Just trying to pull another PR fast one. Had he not done it in the first place and stood up against those that are on the take he might have a bit of credibility left intact. Make no mistake, you wouldn't even have heard about his misdemeanours if it hadn't been for the Telegraph.

Non Runner said...

Michael Gove lances the boil? Michael Gove IS the boil.

Anonymous said...

Just hearing Dave waffle away yet again on Today prog.Seems to me he,s praying for a GE in order to avoid action against his own mates.Since Lisbon (whatever the Gov. may already have done) and cap. punishment not to mention getting out of the non reformable EU will come up again his support for the petition was interesting.

Jane said...

Andrew MacKay on Friday evening.

Jess The Dog said...

He should call a by-election to seal the deal.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have just heard Cameron on Radio 4 and I despair.

strapworld said...

Yes, it certainly takes balls to do this.

I saw a clip on the television news and the audience appeared to be orderly and middle class.

But as I do not know his constituency well, those that do could possibly identify one or two other parts in which he should hold further meetings, to ensure that he gives an opportunity for all to listen to him.

Whilst acknowledging his openness and willingness to go further than most. It will be interesting to discover if all his constituents will forgive him.

But he has certainly set the standard for all other miscreants.

But when the local Association backs the moat cleaner, without allowing constituents the opportunity to listen and question that man, what hope have we? He certainly does not show the political nous of his father and grandfather the Lords Hailsham, does he?

golden_balls said...

this is a conservative blog so we expect bias when it comes to tories.

A good start though and gove sounds like he got through it in good shape.

But i do hope other mps do the same and media report the results.

I'd love to be in the audience when Hogg moran steen the list could go on do theres.

Nick said...

Won't work. Horse, stable door, bolted etc. Best just to go now - clinging on just makes it worse.

Thats News said...

Tuesday Morning Update. How long can Brown & Martin last?

judith said...

Gove has been completely frank about his expenses from the start, and quite honestly there have been several reports about a variety of MPs' claims in the DT that actually contain no impropriety when you examine them closely.

I talked to an MP's office manager very recently (an MP who has been most abstemious in his expenses), and he said that the Fees Office actually thrust allowances at you and encourage you to spend to the limit of the £24k allowance.

I am as sick as anyone here about the claims for cinema systems, moat cleaning, antique mirrors and doing up homes before selling them malarkey, but the accusations are now getting hysterical.

DC is absolutely right - the only thing that will lance this boil now is a General Election.

talwin said...

I posted yesterday that my own MP, David Borrow, the Labour member for South Ribble, when asked for details of his expenses, had told the Lancashire Evening Post, "I've discussed it with a number of colleagues and we were all inclined to do the same thing. If other people aren't doing it, I'm reluctant to do it".

But today, Lindsay Hoyle, the Labour member for Chorley, the contituency adjacent to Mr Borrow's, has today published details of his ACA in the self-same newspaper.

So, pragmatism, public pressure or innocence creating chinks in MPs' 'solidarity' on the expenses issue?

MPs like Borrow who remain reluctant to publish their details will forgive us if we speculate that they have something to hide.

Anonymous said...

Yes and letters in the Redditch Post told us how marvellous Jacqui Smith is. It's a start from Gove but I will wait until the whole thing is put under proper scrutiny before making any judgement one way or the other.

I too was disappointed with Cameron, the simple fact is this runs too deep and too close to home for both Cameron and Brown. If they acted as they should they would have half a cabinet left and in Brown's case he would have to sack himself!!!

Sinbad the sailor said...

I saw him on TV last night and the interviewer asked him will you be voting against the speaker in a vote of no confidence.. YES or NO?

Blah, blah,blah,blah was the answer ..We do notice these politicians don't answer the questions you know and if he was my MP I wouldn't be re electing him .

geraldae said...

Good on Gove. He was exonerated in my eyes when you published an old interview of him where he said he'd moved home as his daughter was starting school. Entirely justified.

I'm not sure about his pledge not to profit from his 2nd home though - what will he do if he makes a loss? No doubt everyone here calling for his head will, erm, call for his head if he passes the loss on to the taxpayer. It's a bit of a lose-lose situation for him.

Poor guy.

Tim Johnson said...

I find the issue of the hotel troubling. What on earth possessed him to try to claim £500 for a night? Somehow I do not think he would have had to look very hard to find something a lot cheaper.
The report also talks about finding accommodation “for his family” – I have never been on a business trip where my employer was prepared to pay extra for my family – nor would I expect them to. Frankly this was taking the piss.
It is right that the money was repaid - but if I were to be a little over enthusiastic in the expenses I claim when submitting a tax return would I get off so lightly? I think not.

headless said...

Noting that the majority of previous comments on this post are somewhat scathing of Michael Gove, some credit must be given for him at least going out there and opening his legs and offering his constituents the opportunity of kicking him in the bowlocks.

Unfortunately, the sitation elsewhere is that our MP's are staying tightlipped. Eg, Bury St Edmunds MP, David Ruffley, on receiving an enquiry from the local paper replied rather feebly ""All these (expenses) are going to be divulged fully in a matter of weeks. I welcome that."

West Suffolk (C) MP Richard Spring "...faxed over a David Cameron leaflet detailing future action on expenses, after the Bury Free Press had asked to speak to him about his own expenses. A spokeswoman for Mr Spring said in an email: "He will abide by the statement's contents and as and when he submits expenses they will of course be put on line.""

(Article is here: http://www.buryfreepress.co.uk/news/Local-MPs-remained-tightlipped-as.5268418.jp)

I consider myself a Tory supporter and was impressed by Cameron's performance on BBC this morning. Sadly he (and we) are being let down by our local constituency MP's not following suit.

"We" may not be so bad as the Labour lot, but it is shaming that we are not prepared, in this day and age, to be much more open.

Tory MP's need to be showing that they are proactive not reactive.

Ed West said...

Good on him for facing the music. I would have packed a revolver and a cyanide capsule if I was him. At least he isn't weasling out of his responsibility, like so many.

D P Dance said...

Brave! I doubt if the good people of Camberley had plans to lynch him.

As for his choice of hotel, he stayed at the Pennypark hotel. Well, read what booking.com have to say abou this hotel:

In 123 acres of rolling Surrey parkland, this stunning manor house was originally built in 1849. Today, it houses a 5-star luxury hotel with a superb spa, spectacular bars and 2 fine restaurants.…

Mr Gove obviously appreciates the finer things in life, at taxpayers' expence.

Kate. said...

It was a gamble, and one that may not pay off..

Anonymous said...

Nice try but in percentage terms how many of his electorate were at the meeting?

Alex said...

I won't comment on the propriety or otherwise of Mr Gove's expenses, but full credit to him for calling a meeting and stating his position.

Actually, I didn't think the thousands he spent on furhishing his second home seemed at all excessive. I am always staggered by the insurance value of just all the kitchen items in our house, let alone everything else that make a house habitable.

Martin said...

All of them who could be bother to turn up.

Anonymous said...

The main issue for any "miscreant" candidates is how well their opponents can play their behaviour at the next election. And their majority too, obviously. Gove seems safe enough, though in these circumstances a high profile can be a double-edged sword.

The more complex the explanation for the behaviour, the more problems the candidate will face.

Those with simpler black/white soundbitable explanations will fare better.

Without mentioning any names, I've read an explanation recently which is so confusing I still don't understand it. Even with the best will in the world it leads one to suspect obsfuscation, and I suspect that's the way the lectorate will see it too.

Paul Halsall said...

I think this is a biased report, but as I think those of us on the left need to start preparing for a post-Labour government we should hope to see more people like Gove (pro-arts and culture; clearly able to argue a point; and as far as I know pro-Europe) in top Tory ranks.

Anonymous said...

Dissolve Parliament immediately.

The public - as well as the Parliament/media/authorities - need at least a month to get clear exactly who has;

1.) stolen/defrauded and hence face criminal investigation

2.)exceeded the spirit of the rules (the moats/TV's etc)and face a damn good grilling from their constituents and subsequent deselection.

3.been TOTALLY trustworthy and without any blame for their expenses claims and can continue in the knowledge they are to be trusted by their constituents.

To carry on with Parliament now until July is unrealistic.

The expenses system needs to be re-written by the end of May (listen to Steve Easterbrook,CEO of McDonalds UK,appearing on last week's Question Time, who cannot believe that cash expenses has been handled in this way - it would never be so in any business in this country and he rightly says this can be sorted within 48 hrs).
Once the system is sorted,we then have a General Election circa early July.
There is now a constitutional crisis,not just surrounding the behaviour of the Speaker,but the whole Parliament.It must be dissolved and the whole thing re-built with the electorate deciding who remains an MP,which current MP's are not re-elected and which new MP's are elected (hopefully a load of Independents,as the whole Party system has corrupted the way Parliament behaves,especially under the Brown administration which does politics before anything,including the safety and wellbeing of this fine country.
By the way,how interesting that it takes a man who runs a chain of fast food outlets to bring the greatest clarity to the table.

Mirtha Tidville said...

I`m amazed (well not really) that people are having a go at Michael Gove for calling a public meeting about this issue. Every single one of his constituents were given the opportunity to question him personally.....dont knock it peeps...its what each and every one of the greedy barstewards should be doing....

Wish mine would..although from what I hear Mr Malik might be answering to the Police first...lets hope so eh..

View from the Solent said...

You're a party-pooper Ian. Why wasn't your banner '.. Pricks the Boil', thus opening the floodgates to a torrent of Carry On jokes ?

Jon Forest said...

While MPs who have defrauded the taxpayer should be jailed and those who have obviously manipulated the system for their own profit (through "flipping", for example) should be sacked, a number of MPs who have been featured in the Telegraph appear to me to have done little wrong.
Gove may well be one of the latter category but the redesignation of his second home means he has questions to answer.
It is neither against the rules, nor the spirit of the rules, to seek help with the necessary expenses of a second home (in cases where a second home is necessary for geographical reasons).
You can argue that some of the furniture etc purchased by MPs has been unnecessarily expensive but buying a £1200 television when you might think they should have made do with a £700 version is not the same as declaring for a non-existent mortgate.
As for Mr Gove, only the detail of his spending on his "second" homes could tell us whether he "flipped" for financial reasons or, as he says, for family ones. I haven't seen anything damning reported (no dry rot treatments etc), unless others know different.
Personally, I would not expect MPs to repay profits made on their second homes unless they were also protected from any losses. Investments can go down as well as up.

Anonymous said...

I would respectfully suggest that his goose is cooked either way.

Many would have already made up their minds as to his guilt and will act accordingly at the next election.

Did he vote for Transparency on MP’s expenses I wonder?

Anonymous said...

He had not sold any property or made any profit at the expense of the taxpayer.

Yet - I presume he has pledged to handover any gains arising on subsequent disposals - or is he saving that up to bolster his meagre MP's pension.

Of course his boss is sitting on a c300K capital gain on his Cotswold cottage courtesy of our providing a c£300k mortgage - so perhaps this is one boil he didn't want to lance?

No Society said...

Will read the media take on Mr. Gove later but I believe the initiative / task of facing constituents is his job so well done for attending this HR performance review.

Too many unanswered questions for me.

(i) Why does he need a second home in first place? –

a. Surrey Heath is catered by South West trains Farnborough to Waterloo and takes 38mins around 7.30am each weekday. 10min walk Westminster.

b. £7000 for furnishings is the daily equivalent of a £100/night hotel for 70days in constituency p.a.(>ave.) and comes without risk of capital loss to taxpayer.

(ii) Why did the family need to be in the constituency on the night a hotel cost £500 and when did he repay it?

a. His constituency secretary, if not himself, would surely have been familiar with economies in the area and reasonable cost of local hotels

Though by no means in league with the headline scum, and stretching the Wholly, Exclusively and necessarily test, I just don’t accept that he carries integrity with the moral compass test. If the constituents are truly happy then the ballot box will speak. We reap what we sow.

Cath said...

Would love to know where this was publicised - I live in Surrey Heath and wld certainly have gone if I had known about it.

not an economist said...

It would be a shame if Gove was deselected as a result of this furore. I regard him as being one of the Tory Party's more effective front benchers.

Premier League Wolf said...

While he is to be credited for having the balls to face the angry public, repaying the money is undoubtedly a calculated gamble at trying to hang onto his seat.

Unless Kirkbride stands down or is deselected in Bromsgrove I am willing to stand against her as an independant conservative at the next election on a pledge of being willing to follow the conservative whip should I be elected. In my opinion she is pretending nothing wrong has been done. Sorry but I dont think her proclaimed innocence will wash with the Bromsgrove electorate and she should go. I am not a conservative party member.

Anonymous said...

Old school Tories will learn the hard way...

I'm really disappointed in the handsome and charming Ed Vaizey. What a let down...

I always suspected he was a 'career politician' anyway. Especially after those silly comments he made recently > when he was in Oxford Literary Festival with Iain.

>>>>"Someone asked about Barack Obama and how he had inspired a generation. With what, asked Ed. By constantly repeating the mantra of "Change we can believe in"? "OK, I can do that too," said Ed, "but I'd prefer to treat people as adults."<<<

Well those words have come back to haunt Ed Vaizey. Shame shame shame on handsome Ed for dodgy expense claims!

Perhaps now Ed knows why people are inspired by the thought of real hope and change.

Anonymous said...

To Premier League Wolf:

Interesting point you raise about being prepared to stand as an independent Conservative at the next election.

I would go slightly further however, in a fresh start for the next parliament.

Bearing in mind this is not a party political issue, in so much that members from all parties are 'at it' to some extent, what is needed is for people to come forward a la Martin Bell in 1997 and stand against the sleaziest of the sleazy, hopefully on an unopposed basis - other parties to stand aside to give the independent a clear run.

Obviously there would be a limit to the number of campaigns that could be run like this, and that the main parties would still hold the vast majority of seats, but a message should be sent out loud and clear the British public will not tolerate this kind of behaviour anymore.

Anonymous said...

It was a wise move holding the meeting in a church. How many people would feel comfortable letting rip in a church.
I live in Surrey Heath and would like to have asked Mr Gove why he does not. Elstead is not in his constituency I believe it would come under Guildford. The MP for Guildford does not claim 2nd home allowence unlike Mr Gove who has claimed full amount since he has been elected.

Anonymous said...

Vaizey-another of WISTERIA Dave's millionaire mates in the trough.

Premier League Wolf said...

To Anonymous (5:24pm)

I am not suggesting that Kirkbride is the sleaziest of of a very sleazy bunch or suggesting a Martin Bell like campaign.

I am undoubtedly a conservative supporter though not a member. I hate the Brown and new Labour government with a passion but the thought that the incoming government could be significantly populated with people like Kirkbride who would like to weather the storm and pass this off as a error of judgement by her husband while insisting that what she did was "within the rules" sickens me to the stomach.

Kirkbride just happens to be a sitting MP on my patch in Worcestershire. I sincerely hope that the Bromsgrove Conservative Party has the backbone to deselect her and offer the Bromsgrove electorate a fresh Conservative candidate at the next election. If they don't deselect her then the only alternative is for someone to stand against her as an independant conservative so that the electorate have the option.

In football parlance the chant for Kirkbride would simply be "You're not fit to wear the shirt". Frankly as a conservative voter I expect higher morals from all Conservative candidates when it comes to spending public money than I do from Labour and for that reason she has to be held to account.

Stephen Gash said...

We all know Michael Gove is a carpet bagger. However, being a sofa bagger too is just intolerable.

Anonymous said...

A reason tactical move by Gove, if you've been caught out with no reasonable excuse except that everyone was doing it and you weren't as bad as some of the others, the best bet is to come clean before as sympathetic an audience as you can muster.

As someone who stopped voting Conservative because of the sleeze associated with the Major years, in light of Michael Gove's consistant neo-con type position on foreign affairs (particularly the Middle East, coupled with the recent expenses disclosures, his presence on the shadow front bench devalues Cameron's claims to transparency and compassion.