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MPs, press, police, bankers – none can be left to regulate themselves

animal-farmCameron’s obstinate defence of Maria Miller against the large majority of his own party and the public who want to be rid of her for her greed, arrogance and sheer callous disregard for decent standards in public life needs some explaining.

Maybe he wanted to put in the knife himself in his own time in the reshuffle after the European elections. Maybe he didn’t want to be pushed around by the media or his own party (again), and preferred to tough it out. But he’s shed political goodwill by the gallon over this shoddy episode. Sooner or later he was bound to have to call it a day. The rule for Prime Ministers is, if the media keep up a barrage for 5 days or more and if the political hostility in Westminster is still growing, he’ll always have to staunch his losses and cut her loose.

But it’s not just this tawdry saga itself. It’s the way that judgement on it within Westminster has been manipulated. The Commons Committee on Standards has 10 MPs on it plus 3 lay members (none of whom have a vote), and the MPs split 5 Tory, 4 Labour and 1 LibDem. Why did they deal so excessively leniently with Miller, reducing by nine-tenths the payback required by their own independent standards commissioner?

And why was the tone of their admonition of Miller so mild when that can be politically weighted and can carry great influence – their vigorous condemnation of Denis McShane MP for over-claiming £12,000 led to his resignation from the House (and possible imprisonment) while their exoneration of David Laws MP on a pretext for wrongly claiming £40,000 allowed him to stay in Parliament and now return to ministerial office.

It is clear that the handling of MPs’ misdemeanours should be taken out of the hands of MPs themselves and given to a wholly independent body. But the same applies to other occupations within the power structure.

The string of police abuses in recent years surrounding the Stephen Lawrence murder, Hillsborough, phone-hacking, under-cover activity against environmental campaigners, some very suspicious deaths in custody, etc, have finally been aired (often after years of concealment), but the police officers concerned are almost never held to account by a prison sentence.

Similarly editors and reporters in the media who regularly breach the PCC code “not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information” are almost never brought to book and lose their job for the substantial damage they inflict.   And of course bankers are a law unto themselves, stealing vast quantities of money through fraud (euphemistically called fraud) or rate-rigging or money-laundering or fixing up artificial and elaborate tax avoidance/evasion schemes, and though the financial regulators have been (belatedly) handing down enormous fines on banks as institutions, those executives or traders responsible for these crimes are rarely if ever prosecuted and imprisoned.

Britain needs a root and branch restructuring of its dilapidated (or non-existent) system of accountability across the whole range of the exercise of power.


  1. ray davison says:

    Self evidently true but why is it not Labour Party policy? Well, we know the answer to that as well but that will not change it in the short term. Would you like a Tony Benn authenticated used pipe to ram the message home?

  2. John says:

    Nor can Andy Newmans old party the SWP ,when they had a sharia law style jury to decide whether fellow members ,had committed rape, or whether the num ,decided to have an internal investigation to see whether it’s members were being violent during the miners strike, I also recall that Harringey council, had an internal enquiry after the 1985 riot where the appointed lord Gifford who found ou that it wasn’t the local blacks youths fault they rioted, but it was the police who made them do it,

  3. Robert says:

    We all know the issues with the Police they have been around for a long time and some of the young police officer I’ve seen they are arrogant and totally not what you would want. then you have the thugs within the police who think they have the power to do as they like, we saw that one TV.

    But in the end we have to be thankful only a few are given guns.

    We do need to have independents to check all this but of course are these people who will check these groups and do it fairly, no police officer or MPs are above the laws.

  4. Who are these “lay” members of the Parliamentary Committee on Standards? I bet that they are a lot less “lay” than many MPs are, and an awful lot less “lay” than most voters are. It is parliamentarians who are there because they are lay, just as magistrates and jurors are.

    Yet there is now a proposal that these great and good be given voting rights. As much as anything else, that would mean that the Committee’s proceedings could no longer be covered by parliamentary privilege. Don’t the people making this proposal know that? Evidently not.

    None of the above would need to be explained at all if Tony Benn were not dead, Michael Foot were not dead, Leo Abse were not dead, Enoch Powell were not long dead, Tam Dalyell were not retired, or Sir Peter Tapsell were not about to retire. All eyes are now on Sir Richard Shepherd. Whether any ears will be upon him is, alas, a different question.

    Like recall elections, the expense of which ought in each case to be borne by whoever organised the petition to bring it about, the equally illiterate call for voting “lay” members of the Standards Committee, or even for these matters to be taken out of the hands of MPs altogether, is of a piece with the cession of properly parliamentary power to the Executive and to the Judiciary, to media moguls and to money markets, and to the Government’s staff rather than to elected politicians. A very similar, and not unconnected, trend is also evident in local government.

    Where else is going to be given these voting “lay” members from among self-selecting specialists with heavy vested interests? Select Committees? Standing Committees? The House itself? That is the very last thing that we need.

    Moreover, it would constitute an abrogation of our own responsibilities. If we want better MPs, then we ought to require ourselves to vote for them.

  5. David Ellis says:

    We would not have to think about regulating the banks if they served the real economy instead of substituting for it. A publicly owned People’s Bank tasked with lending at base rate to small business and facilitating social investment in accordance with a democratic and sustainable plan. Banks only need regulating and this can never be done successfully however tight the rules are because in private hands they are literally a license to print money. They are legalised counterfeiters.

    When the monetarists Thatcher and Reagan de-regulated financial markets and stock exchanges in the 80s they assured us that `enlightened self-interest’ would prevent the banksters from allowing the supply and demand for money to become detached unlike politicians who were likely to print money just to spend it on the hospitals and schools demanded by the public. But of course the banksters immediately set about creating the most monumental 30-year Ponzi Scheme the world has ever seen to rip off the real economy. Regulating them wont make a blind bit of difference and if it did it would render the whole thing pointless anyway. In any case the global banking sector is irrevocably bankrupt. The bail out should end and their staff, estates and deposits taken into administration to create a bank that serves the people not rips them off.

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