Tag Archives: Parliamentary

MPs launch inquiry into Tory government handling of Covid-19 crisis

On the same day families of those who died (needlessly?) of Covid-19 told Boris Johnson he could not hide from them, MPs said they were starting to take evidence in their own Coronavirus inquiry.

I would be leaping to sing their praises, but – unlike the Graun – I’m not convinced an inquiry by MPs is entirely independent, and I’ll be keen to find out if anybody offering evidence is turned away.

Johnson is under pressure to order an independent inquiry after 153,000 people signed an online petition.

Obviously these are people with reason to believe the Tory response fell short of the mark (as we all should, in This Writer’s opinion).

Organisers’ complaints can be read in this Metro article, and I would certainly hope that some of them will be asked to submit evidence to the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Coronavirus.

Families of those who have died will be able to give submissions in writing, via video call, or in person – if they are invited.

It isn’t a judge-led inquiry and its findings won’t have the weight of one; it’s clear from the comments in the Guardian article that some of the APPG members have already made up their minds.

But it’s a start.

Frontline workers and relatives of people who have died are invited to visit the March for Change website where they may make submissions via a dedicated portal, anonymously if they wish.

Professionals and trade bodies can submit evidence via email.

I reckon it’s worth a shot.

Source: Cross-party group of MPs to lead first UK coronavirus inquiry | Politics | The Guardian

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Racist coward Home Secretary uses Parliamentary privilege to label Jeremy Corbyn a racist

Un-Priti: the smirking, smug Ms Patel used Parliamentary privilege to lie that Jeremy Corbyn was a racist, and to spread falsehoods after Labour MPs complained about her own misbehaviour.

Priti Patel: what a nasty piece of work she is!

This Writer feels comfortable in calling her a racist; she supported – by which I mean she voted for – the racist legislation that created the “hostile environment” policy at the Home Office, leading to the Windrush scandal.

And of course she is a close ally of Boris Johnson, who has proved himself to be a racist on many occasions.

Perhaps, then, she was trying to deflect attention away from her party’s, her government’s, and her own racism when she smeared Jeremy Corbyn as a racist in the House of Commons. The Independent reports:

Answering questions about recent protests linked to the death of George Floyd in the US, Ms Patel turned her fire on Keir Starmer for supposedly not breaking with the policies of his predecessor.

She said: “I’m saddened that the leader of the opposition has effectively failed to depart from the divisive, hateful, racist politics of its former leader.”

Ms Patel did not make clear exactly which of Mr Corybn’s policies she regarded as racist.

She could not; Mr Corbyn is said to be the only MP in Parliament who has voted against every piece of legislation that contained even the slightest possibility of a racist application.

https://twitter.com/Cornish_Damo/status/1272578747946991617

And she knows her claim was a lie – otherwise she would have made it outside the Commons chamber, where she would not be protected from prosecution by Parliamentary privilege. As it is, her words come across as cowardly, craven. And she was unable to support her claims in the Commons Chamber. Here’s The Independent again:

Her allegation came in response to a question from the Conservative MP for Wakefield, Imran Ahmad Khan, in which he referenced a letter to Ms Patel last week from black and minority ethnic Labour MPs – including a number of members of Sir Keir’s front bench – who accused her of using her own experiences of racism to “gaslight the very real racism faced by black people and communities across the UK”.

“It must have been a very different home secretary who as a child was frequently called a Paki in the playground, a very different home secretary who was racially abused in the streets or even advised to drop her surname and use her husband’s in order to advance her career,” she told MPs. “A different home secretary recently characterised … in The Guardian newspaper as a fat cow with a ring through its nose, something that was not only racist but offensive, both culturally and religiously. So when it comes to racism, sexism, tolerance or social justice, I will not take lectures from the other side of the house.”

Mr Ahmad Khan said: “The home secretary and I, along with other Conservative colleagues, have been subject to torrents of hateful prejudice and frankly racist abuse from the left’s legions outside – as well as, in the case of my right honourable friend, sadly from sources on the benches opposite – as we refuse to conform to their prejudices.

Last week’s letter came after Ms Patel told the Commons she would not “take lectures” from Labour MPs about her understanding of the issue of structural racism.

“We all have our personal stories of the racism that we have faced, whether it has been being defined by the colour of our skin or the faith we choose to believe in,” [it said].

“Our shared experiences allow us to feel the pain that communities feel when they face racism, they allow us to show solidarity towards a common cause; they do not allow us to define, silence or impede on the feelings that other minority groups may face.”

The letter was coordinated by the shadow community cohesion minister, Naz Shah, and signed by senior Labour MPs including Diane Abbott, Tulip Siddiq, Kate Osamor, Chi Onwurah, Seema Malhotra, Dawn Butler and Rosena Allin-Khan.

For perspective: just one of the people who signed the Labour letter – Diane Abbott – receives more racist abuse on a regular basis than every other member of Parliament put together.

Priti Patel’s claim that she will “not take lectures” from someone like that is an insult of the grossest kind – made worse by the fact that, even though Ms Abbott’s experience of racism is so much more acute, she, along with her colleagues, had written that their experiences “do not [italics mine] allow us to define, silence or impede on the feelings that other minority groups may face” – which was exactly what Ms Patel was trying to do.

How two-faced of the smirking Ms Patel – who, let’s not forget, was forced to resign in disgrace from a previous Tory cabinet after trying to conduct her own foreign policy, contrary to that of the government of the day.

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Corbyn’s ‘worst meeting as leader’? No – just biased reporting from the Graun

Cosy at the top: Concerns raised by MPs at Monday’s Parliamentary Labour Party meeting have no substance and should not bother either Jennie Formby or Jeremy Corbyn – but the fact that they are being allowed to discuss these matters openly, in violation of party rules, lays open the double-standard that may make the party unelectable.

On the face of it, it looked bad.

“Labour MPs tore into Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit strategy at a party meeting on Monday night,” according to The Guardian.

The same report went on to say: “The parliamentary Labour party (PLP) meeting came amid anger about how Corbyn’s office had handled harassment complaints against two senior Labour figures, as well as an investigation into Labour antisemitism by the equalities watchdog.”

But it turns out this is nothing more than hyperbole from the paper that misrepresented Labour’s new commitment that every UK citizen should have a chance to succeed as “Corbyn to drop social mobility”.

In fact, it was reasonable for MPs to want to re-examine Labour’s Brexit policy after large falls in voter share at the European Parliament election and the Peterborough by-election.

Reading between the lines, the regrettable aspect of the report is that it shows no willingness on the party of Jeremy Corbyn’s critics to accept that they are at least partly responsible for the confusion over Labour’s position.

MPs – and indeed shadow cabinet members – who know a divided party cannot win elections went into the most recent campaigns spouting any old nonsense that came into their heads, rather than the official party line.

Where were their apologies?

This ties in with Mr Corbyn’s plea for MPs not to publicly attack party staff or shadow cabinet members, which was knocked by Lloyd Russell-Moyle at the meeting, to his shame.

Let us be clear: MPs pleading for the right to attack other Labour members is a demand for rights that rank-and-file party members don’t have.

The reason This Writer was expelled from Labour wasn’t the false charges of anti-Semitism that were made about me – it was the fact that I had discussed in public the failures of the party machine to correctly address the issue – even though these were matters of public knowledge and it was my job as a journalist to report on them.

(From this it should be clear that the party’s National Constitutional Committee was demanding that Labour-supporting journalists must show a bias towards the party that conflicts with their duty to report facts. This would, of course, prevent any honourable journalist from being a party member or supporting it. Perhaps NCC boss Maggie Cosins didn’t think of that.)

It was clear that, as a rank-and-file Labour member, I was expelled for discussing internal party issues in public – but that is exactly the privilege Mr Russell-Moyle was demanding at Monday’s meeting.

That is not acceptable. There must be a single rule for all party members, no matter how high in the party hierarchy they have risen.

Steering this back to Brexit, it is clear that – had MPs honoured the obligation to support party policy, rather than criticise it or contradict it – Labour could have won a far larger voter share.

And Labour’s policy really isn’t that hard to understand.

As long as we have a Conservative government that is determined to honour what is now widely accepted as a fatally-flawed plebiscite (consider the recent Swiss decision to invalidate a referendum result after it was decided voters had received false information), Brexit is going to happen.

Labour’s policy is to limit the amount of harm this will cause to the general public.

This policy is to be carried out initially by the measures available to the party in Parliament, as laid out by Mr Corbyn many times in the past.

It would also be carried out in policies which address the effect that Brexit would have on the lives of UK citizens – tackling the so-called “burning injustices” that Theresa May said she would solve, back in 2016, about which she then did exactly nothing.

It’s actually a winning combination, if only the party blabbermouths would shut up and think for a moment.

Of course, the real solution to Tory Brexit is a general election and a Labour government, but that is a dream as long as the same party blabbermouths continue to preach division. And they will.

As for the issues around harassment and anti-Semitism: If complaints have been made, then these matters are under investigation and it is not only inappropriate but itself a disciplinary matter if MPs discuss them in public.

So the words allegedly said by Jess Phillips to Jeremy Corbyn – “If you abuse women in the Labour party and they’re a friend of yours, they get away with it” – should result in her suspension from the party while her own transgression is investigated, as it seems she is attempting trial-by-media.

But of course, the Labour leadership won’t take any such action, because there really is a two-tier system in place and Ms Phillips is on the level that need fear no disciplinary action, no matter what she does.

This is the matter for concern – not the whinges of a few out-of-order MPs.

Mr Corbyn has been told about it. Labour general secretary Jennie Formby has been told. So have leading members of the NCC.

The general public see that.

And perhaps that hypocritical double-standard is what will keep Labour out of office, more than anything else.

Source: Jeremy Corbyn lambasted by Labour MPs in ‘worst meeting as leader’ | Politics | The Guardian

Sunday Times reporter disgraces himself AGAIN – and Labour MPs let him lead them by the nose

The Sunday Times reporter who published ‘fake news’ claims that Jeremy Corbyn’s office had interfered in more than 100 anti-Semitism investigations and that the Labour leader had an “anti-Semite army” has put his foot in it again.

Gabriel Pogrund responded to criticism of the story he co-wrote in the April 7 edition of that “newspaper” by tweeting another leaked Labour document – a letter from general secretary Jennie Formby, discussing the coverage. Unfortunately his own commentary completely misrepresents that letter, according to another Twitter user.

Here’s Mr Pogrund’s tweet. Take screenshots quickly because it may not stay up for long!

He went on to state that “Formby also says the most extreme abuse highlighted by The Sunday Times “is being treated extremely seriously by the Party and we hope the NCC will hear it soon as a matter of urgency.” Refers to abuse of Jewish MPs Margaret Hodge and Ruth Smeeth”.

And he tweeted, “BUT Formby doesn’t say why Labour readmitted members who spread conspiracy theories re. Rothschilds controlling the world, Theresa May plotting Manchester bombing abd Jews plotting 9/11. Or why “Heil Hitler” member has not been expelled. (Labour denies none of the above.)”

His claims have been comprehensively debunked by a Twitter user going by the handle “leftworks”. Here’s the thread:

You can see that there is clear cause to doubt Mr Pogrund’s integrity in this matter (as there has been previously).

But it seems he has done his damage.

According to the Huffington Post‘s Paul Waugh (himself no friend to Mr Corbyn), the usual suspects were causing trouble over the false information in the Sunday Times at this week’s meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party – treating it as if it were true.

And Stella Creasy retweeted details of a motion that went before the PLP – again treating the “revelations” in the ST fiction as though they were accurate:

The motion goes far beyond what should be required at the moment.

The demand for information allowing MPs to establish for themselves whether the information in the ST story is accurate is reasonable – MPs want to put their minds at ease.

But there’s no reason to lump a demand for the party leadership to publish its response to the EHRC investigation on alleged Labour anti-Semitism. That is a separate matter from this.

There’s no reason to demand a statement of solidarity with the treacherous Jewish Labour Movement which, under the terms of Labour Party membership, should by rights have its affiliation removed and the memberships of those members of that organisation who are also members of Labour revoked, as they have made it clear, not only that they will not help get a Labour government elected – they will actively try to prevent the election of a Labour governent led by Jeremy Corbyn. That’s against party rules.

And there is no reason to “commit to a fully independent complaints process for all allegations of racism, bullying and harassment by party members”. That said, This Writer thinks it is an excellent idea, as the party’s National Constitutional Committee has proved completely incapable of acting properly in this matter – hence its nickname: “National Kangaroo Court”.

Of course, the format of this independent complaints process would be contentious, and no MP with an interest in the result of complaints would be able to contribute to the process of deciding what form it takes. That means no member of Labour Friends of Israel, the Jewish Labour Movement, or MP claiming to have been abused could decide how abuse allegations are handled.

There are ways of handling complaints that could be independent and impartial – and you should take close note of the fact that the word “impartial” was omitted from the motion – but I have serious doubts that they will be considered.

Yet again we see Labour MPs acting improperly in the wake of allegations against the party’s leadership.

And then they complain when local members call for their removal.


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Labour’s brand of justice: The disturbing implications behind Formby’s anti-Semitism figures

Witch-hunt: Jennie Formby’s figures on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party make about as much sense as some of the accusations against innocent party members.

Why are people welcoming the diabolical figures on Labour anti-Semitism provided to Labour MPs by Jennie Formby a week after she said she doesn’t answer to those people?

It seems to this victim of Labour’s policy on anti-Semitism that the most telling information lies in what Ms Formby did not report.

For example:

Her report refers to cases between April 2018 and January this year; why not to all cases, including the backlog left behind by former general secretary Ian McNicol? That’s what the Parliamentary Labour Party’s motion was about, after all – “a backlog of antisemitism cases”.

She says that during the period to which she refers, 211 party members were issued with a “Notice of Investigation” and 96 had their membership suspended immediately, but only 96 cases have been decided by the NEC disputes panel(s). What is happening with the other 211, considering Ms Formby said last week that the backlog of cases had been cleared?

Of the 96, six members’ cases were referred “for further investigation”. So these cases may be added to the uncleared backlog.

A further 42 were referred to the National Constitutional Committee, which has made only 18 decisions. This means another 24 cases may be added to the number outstanding.

That makes a total of 241 cases not cleared, out of 673 accusations, roughly one-third of the total. That’s a considerable number.

But Ms Formby said the backlog had been cleared: “Reforms have enabled us to clear all of the previously outstanding antisemitism cases from the investigation and disputes panel stages of the process.”

Oh, but when she referred to the backlog of cases, she meant those left behind by the previous general secretary Iain McNicol, didn’t she?

Was Marc Wadsworth’s case included among the expulsions listed here? He was expelled in April last year, after all.

What about my own case, from November?

Both were part of the backlog left behind by Mr McNicol. If they were part of Ms Formby’s statistics, then her figures are inaccurate.

Both expulsions were also based on lies.

And both form the basis of potential court action against the Labour Party, meaning that – if they are included among the expulsions listed by Ms Formby – she was doubly wrong to do so; the outcome of these cases remains in doubt and it is misleading not to mention this.

For that matter, why not apply the questions around my case to all the others? In how many of them were Labour’s own rules on anti-Semitism actually honoured?

For example, in my case an incident in which I referred – entirely correctly – to a conspiracy involving former Israeli Embassy officer Shai Masot was deliberately misrepresented as perpetuating the anti-Semitic stereotype of the “global Jewish conspiracy”.

I refuted the claim thoroughly in my statement of defence to the NCC panel that heard my case, and no attempt was made to suggest that my argument was not persuasive.

The NCC panel simply ignored all the evidence and decided to call me guilty anyway.

Is that Labour Party justice?

Even the cases that were dismissed have left questions to be answered.

Ms Formby’s report says they were dismissed because there was not “sufficient evidence of a breach of party rules to proceed with an investigation”.

That looks like an attempt to dodge having to say that any of these members were falsely accused.

But we live in times when many of us believe that a large number of members have been falsely accused, so it is wrong of Ms Formby to sidestep that question.

Furthermore, if any have in fact been falsely accused, then who were the accusers, and what action has been taken against them?

Or has Ms Formby done nothing at all about such liars?

No doubt many among the Parliamentary Labour Party, for whom she wrote her report, would welcome an announcement that she has overlooked such heinous crimes against the innocent.

But I wonder what the membership at large as to say about it?


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Seriously, Simon Danczuk? You think Labour MPs should reject the will of the party?

If this report on politics.co.uk is accurate, it seems some so-called Labour MPs are too big for their boots and need to be kicked out.

The article claims that the Parliamentary Labour Party would try to remove Jeremy Corbyn if he becomes their leader, in a move that would be seen by the grassroots party as arrogant and undemocratic.

Any such rejection of the will of the Party is likely to cause a backlash that will break the MPs behind it – and quite right, if they are willing to split the party in order to service their own bloated egotism.

The article quotes Simon Danczuk as saying Labour MPs would “not put up” with Corbyn’s “crazy left-wing” policies.

If this is correct, perhaps Mr Danczuk didn’t realise which party he was joining when he signed up. He’s in the Labour Party, not with the Conservatives – although, with views like these, he can cross the floor to be with his real friends any time he likes.

“Am I going to put up with some crazy left wing policies that he is putting forward and traipse through the voting lobby to support him? It’s not going to happen is it? So I would give him about twelve months if he does become leader.”

The report states that, under Labour party rules, MPs can force a new leadership election with the support of as few as 47 MPs.

So what?

If Labour’s membership wants a left-wing leader, after the policies of all the right-wing neoliberals failed them twice, then they won’t brook any nonsense from the idiot right-wingers and will simply eject them, rather than the leader they want.

Yet the apparently-deluded Danczuk seems determined to deny the facts of the matter. If his view is widely-held in the PLP, the fact that Labour lost an election that should have been easy pickings suddenly becomes far easier to understand.

With a new poll suggesting Corbyn is set to win the leadership by a landslide, many Labour MPs are now calling for the whole race to be suspended and re-run.

“[The race is] not even tenable. We’re moving towards a position where [re-running] it is necessary,” Danczuk told LBC.

No, we’re not.

We’re moving towards a position where the resignation or removal of anti-democratic MPs like Danczuk is not only necessary but vital.

Source: Labour MPs plotting coup against Jeremy Corbyn ‘on day one’ – Westminster

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Labour MPs shout down Harman’s proposed support for child tax credit cut

Embattled: Harriet Harman.

Embattled: Harriet Harman.

The Parliamentary Labour Party turned against interim leader Harriet Harman when she called on members to support her claim that they should not oppose the Conservative Government’s plan to cut tax credits, thereby increasing poverty – including child poverty.

At a PLP meeting yesterday, 20 members spoke against her call for the party to abstain on the government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill next week. Only five supported her refusal to table reasoned amendments.

And it seems likely that she was set to face more anger at a Shadow Cabinet meeting this morning.

According to George Eaton in The New Statesman:

  • Labour whips expect 60-80 MPs to vote against the welfare bill in defiance of Harman’s stance.
  • There was “no consensus on the child tax credit changes”.
  • Harman’s critics will be looking to her replacements for a clear commitment to pursue a different course.

The article states that rebel Andy MacDonald said the Tories’ proposed two-child limit on tax credits was a regression to the days of “Mao Tse-Tung and King Herod”.

And Frank Field, former welfare reform minister and current work and pensions select committee chair, shouted at Harman that Labour had to defend the “three million strivers” who faced losing £1,000 from tax credit cuts.

Harman is said to have warned the meeting that “If we oppose everything, people will not hear those things we are opposing and why”. Clearly, then, she is in favour of the kind of “triangulation” this blog was discussing yesterday. It represents an abandonment of principles – don’t forget that Labour introduced tax credits – that This Blog cannot support.

Harman is also said to have pointed out that Labour voted against 13 social security bills in the last Parliament but that only its rejection of the bedroom tax was noticed. In fact, this is probably over-optimistic. How many times have commenters to this blog and others claimed that Labour MPs sat on their thumbs throughout the whole of the Coalition Parliament and failed to oppose any of the changes? Those people were, of course, absolutely wrongVox Political has chronicled Labour’s opposition to the Tories’ dismantling of social security in considerable detail, but it seems the public prefer a juicy lie to the hard facts.

In fact, this demonstrates very clearly that Labour should oppose more Tory policies. Yes, campaign against the lowering of Employment and Support Allowance, the scrapping of maintenance grants for poor students, the abolition of child poverty targets and tax credit cuts such as the reduction in the income threshold – but don’t abandon children to poverty and destitution; that is not the Labour way.

One thought that is of particular concern to This Writer concerns what will happen to young people who become impoverished as a result of the Tory plan. What will they have to do in order to survive? At a time when child abuse is high on the polical agenda – the inquiry into historical child sex crimes has only just opened – it seems this Conservative Government is opening the door for further such incidents – aided by an interim Labour leader who has faced accusations of her own in regard to such matters.

Doesn’t it?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Nicola Sturgeon’s intellectual dishonesty exposed in her failure to say ‘Don’t vote Tory’

150421SNPmanifesto

Isn’t the similarity between the SNP manifesto and Labour’s astonishing?

Shall we count some similarities? Yes, let’s.

Both parties want to scrap the bedroom tax and zero-hours contracts, reverse the privatisation of the NHS, increase NHS spending and integrate health and social care.

They both support a 50p top tax rate, the mansion tax, the bankers’ bonus tax,  abolishing non-dom status and ending the married couple’s tax allowance.

They would both increase the minimum wage to more than £8 (although Labour would promote the higher Living Wage as well), and both want benefits to rise in line with inflation.

Both parties would cut tuition fees across the UK and increase free childcare (to 25 hours per week (Labour) or 30 hours (SNP)).

Both would set a target for house-building, although Labour’s – at 200,000 – is twice as high as that of the SNP.

Both would oppose any moves to take the UK out of the European Union, and both support the current level of overseas aid spending.

Both Labour and the SNP would abolish the House of Lords.

And both would implement the Smith Commission’s proposals in full, along with further powers for Scotland (differing on the details – Labour would not wish to grant full fiscal autonomy due to fears of a £7.6 billion ‘black hole’).

With so many similarities, it seems strange that Nicola Sturgeon has claimed an alliance with the SNP is necessary to “pull Labour leftwards”.

Isn’t it more likely that she is hoping to claim success in this regard, during a future alliance, despite having done nothing to achieve it?

All she’d have to do is wait for Labour to put through the relevant legislation, after all.

But what seems most strange, considering the overwhelming similarity with Labour, is the similarly-overwhelming negative campaign against Labour, on the grounds that Labour is too right-wing! There’s simply no justification for it – other than a hunger for power. This leads to another question:

If the SNP wants a louder voice in the whole of the UK, and wants to “lock the Tories out of government”, then why hasn’t the SNP told the electorate not to vote Tory?

Nicola Sturgeon is perfectly happy to tell Scottish voters not to vote Labour. About the Tories? Not a word. Perhaps she thinks they’re not a threat but there were nearly half a million Conservative voters north of the border in 2010 and with Labour and the SNP at each other’s throats, the right-wingers have freedom to campaign without hindrance.

To the best of this writer’s knowledge, Nicola Sturgeon has never said: “Don’t vote Tory.”

The motive seems obvious: She needs a large Parliamentary Conservative Party, with many seats in England and Wales, blocking Labour from its majority – she she can blackmail Ed Miliband into a deal with the SNP. Considering the similarity between their manifestos, an alliance of any kind between Labour and the SNP isn’t really necessary anyway, so this can only be about one thing:

Power.

Ms Sturgeon is desperate for the SNP to gain the balance of power in Westminster, so she can blackmail Labour into providing what she wants.

And what does a nationalist political party always want?

Mark these words.

If the SNP has its way, we’ll be looking at the break-up of the UK again very soon. It’s the only way her actions make any sense.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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MP resigns as Tory over lobbying claim – it must be time to sign the anti-corruption e-petition

Out of the Party: But would Patrick Mercer have resigned if a major TV documentary wasn't about to reveal allegations against him?

Out of the Party: But would Patrick Mercer have resigned if a major TV documentary wasn’t about to reveal allegations against him?

Tory MP Patrick Mercer has resigned from the Parliamentary Conservative Party to “save … embarrassment” over a BBC Panorama programme alleging he had broken lobbying rules.

Mercer, MP for Newark, will remain as an Independent but will not stand for re-election in 2015.

The coalition government is committed to setting up a statutory register of lobbyists – companies who influence government policy, often by paying current and former MPs for advice and guidance. But, you know, it’s one of those matters that just doesn’t seem to make it onto the legislative programme – like proper bank regulation and measures to make tax avoidance impossible.

Many of you know that I have a strong opinion about this. That is why I started an e-petition to ban MPs from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest. Lobbying would definitely be affected by such a ban.

The text runs as follows:

We call on HM Government for new legislation to ensure that:

i. No member of Parliament may speak or vote in a debate on legislation which could financially benefit any commercial operation in which they have a financial interest; and

ii. No member of Parliament may speak or vote in a debate on legislation which could financially benefit any commercial operation which has made – or currently makes – donations to themselves personally or their political party.

We believe this is necessary to prevent corruption. It is also in accord with the spirit of political reform supported by the government.

I’m not saying Mr Mercer has been engaging in unacceptable behaviour; we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

But I am saying that, if the ban I propose had been in place, he would have known not to do it.

Please visit the e-petition’s page and sign, if you haven’t already done so – and, please, tell all your friends.

In fact, tell all your enemies as well – it’ll be in their best interests too!

The summer is heating up – but are the Conservatives melting down?

Swivel-eyed loon: And Jeremy Hunt is a member of the government, not a grassroots Conservative association.

Swivel-eyed loon: And Jeremy Hunt is a member of the government, not a grassroots Conservative association.

The Conservative Party is eating itself from within. It is therefore an odd time for members to go into Labour marginal constituencies, trying to undermine support with a loaded questionnaire.

That, however, is exactly what we have seen this weekend. But then, what did you expect from the Party of Doubletalk? The Nasty Party? The Party that sows Divisive-ness wherever it can, while mouthing platitudes like “We’re all in it together”? The Party that claims it is responsible with the nation’s finances, while threatening to run up greater debts than any of its rivals ever did?

Let’s start on financial responsibility: Sir Mervyn King, who retires as Governor of the Bank of England next month, has warned that the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme for new mortgages must not be allowed to run indefinitely. The scheme has the state guaranteeing up to 15 per cent of a mortgage on homes worth up to £600,000, and is intended to run until 2017. Sir Mervyn’s fear is that the government will expose the taxpayer – that’s you and me – to billions of pounds of private mortgage debt. He said the UK must avoid what happened in the USA, where state-backed mortgage schemes had to be bailed out.

This particular scheme has already run into flak from those who claimed it was a “second-home subsidy” for the very rich. The new criticism raises fears that the Conservatives are actively engineering a situation that will create more unsustainable debt – and we all know what they do to resolve that kind of problem, don’t we?

They cut. Most particularly, they cut parts of the public services that help anyone who doesn’t earn at least £100,000 per year.

And no – before anyone pipes up with it – nobody receives that much on benefits.

For doubletalk, let’s look at Michael Gove. The Education Secretary was heckled and jeered when he appeared before the National Association of Head Teachers’ conference, where members passed a motion of no confidence in his policies.

The BBC quoted Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT: “What I think he’s failed to pick up on is the short termism of the targets and the constant change, [which] means that people no longer feel that they’re doing the job that they came to do, which is to teach children.”

Mr Gove said he had been “delighted with the warmth and enthusiasm” that had greeted some of the government’s education policies.

But he went on to say there would be no change of course: “What I have heard is repeated statements that the profession faces stress, and insufficient evidence about what can be done about it. What I haven’t heard over the last hour is a determination to be constructive. Critical yes, but not constructive.”

Doubletalk. At first he was saying one thing when we know he means something else entirely; then he went on to ignore what he had been told – by the experts – because it did not support his policy.

Meanwhile, of course, the Conservative Party is eating itself alive over Europe. There are so many angles to this, it’s hard to know where to begin!

We know that Conservative backbenchers tried to amend their own government’s Queen’s speech with a motion regretting the lack of intention to legislate for an in/out referendum on membership of the European Union, and we know that 116 of them voted in favour of that motion. That wasn’t anything like enough for it to pass, so David Cameron didn’t have to worry about resigning (as suggested in previous articles on this blog).

Next thing we knew, the Telegraph‘s political editor, James Kirkup, told us a government figure close to the Prime Minister had said the backbenchers had to vote the way they did because they had been ordered to do so by grassroots Conservative association members, and they were all “mad, swivel-eyed loons”.

Downing Street has denied that anybody said such a thing, but Kirkup has tweeted “I stand by my story” – and anyway, the damage has been done. Conservative association members were already at loggerheads with the Parliamentary party and the government, we’re told, because they believe their views are being ignored.

(One wonders what those views might, in fact, be. This could be one case in which ignoring the will of the people is actually the more sensible thing to do!)

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has said the Conservatives are “united” in their view of Europe – but then, Jeremy Hunt – as Health Secretary – told Parliament that spending on the NHS has risen in real terms since the Coalition came into office, and we know from Andrew Dilnot, head of the independent UK Statistics Authority, that this is not true.

Lord Howe, on the other hand, has accused Crime – sorry, Prime – Minister David Cameron of “running scared” of Eurosceptics and losing control of the party. This is the man whose resignation speech, which memorably included a comment that being sent to deal with the EU was like being in a cricket team whose captain had broken his bat, signalled the end of Margaret – later Baroness – Thatcher’s career as Prime Minister.

Who do we believe, the silly youngster or the boring old guy? That’s right – we believe the old guy who already brought down one Prime Minister. Perhaps he can do the same to another.

Meanwhile, we were told on Sunday that members of Parliament are all set to receive a pay rise of up to £20,000, starting in 2015, the year of the next general election. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has been considering an increase of between £10,000 and £20,000, with the lower figure most likely – despite a consultation revealing that some MPs (all Conservative) thought they were worth more than £100,000 per year.

Backbencher pay is around £65,000 per year at the moment. This means the pay rise they are likely to get is 15 per cent, while those Conservatives who wanted £100 grand expected a rise of 54 per cent.

Average pay rises for working people over the last year were less than one per cent.

Do you think this is appropriate remuneration for the political organisation that said “We’re all in it together?” Because I don’t.

And this is the time the Conservative Party decides to float a proposal for a two-tier benefit system, in a survey sent to residents of marginal seats held by Labour.

One question asked whether benefit payments should be the same, regardless of how many years a person has paid National Insurance or income tax. If people answered ‘no’, the next question asked what proportion of benefits should be dependent on a record of contribution.

This is insidious. If benefits become dependent on contribution, that means young people without a job will not qualify for benefits – they won’t have paid anything in, so won’t be able to take anything out. Also, what about the long-term sick and disabled (don’t start about fraud – eliminating the 0.4 per cent of fraudulent claims does not justify what the Conservative-led Coalition is already doing to 87/88 per cent of ESA claimants, or what it has started doing to PIP claimants)? Their claims are likely to continue long after their contributions run out.

This is, I think, a trick to allow rich people to get out of paying higher tax rates. Think about it – rich people pay more, therefore they subsidise public services, including social security benefits, for the poor. Get people to support benefit payments based on the amount of money people pay in and the rich get a nice fat tax cut while the poor get their benefits cut off.

Fair? All in it together?

There’s a lot of doubletalk, so sections are headed “helping with the cost of living” (they tend to make it impossible for people to meet that cost) or “making our welfare and benefits system fair”Tories have never tried to do this in the entire history of that political party.

And respondents were asked to agree with one of two statements, which were: “If you work hard, it is possible to be very successful in Britain no matter what your background” and “In Britain today, people from some backgrounds will never have a real chance to be successful no matter how hard they work”. The correct answer is to agree with the second statement, of course. And this government of public schoolboys have every intention of pushing that situation to its utmost extreme, so if you are a middle-class social climber and you think there are opportunities for you under a Tory government, forget it.

The whole nightmarish rag is prefaced by a letter from David Cameron. It’s very funny if you accept that it’s full of doubletalk and nonsense. Let’s go through it together:

“I’d like to know what you think about some of the steps we’ve taken so far – and I’d like to know your ideas about what more the Government can do to help families like yours,” he begins. He means: I’d like to know what we can say in order to get you to vote for us in 2015. We’ll have no intention of carrying out any promise that does not advantage ourselves and our extremely rich friends. The correct response is: Your policies are ideologically-motivated twaddle that are causing critical damage to this country and its institutions. Your best action in the future will be to resign.

“I think helping people through tough economic times means making sure our welfare and benefits is [sic] fair. That means ensuring the system helps those who do the right thing and want to get on. That’s helping rich people through tough economic times. We’ll make welfare and benefits as unfair to the poor as we can. That means ensuring the system helps those who support us and are rich enough for us to want to help them. Your changes to welfare and benefits have led to thousands of deaths. That is not fair. You are breaking the system.

“That’s why we’ve capped the amount an out-of-work household can receive in benefits, so this can’t be more than an average working family earns. Again I’d like to know what you think about the actions we’ve taken so far, and your ideas to the future.” It’s nothing near what an average working family earns, because they would be on benefits that top up their earnings to more than £31,000 – but you couldn’t cap at that level because almost nobody would have been knocked off the benefit books (all your talk about people taking more than £100,000 in benefits was nonsense). Resign, join a monastery and vow never to enter public life again.

There is no doubt about it – the cracks are beginning to show. Last summer, the Olympic Games gave us spectacular firework displays. As public unrest mounts, it seems likely that we’ll see even more spectacular fireworks this year – unplanned.

But then, that is why the Conservatives bought the water cannons that are being tested at Petersfield. When they go into use, we’ll all know what they really think of the general public.