Thursday 14 May 2009

An unlikely villain

Elliot Morley has been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party, after continuing to claim for a mortgage that had been paid off. The report appears pretty damning: Morley stresses shambles more than conspiracy in a statement today.

I admit I was pretty gobsmacked, watching Newsnight last night, to hear that he was the former Minister on the front-page of The Telegraph. To be cynical for a moment, there are some MPs on all sides of the House who - when they are caught up in expensesgate - many on their own side can not claim to be enormously surprised. Others are fairly anonymous figures who even political insiders may struggle to know anything about.

But my character sketch of Morley would have had him as a sincere and pretty dogged campaigner, somewhat unpolished and often a little on the scruffy side in the traditions of Old-to-New Labour, among the least arrogant of MPs and among the half-dozen most evangelical of environmental types in the party.

My knowledge of him comes mainly from his being a pretty assiduous attender of Fabian debates and seminars on the environment, and from his close involvement with SERA and other friendly campaigning groups. As a junior minister, he was always one of those you could imagine Sir Humphrey wanting to move on - he'd held shadow and government briefs in related areas for ages - in the hope of getting a newbie Minister who had to learn everything from scratch.

When he returned to the backbenches, he remained a very regular attendee whenever green issues were to be discussed. So he was always very much prepared to sit in a room and sweat the small stuff to make some small gradual advance on animal rights, birds, the countryside or to explain exactly what it might take to unlock any issue - increasingly, drawing on discussions with Ministers from developing countries like India, what it would take to truly break the politics of climate and development seeming alternative causes.

Of course, Morley is right to say that he will be criticised at Westminster and in his constituency for letting his constituents and his party down.

Of course, the case for transparency, for integrity and for professionalism is as clear as it could be. There is little or no case for taking anything on trust. Much more daylight is the only check which will work once proper rules are sorted out.

At the risk of writing something measured about the villain of the day, I don't think my point goes any further than saying that, were I to have guessed which MPs would be caught out in expensesgate, Elliot Morley would not have been on my list.


DavidBrede said...

Anyone guilty of fraud should receive the same treatment.

Robert said...

Well I love to have seen Blair's expenses sadly it's been shredded like most of Labours last twelve years, it's time for change because in the end nobody can be as bad as what we have just had.

The fact is the checks on these expenses are so open to abuse most of these people though well everyone else is doing it.