James Forsyth

Another shaming day for Westminster

Another shaming day for Westminster
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There was something particularly depressing about Harriet Harman’s statement to the House today on this lobbying scandal. The MPs involved have damned themselves more effectively than anybody else could and so the anger of the Commons lacked bite. Though, it was noticeable that the personal attacks on those involved tended to come from their own side not the opposition benches; proof that for many this is another episode in the long running battle for the soul of the Labour party.

David Heath, the Lib Dem shadow leader of the House, made probably the best speech. He wanted to know why the House was always reacting to these problems rather than pre-empting them. He’s right, if three years ago you’d asked pretty much anyone in Westminster to name the things most likely to damage parliament’s reputation they’d have told you expenses and lobbying. But both have had to hit the front pages before parliament has acted on them.  

During the statement and the questions that followed, my eyes kept being drawn to the public gallery. It was fuller than usual today and one wondered what these people made of it. They had come to a place that has such great history, so much to be proud of only to find the matter under discussion grubby in the extreme. When you read the words of these MPs you wonder if they have any self respect, dignity or appreciation for the office they hold.

What is even more remarkable to me is how they have reacted since their words became public. It is remarkable that an MP who has stooped so low as to describe himself as a sort of cab for hire has not instantly resigned and slunk away in shame.