Tag Archives: chris bryant

How rotten is our democracy?

This is the question Isabel Hardman poses at the beginning of her review of Chris Bryant’s new book, Code of Conduct: why we need to fix Parliament – and how to do it.  Hardman’s own book, Why we get the Wrong Politicians (first published in 2018 and updated for a paperback edition in 2022) had already covered much of the same ground – on the ‘toxic culture’ of Westminster politics, the power of the whips over individual MPs, the neglect of parliamentary scrutiny of government legislation and decisions in favour of efforts to become ministers, and above all the strains on personal relations and family life.

Bryant – chair of the Commons Committees on Standards and Privileges until this month – writes in an easy, personal style, but his underlying anger at the corruption and the toxic culture of Westminster politics is evident.  He starts with the Commons’ handling of Owen Paterson’s censure for ‘paid advocacy’ for companies which were paying him more than £100,000 a year. 250 MPs voted to reject the Standards Committee recommendations, with support from Johnson as prime minister and Rees-Mogg as leader of the House.  ‘I felt that Parliament itself was on trial’ in that vote.

In the context of historical comparisons with past parliamentary scandals, he concludes that ‘this is indeed the worst Parliament in our history.  More than twenty MPs have been suspended or have left under a cloud.  Rules have been flouted… Ministers have lied and refused to correct the record…’  There is ‘a widespread sense that politicians believe the rules don’t apply to them.’

He sees ‘something rotten’ in the structure of the Westminster system, with far more ministers than in comparable democracies, dependent on prime ministerial patronage.  Unchecked prime ministerial power allows corruption to spread through PPI contracts, through the allocation of levelling-up funds and through the appointment of friends to paid public offices.  He details the lies Boris Johnson as PM made to Parliament, the bullying habits of government whips, the conflicts of interest that arise through moves from ministerial office to private directorships and consultancies.  He reports the massive outside earnings that former ministers and PMs make – noting that in the first three months of 2023 Johnson registered £3,287,293 in outside earnings.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

William Wallace writes: How rotten is our democracy?

This is the question Isabel Hardman poses at the beginning of her review of Chris Bryant’s new book, Code of Conduct: why we need to fix Parliament – and how to do itHardman’s own book, Why we get the Wrong Politicians (first published in 2018 and updated for a paperback edition in 2022) had already covered much of the same ground – on the ‘toxic culture’ of Westminster politics, the power of the whips over individual MPs, the neglect of parliamentary scrutiny of government legislation and decisions in favour of efforts to become ministers, and above all the strains on personal relations and family life.

Bryant – chair of the Commons Committees on Standards and Privileges until this month – writes in an easy, personal style, but his underlying anger at the corruption and the toxic culture of Westminster politics is evident.  He starts with the Commons’ handling of Owen Paterson’s censure for ‘paid advocacy’ for companies which were paying him more than £100,000 a year. 250 MPs voted to reject the Standards Committee recommendations, with support from Johnson as prime minister and Rees-Mogg as leader of the House.  ‘I felt that Parliament itself was on trial’ in that vote.

In the context of historical comparisons with past parliamentary scandals, he concludes that

This is indeed the worst Parliament in our history.  More than twenty MPs have been suspended or have left under a cloud.  Rules have been flouted… Ministers have lied and refused to correct the record…’  There is ‘a widespread sense that politicians believe the rules don’t apply to them.

He sees ‘something rotten’ in the structure of the Westminster system, with far more ministers than in comparable democracies, dependent on prime ministerial patronage.  Unchecked prime ministerial power allows corruption to spread through PPI contracts, through the allocation of levelling-up funds and through the appointment of friends to paid public offices.  He details the lies Boris Johnson as PM made to Parliament, the bullying habits of government whips, the conflicts of interest that arise through moves from ministerial office to private directorships and consultancies.  He reports the massive outside earnings that former ministers and PMs make – noting that in the first three months of 2023 Johnson registered £3,287,293 in outside earnings.

His remedies come close to Liberal Democrat policy.  ‘We need to look at the underlying structural problem in our British way of doing politics…the “Winner Takes All” system is at the core of our problems.’  Our voting system, combined with the government’s control of parliamentary business, leaves limits on executive authority dependent on the self-constraint of ministers – and that has broken down in the past seven years. ‘Parliament needs to rediscover its backbone and reassert its freedom.  Good government and better decisions depend on the proper exercise of power.’

Posted in Books and Op-eds | Also tagged | 10 Comments

Vince Cable nails Labour’s crass and inaccurate attacks on Lib Dems’ support for the minimum wage

Sometimes you’ll hear Labour folk claim, with absolute certainty, that the Lib Dems opposed the introduction of the minimum wage in 1998. They’re wrong, as a glance at the voting record shows not a single Lib Dem MP voted against and 26 voted in favour.

Today Labour’s shadow secretary of state for Work and Pensions, Rachel Reeves, upped the ante, demanding to know:

where was the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Vince Cable)? He was nowhere to be seen in the debates. He was nowhere to be seen on the voting record. On Second Reading and Third Reading, he failed to vote. Apparently, he abstained because he had reservations about a minimum wage. Perhaps he will stand up today to profess his concern for the plight of the low-paid.

Vince didn’t respond directly immediately. But he did respond:

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged , and | 21 Comments

The “affair” is none of our business – but how did it get in the papers anyway?

Today’s Daily Mail carries a story of a love affair which, apparently, has shocked David Cameron so much and got Downing Street panicking to the extent that they are worried about his political agenda being derailed.

From the story, which has no names or much in the way of detail, we can deduce that two middle aged people had an affair which is now over and which caused distress to others. No current cabinet ministers are involved and, from what I can gather, no Liberal Democrats either.

When you get down to it, it seems that the Mail has published a story …

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 54 Comments

DPMQs: “Grotesque” and “beneath contempt” – Clegg on the Milly Dowler phone hacking allegations

The highest profile issue at Deputy Prime Minister’s questions today was the issue of press phone hacking in the light of the allegations concerning Milly Dowler and the News of the World.

Harriet Harman asked Nick Clegg to back Ed Miliband’s call for a general public inquiry into illegality in the newspaper industry. As someone has said, this is a bit like holding an inquiry into why we get bad weather. In a sign of divisions within Labour, Chris Bryant, in contrast, has called for a more narrow inquiry.

Nick Clegg stopped short of backing an inquiry but, instead, emphasised the importance …

Posted in Parliament | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , and | 29 Comments

Lord Tyler writes: Don’t listen to the doomsayers

Since the publication of the Government’s White Paper and Draft Bill on House of Lords reform, the old guard have lined up to cavil about its detail, to deride its democratic principles and to defend – in the last ditch – the status quo.

This has augmented the popular media’s predisposition towards arch cynicism and trenchant pessimism. Yet there is firm evidence to contradict their lazy assumptions. Just because Labour engaged in over a decade of dither and delay does not mean that a determined government, with the resolve of the House of Commons behind it, cannot succeed.

The …

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DPMQs: Nick Clegg looks forward to Mañana

The LDV Collective have asked me to add the monthly Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions to my radar screen. When these sessions started they seemed rather manufactured and unnecessary. However, they have evolved into an important part of the Commons’ calendar, covering a wide range of key issues. They are of interest especially for those of us in the Liberal Democrats who are interested in hearing what Nick Clegg has to say in his official capacity, under scrutiny from MPs, in a mercifully Flashman-free environment.

But this will never be like Prime Minister’s Question Time. The chamber is only about a …

Posted in PMQs | Also tagged , , , and | 12 Comments

Opinion: emotional cleansing or ‘oops, your metaphor’s slipped’

Fluff over substance
I have a confession. While I have reservations about the current policy on social housing, that’s not what this piece is about. Andrew Stunell has written compellingly about our policy as has Dominic Curran.

All I’ll say is that successive Labour and Tory governments have failed abysmally over the last thirty years to invest in affordable housing. They’ve helped exacerbate social and community division, inflate housing price bubbles and distort the economy and our attitudes to wealth. Unwittingly or not, they are the architects of the ghetto. So

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 20 Comments

What the papers say…

Tories claim Labour is using taxpayers’ money to fund election advertising campaign – Telegraph, 15.1.10

“The Conservatives accused Labour of “raiding” taxpayers’ money to fund their election campaign. New figures uncovered by the Conservatives show that spending on advertising has increased to £232 million, which is a 39 per cent increase on the previous year.”

A tenth of schools fail to meet GCSE targets – The Guardian, 14.1.10

“One in 10 secondary schools in England failed to meet basic targets for GCSEs last summer and academies were disproportionately represented among the failing institutions, government statistics published today reveal.

“David Laws, the Liberal Democrats’ education …

Posted in General Election and News | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , and | 2 Comments

Stormin’ Norman on the warpath again

That tireless Parliamentary terrier, Lib Dem MP Norman Baker, has been doing what he does best, once again: demanding answers to awkward questions. The man who forced Peter Mandelson to quit the cabinet last time around has now turned his attention to two new bete-noires:

1) Gordon Brown’s refusal to answer questions, which The Guardian’s Politics Blog notes – here’s what Norman said to the House of Commons, courtesy of Hansard:

The issue of openness is crucial for democracy. We touched on it in the previous debate about MPs’ expenses. After all my years in politics, both

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