Daily View 2×2: 24 May 09

Welcome to the Sunday outing for The Voice’s new daily post series highlighting two big stories from the media and two “must read” blog posts from Liberal Democrats. As it’s a Sunday, there’s also a bonus extra supplement. If you spot anything for future posts, do let us know on [email protected]

2 Big Stories

MPs’ expenses
Heading into its third week, the MPs’ expense story shows no sign of abating. The latest scalp is that of Andrew MacKay, again. The story has been running for so long that not only was he one of its first victims (losing his Conservative Party job) but his turn has now come round again, and this time he’s announced that he won’t fight the next general election. Matters are unlikely to stop there as the controversy over his expense claims is tightly intertwined with those of his wife, fellow Conservative MP Julie Kirkbride, which are also coming under scutiny on other grounds.

Constitutional reform, and in particular electoral reform, is very much back on the political agenda. Those putting the case that the expenses scandal is a sign of, and in part caused by, a wider malaise in our political system will be heartened by The Observer’s coverage:

Now leading public figures have entered the debate through the columns of the Observer, with a call for a referendum on a new method for electing the House of Commons
Alan Johnson, the health secretary, has joined a cabinet push for a major overhaul of the way Britain is governed, in what will be seen by MPs as the start of a leadership bid.

His backing for electoral reform – including a review of scrapping the first-past-the-post system on which Westminster MPs are elected in favour of some form of proportional representation (PR) – came as John Denham, the skills secretary, also let it be known that he favours considering a number of “radical steps”, including electoral reform.

The move is seen as a potential way of restoring trust between voters and parliament and drawing a line under the expenses scandal. Electoral reform could make it easier to remove MPs who have transgressed, although its detractors argue that it risks benefiting the BNP, Ukip and other fringe parties.

In a letter to the Observer today, a powerful alliance of public figures ranging from the author Philip Pullman and actor Jonathan Pryce to the musician Brian Eno launch a fresh campaign for a referendum on PR on the same day as the next general election. They argue that the expenses crisis “reveals a nation governed by a political elite that has stopped listening and who are accountable to no one but their party machines”.

Pakistan at war with the Taliban
The fate of Pakistan is one that should be of interest all around the world for what happens in Pakistan not only has a huge impact on Afghanistan, where many soldiers from around the world are fighting and a large part of the world’s drugs trade originates, but also on its often fractious, and sometimes violent, relations with India.

A key turning point appears to have been reached, with the Pakistan establishment now largely agreed on the need to see the Taliban as their opponents and to take action, including force, to curb the Taliban’s growing power. The latest news is that Pakistani troops have entered Mingora, the main city in the Swat valley.

2 Must-Read Blog Posts

Jo Swinson and The Telegraph: complaints, complaints, complaints
James Graham is not a happy man, and with good reason. He tears into The Telegraph, BBC and The Guardian over their standards of journalism. But rather than just moaning, he’s gone and done something about it – and wants you too. (Careful James, with that sort of attitude you’ll get drummed out of the Blogger Union.)

Campaign focus: Don’t forget the locals
Meanwhile, there is political life beyond expenses, and in Britain too. In many parts of England there are local elections coming up, and even now councils (and mayors) still have major powers to affect many parts of our lives. Who runs which council, and who represents which ward, matters as Anders Hanson reminds us.

Sunday Bonus

For a bit of Sunday enjoyment, here’s a story and film showing you how to make your very own duck island for just £20. I feel a duck housing boom coming on.

And finally, a story about local Conservative election tactics being investigated by the police, from the Leicester Mercury via Liberal England:

Police have been called in to look into alleged dirty tricks relating to the upcoming county elections.

Leaked e-mails show that County Hall deputy leader Nicholas Rushton offered a pre-election deal to get a rival candidate to stand down in the Valley division in North West Leicestershire.

For two years, a legal row between the council and community has been ongoing over the use of Hardulph’s Primary School, in Breedon on the Hill, as a community centre.

Villager Simon Jones decided to stand as an independent in the June 4 elections because he believed that Coun Rushton had not represented the area properly on the issue.

As a result of this challenge, several e-mails show that Coun Rushton said he would guarantee a new village hall, and this would happen if Mr Jones pulled out of the election, which he did…

Liberal Democrat leader Simon Galton said: “Prior to this meeting, the Liberal Democrat group were extremely concerned that the Conservative administration were intending to allocate money contrary to the agreed council budget.

“It would be completely wrong for the Conservative administration to provide a community building in one community to ensure the re-election of the sitting Conservative councillor.”

It’s against the law to bribe someone into pulling out as an election candidate, so it looks as if there is a range of possible offences for the police to consider.

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