UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

MPs’ expenses — worse than cash for questions?

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Britain’s anti-sleaze chief Sir Christopher Kelly, Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, has said the MPs’ expenses scandal is worse than the infamous cash for questions affair that did so much damage to the John Major adminstration in the 1990s.

In that celebrated scandal, which fatally undermined Tory MP Neil Hamilton’s political career, Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed alleged he had paid two MPs to table parliamentary questions on his behalf.

Then, the envelopes stuffed with cash became the enduring symbols of Westminster sleaze. Today the equivalent in the expenses furore would probably be what? The garden horse-manure? The rented porn movies? Or maybe the most delicious of all: the moat. (Well – we’ve all been there, haven’t we, with the blocked moat misery. Why does it always seem to happen at the weekends?)

MPs squirming under the spotlight now have all said they acted within the rules. Some have even insisted they acted within the spirit as well as the letter of them, however much it might look from the outside that they have been milking the system for all it’s worth.

Punters cash in on Darling’s budget tie choice

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Smokers and top earners were clear losers in Britain’s budget this year, as the government hiked taxes on cigarettes and the highest incomes.

 

But a lucky few must have been cheering in front of their televisions during the 51-minute speech.

Playing the blame game

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President Barack Obama had barely settled into in the White House before he was happy to admit he had “screwed up” over one of his choices for a cabinet job after Tom Daschle withdraw his nomination as health secretary over an income tax controversy.

Even Britain’s leading bankers were moved to apologise to parliament last month over the sector’s indiscretions in the boom years.

Time to reform the Lords?

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Allegations of sleaze have rocked the unelected House of Lords and re-opened the debate about its role in a modern parliamentary system.

The Lords contains senior members of the Church of England, judges, figures from outside the world of politics and nominees from political parties. There is also a rump group of lords elected internally to stay on after a major reform in 1999 sidelined most of the country’s hereditary peers.

Brown’s see-saw poll recovery

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A ComRes/Independent poll this week says Gordon Brown has staged a stunning political recovery and that the Labour party is now just one point behind David Cameron and the Conservatives.

Yet only four days ago an ICM/Guardian survey said Conservative popularity had returned to its summer peak with 45 percent of voter support and a lead of 15 points.

Drawing up the Battle Lines

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Newspapers were in no doubt of the significance of the pre-budget report – this was a defining moment in British politics.

New Labour is no more, they announced, and prudence has been blown away by a massive gamble for the hearts and minds of the electorate before the next election.

Banana politics delight Tories

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miliband.jpgDavid Miliband was photographed clutching a banana at the Labour conference last week in Manchester, much to the delight of his political opponents, inside and outside his party.

Life-size cardboard cut-outs of the grinning Foreign Secretary committing his fruity faux-pas have now appeared all around the Conservative conference at Birmingham’s International Convention Centre.

Labour “lemmings” on tour in Manchester

Britain’s foreign minister David Miliband says he does not want a leadership fight.

But his speech to the Labour party conference in Manchester on Monday was hardly rammed full of ringing endorsements for his Prime Minister either and it won’t end the whispering.

Charles Clarke keeps out of Brown debate

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Charles Clarke refused to fan the flames of the Labour Party revolt when he attended a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat autumn conference in Bournemouth on Sunday.

Charles ClarkeThe former home secretary was appearing a day after Prime Minister Gordon Brown sacked his second senior party member in two days for breaking ranks and calling for a leadership contest.

Abandon Northern towns for the prosperous South?

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mersey.jpgEven the report’s authors say the idea may sound barmy.

But the Policy Exchange, a right-wing thinktank, says it was serious when it called on the government to stop spending money trying to regenerate struggling northern cities and use the cash instead to help their residents relocate to the southeast.

Its report says it is unrealistic to expect cities like Liverpool, Hull and Sunderland to ever regenerate properly. 

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