Daily View 2×2: 22 May 09

2 Must-Read Stories

MPs’ expenses row enters third week
Yes, it’s a fortnight since the Telegraph began exposing some of the most extravagant claims MPs have been submitting at the taxpayers’ expense. Today it’s the turn of Labour MPs Ian Gibson and Ben Chapman, to feel the heat with both offering to stand down at the next election (though both deny any wrongdoing).

Meanwhile Tory MP Peter Luff (three lavatory seats, three food mixers, two microwaves and 10 sets of bed linen) has seemingly sought to outbid Labour’s Fraser Kemp (16 bedsheets) for the highest number of household goods purchased in excess of what any ordinary person might need. On the plus-side of all this, the expenses row is at last starting to generate a head of steam for proper, full-scale constitutional reform.

There’s still a recession on
Easy to forget, I know, amidst the exciting news of moats, ‘flipping’ and duck ponds – but while the nation gawps at MPs billing us taxpayers for their plugs, the public finances are going down the drain. Leading ratings agency S&P threatened to downgrade its view of the UK’s creditworthiness unless the Government takes real action to address record public borrowing – its the first such move for three decades.

Lib Dem shadow chancellor Vince Cable commented: “The Government has continuously dodged the difficult decisions that need to be made to balance the country’s books. Unless we make tough choices about what the Government can afford to do in the long term, we risk either higher taxes or salami slicing of key public services. Alistair Darling has relied on implausible growth forecasts for the British economy which nobody but himself believes. Markets hate uncertainty and until the Government comes clean about how it intends to pay back its debt, it is perfectly possible that we will see a further deterioration in Britain’s rating.”

2 Must-Read Blog-Posts

There was only story for Lib Dems yesterday – the resignation of the party’s chief executive, Lord (Chris) Rennard. Amidst the criticism that has come his way in recent days over allegations concerning his expenses claims as a peer, there’s been plenty of parise, too, for all that he has contributed to the party:

A short tribute to Chris Rennard (Peter Black AM)

Chris first came to my attention as David Alton’s agent in the 1979 Edge Hill by-election. It was the contest that saved the Liberal Party from being devastated in the subsequent General Election and which helped many of us realise that previously safe Labour seats could be won by the party with the right campaigning techniques, policies and messages. In the three decades since that by-election Chris has made himself virtually indispensable to the party. He has masterminded many by-election wins and it was his strategy that gave us our breakthrough in 1997 that we have since sustained.

The Fox puts away his Cow Gum (Duncan Borrowman)

It is quite fashionable to slag off Chris these days. But for all the ungrateful b*$^@%}s out there, you would not be in the position now of being members of a party with so many MPs, with such high ratings if it was not for Chris. In fact, if it was not for Chris the party may well have completely disappeared in the 1980s. Of course, now the party is larger, we have to look at how to raise our game. Chris himself has never said anything different, in public and private. But that must not mean any babies disappearing down the plughole with the bath water. … Chris says that he will help and advise the party in the future. It would be a stupid party that did not listen to every word he says very carefully. Thanks Chris. The party owes you everything.

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