A bag of sweets for Gorbals Mick

Why are we so cynical about Parliament? The answer in part lies in the almost total disregard that MPs have for all of us (not only have we voted them in, or possibly voted against them but are stuck with them) but we are also paying for them (and with most of them, their wives, husbands, mothers (thank you Mr Hain), no doubt fathers and their wider family, sons, daughters, illegitimate offspring, guide dogs, hamsters, goldfish etc.; to say nothing of the fact that with Mr Prescott most of it went down the tubes).

Anyway, see Sue Cameron’s article in the FT, Nice little earners for Mr Speaker. I cannot think of a less deserving recipient. But they are all in it: see the BBC News report on “lump sum expenses plan” for MPs. And who is leading the charge? No prizes: Gorbals Mick

A matter of definition

For someone who normally appears very careful in his choice of words, Gordon Brown’s answer on News at Ten last night that Peter Hain’s current travail was the result of “an incompetency” seemed strange. The Shorter OED defines incompetency as ‘(1) inadaquacy; and (2) the fact or condition of being incompetent; want of the requisite ability, power or qualification; incapacity’. It was not the word incompetent, but the indefinite article in front of it. It begged the question whose incompetency (although there should be no prizes for guessing whose: and the BBC on its Radio 3 news summary at 8.30 this morning left listeners in no doubt, as Brown was reported as having “accused Hain of incompetence”. It is a sorry tale, and compounded by Brown playing the “He’s said he’s sorry” card. The story is not going away, and Brown now finds himself caught between a Rock (more later) and a Hain place.

And two further questions?

First, what exactly did Peter Hain spend over a £100,000 on? Stamps? Helicopters? Lunches for friends? Brown envelopes? Hairdressing? Fake tan? The list is endless (and the truth likely to be just as bizarre). And secondly, if he has to go (and is there any alternative, although staying may give a new meaning to brazening it out), will Harriet Harman and Wendy Alexander be forced to follow suit? (Ben Brogan thought so early this afternoon; although his take on the story this evening was that “barring a bombshell, Mr Hain will carry on while the Parliamentary investigation runs its course. Mr Brown may then take the opportunity of his first reshuffle, after the May elections, to drop him from the Cabinet before the verdict comes in.” Read the whole post).