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Jerry Hayes

Is it time for the Telegraph to call a moratorium on all old expenses stories?

May 31st, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

I know that this will probably make me about as popular as a ham sandwich in Tehran, but I’m just beginning to wonder whether the Telegraph group should call a moratorium on all expenses stories that took place in the the last Parliament. Yes,yes there should be transparency. Yes, yes the wickedness of our legislators should be exposed. Yes, yes, they should be punished. But now, as we spiral down the plug hole of our financial profligacy and the Euro is on the verge of total melt down, the Barclay brothers should perhaps say enough is enough.

What this country needs is stable government and clarity of commitment to restore the public finances. The Robespierian glee that has greeted MP’s  being bundled to the guillotine and the enthusiastic knitting by the Oompa Loompas who seek to lead the Labour Party, does for public confidence what King Herod did for babysitting. The coalition still has the goodwill of the nation and it is vital that that continues. Squander it and it will be Retsinas all round. And anyway, there are going to be a few show trial to sate the appetite of the mob.

I suppose, there is a vague upside in showing that the LibDems have as many feet of clay as the rest of us, but that’s about as far as it goes. Poor Danny Alexander had better prepare himself for an onslaught on his integrity, his competence and more seriously, the fact that he is a ginger. To lose one Chief Secretary is an accident, another would be a catastrophe.

What has really surprised me has been the luke warm response to the Laws tragedy from unexpected sources. My old chum Ben Summerskill, of Stonewall, has made it known that this an expenses scandal rather than a gay one. Well, up to a point. Laws wouldn’t have got into this mess if he didn’t have to deal with the aversion of coming out. Peter Tatchell’s similar views are more understandable. Peter is as tireless as he is courageous in his campaigning for justice. But he was horribly scarred by the Southwark by election when the Liberal candidate conducted a homophobic campaign against him, urging the electorate to vote for their, “straight candidate”. Ironically it was Simon Hughes. And as for progressive, Labour supporting, Duncan Ballantyne’s tweet yesterday that, ” how could anyone be called honourable if they hide their sexuality?” Nothing more can be said, save that I hope a lot of pink towels will find themselves in other health clubs.

But on an optimistic note, watch out for the rise and rise of Lord Carlisle QC. Now, don’t get him muddled with Tory rightwinger John Carlisle of whom it used to be joked that he used to watch Roots backwards so that there was a happy ending. Alex is a Lib Dem peer whom I happily served three parliaments with in the Commons. He is a wise head and a safe pair of hands. He is the government’s independent advisor on security and has come up with an ingenious plan to deal with the deportation of terrorists without having to abolish the Human Rights Act.  More of that at a later date.

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Call me an old cynic but what is Vince Cable up to?

May 30th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

The personal tragedy of David Laws is not the beginning of the end of the coalition nor even the end of the beginning, but it has diverted attention away from a potential hazard that puzzles me. I can understand why Vince Cable wanted to relinquish the role of Deputy Leader of his party, which is about as relevant and utilitarian as a cat flap in a submarine. To abandon the rubber chicken circuit, administering counselling to a potentially fractious grass roots is a distraction from the enormities of his cabinet job. In fact,nobody in their right mind would want the job, which is probably why Simon Hughes is so keen to get it. But why did Cable anoint him as his successor?

Simon is a lovely chap, delightfully disorganized and brimming with ideas. Yet he does represent the Rampton Wing of his party. In the days when the SDP was just a mischievous glint in David Owen’s eye, Simon was leading the unreconstructed woolly hat brigade. Bizarre compromises would suddenly appear from nowhere. In the emotionally charged debate on the age of sexual equality Simon announced to the House that the age on consent should be seventeen. Why? Heaven knows. And recently, in an almost Whovian strangulation of logic, he came up with the corker of setting up Lib Dem shadows for his own coalition government. Matron! Medication quickly!

So, call me an old cynic, but what is Vince Cable up to? He is a thoroughly able member of the government and committed to the coalition, but every fibre of his cerebral cortex is that of tax and spend. The poor chap has probably had to develop more reverse gears than an Italian tank. Does he want Hughes in place to stoke the flames of Liberalism? To be the tweaker in Chief of consciences? To harrow the government with every crackers idea that slips into the Hughes mind? This may not be the plan but the reality could be a total nightmare. It’s difficult enough getting policy through the department, then Number 10, then the Treasury, then the Commons and Lords without the added factor of Hughesian bonkery validated with some form of democratic mandate.

And then there are the other candidates for the job. Just where are they?  I’m sure Tim Farron is a lovely chap, but when I Googled him, Paris Hilton’s dogs got more column inches. He’s not even a household name in his own household. But there are some perfectly sensible people who could do a sane  and sensible job in helping keep the Lib Dems’ feet on the ground. What about Don Foster, Bob Russell or even bring in old stagers like Alan Beith or Malcolm Bruce. And what about shoving Paul Keetch into the Lords and giving him the job?  The talent is there, it’s just that someone at the top needs to think this through.

And as for Simon Hughes? A challenge. Put him in charge of a commission which will take years to report back, make him President of the Council of Europe. You could even make him Governor of Bermuda. Just keep him busy and out of the way.

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I don’t give a damn that we paid rent to Law’s lover

May 29th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

I don’t give a damn about David Law’s sexuality. I don’t give a damn that we paid rent to his lover. What I do give a damn about is that a perfectly decent human being, doing an impressive job at the Treasury, will be cast through the portals of hell by the Sunday newspapers. And what of his lover? The poor fellow will have the minutiae of his life under the microscope. Bed fellows, real or imagined, will appear from the past, fantasists will hold out greasy little palms to the redtops and Max Clifford will, no doubt, increase the bulge in his wallet. So remember when we tut, when we gasp, when we take some prurient pleasure in the rich and powerful falling from grace, just remember that two intensely private people will be turned into a freak show for our collective entertainment. And when the locusts of the press have finally devoured every last morsel of their dignity and the husks of their lives only appear as small paragraphs adorning Jordan’s latest breast implant, these men, their family and their friends will have to pretend that they are living a normal life. What I find so utterly depressing, so gut wrenchingly nauseating, so mind numbingly wicked, is the glee that some find in the whole affair. Some Labour tweeters seem to think that it is an immense joke, or  just another piece of political artillery  to fire on the coalition. And, of course, the headbangers of the Tory press will relish this as further proof of Cameron’s betrayal of family values and flirting with degeneracy. Well, one day boys, you’re going to have to look at yourselves in the mirror.

So there is just one question that really matters. Has David Laws behaved corruptly? The answer was simply put in a tweet by the Financial Times journalist and serious thinker, Christopher Cook, last night. If Laws had declared his relationship he could have charged the taxpayer for the whole mortgage. So when banner headlines demand a scalp, I hope that David Cameron and Nick Clegg have the compassion and common sense to ride out the storm. Doing the right thing is not always the easy option, but for sleeping at night it’s better than Horlicks.

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