#MPexpenses: two parties shift position

Last night, it was not clear if there was an organised Tory position on the emerging scandal concerning freedom of information and MPs’ expenses. Last week’s Guardian confided: “A Tory source said David Cameron was likely to encourage his MPs to abstain on Thursday”

The same Guardian article last week had Lib Dem Shadow Leader of the House David Heath saying, “[T]his is not a matter for a whipped vote […] I will certainly be recommending that colleagues vote against the proposal to exempt parliament.”

This morning, all change. “Tory frontbench and Lib Dems fight move to hide MPs’ expenses”, the Guardian headline now reads.  Frankly I’d prefer a formulation closer to “Tory frontbench joins Lib Dems to fight…” but if our blue friends have had a change of heart and seen the light, perhaps we should not be too snippy.

The change of heart at the yellow end of the green benches is that our leadership is upping the stakes to red alert:

The Lib Dems have issued a three-line whip to their 63 MPs to oppose the measure. Their leader, Nick Clegg, said yesterday: “At a time when families are having to count every penny, it is outrageous that MPs are seeking to hide how they spend their money. MPs should stop trying to hide their work in secrecy and accept the same rules that apply to everybody else should also apply to them. Anything else would undermine the principles of open democracy, and convince people parliament has something to hide.”

These two changes, meaning as many as possible Lib Dem MPs trooping through the “no” lobby alongside the Tory shadow cabinet should combine to make the Parliamentary arithmetic genuinely interesting.

How many supporters can the Government muster?  Many of their own back-benchers must be facing a conflict – embarrass the Government by voting against it, or risk further personal embarrassment at the prospect of full expense disclosure?

And which ways will the Tory back-benchers spring?  

The initiative for the change came from Harriet Harman, leader of the House, after Labour backbenchers and Tory grandees on the 1922 committee lobbied her to try to force through the exemption in the Commons.

Continuing lobbying efforts are clearly needed, particularly if you are represented by a Labour or Tory back-bencher.

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7 Comments

  • Tories have consistently opposed anti-democratic measures. I cast my mind back to the communications allowance vote. The only Tories who voted with Labour were Bob Spink and Quentin Davies neither of whom are Tories any longer. Tories were also most prominent in voting against the FOI exemption proposed by the disgraceful McLean. Any Tory MPs voting with the government on this is going to get both barrels from our grassroots.

  • You can be as ‘snippy’ as you like.

    The Lib-Dems non-vote on the on the EU Constitution was beneath contempt -‘principle’ is a foreign concept to them (not that it matters, because they will never have any power).

    I am glad that they will be voting for FoI, but it gives them no moral credit.

  • I’ve written to my MP (Labour) but haven’t received anything by way of response – not that I particularly expected to.

    I hope that we continue to press the government as hard as possible on this; it’s a disgraceful proposal and one that will do more harm than good to British politics.

  • This should be fun –

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7841702.stm

    Brown is whipping the other way…

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