Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Out of touch - from different ends of the spectrum

I don't always agree with Harriet Harman, but I'm on her side with regard to Phil Woolas.

His emails and campaign was unbecoming of a Labour representative and his suspension from the party was entirely justified. I have no problem with him seeking to clear his name with regard to the breaches of electoral law, but the evidence itself is damning. He does not deserve to be part of our party, which is why I've supported the open letter on Liberal Conspiracy.

I admit to concern about judges overruling the will of the electorate, but I tend to agree with Gaijin-San that the courts should step in when an election has been won under false pretences, which was essentially what was decided here.

Is the Electoral Court superseding the wishes of the public; is it, as Woolas, Leigh and Winnick suggest, an assault on democracy? I would argue quite the opposite. The Court, in protecting the suffrage of the people of Oldham East are defending democracy from those who would abuse, undermine and damage it. One cannot obtain a mandate from the people, their consent to be represented by you, by lying to them. That is the assault on democracy.
We cannot afford to be less than brutal here, even at the risk of being unfair to Mr Woolas. Blunt as that may seem, the public will not stand for self-indulgent politicians whinging about their lot. If he is able to clear his name and show that the evidence does not relate to him, then the door should be open to a return, but in the meantime, he will best serve his cause and, above all, his party by quietly departing the scene to fight his case through the appeal courts and accept that the people of Oldham and Saddleworth need a new parliamentary representative.

Elsewhere, we find another pair of politicians gloriously out of touch with reality and it features Nadine Dorries again, who has been lobbying for a parliamentary debate on the workings of IPSA, the body which manages the new expenses system for our parliamentarians. Apparently, there is nothing more urgent to Nadine and Adam Afriye than the condition of MPs expenses payments - not cuts to their local councils or the economy in general. IPSA confirm that just 3% of the claims submitted in September are outstanding - all because of errors by those who submitted them. Nadine whinged
Ipsa have been refusing a large number of claims which MPs have been putting forward, not because they are inappropriate claims, but because they have missed out a field on the form or incorrectly completed a form.

It may come as a surprise to some MPs, but if forms aren't filled out correctly, ordinary people don't get money to which they are entitled either. The consequences can be even worse - people are fined for incorrectly completing forms for the taxman. Given that filling out forms is a key role for constituency and parliamentary staff, this doesn't fill you with faith that they are best placed to help you.

You would hope that our MPs would have twigged that losing touch with the electorate is damaging to politics and I'd urge them all to reconnect with the public mood immediately, unless they have given up hope of restoring faith in politics in this country. Failure to grasp this is an insult to the foot soldiers of all parties who wear out shoe leather trying to get you re-elected and above all, it is an insult to the wider electorate. Grow up, stop gazing at your navels and get back to representing all of us.

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