Peter Hoskin

Your Sunday morning fisk

Your Sunday morning fisk
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Watch him run! Gordon Brown is desperately trying to play catch-up with Cameron this morning, with an article on expenses in the News of the World.  Is it disingenuous?  You betcha.  So I've done a little fisk:

I will do all that's needed to fix mess

By PRIME MINISTER GORDON BROWN, 17/05/2009

I AM appalled and angered by this week's revelations.

PH: Shocked and appalled; when one emotion just won't cut it.

Appalled because at all times people should expect the highest standards from people in public life.

Angered because I was brought up to believe you did the right thing - and that trust, integrity and honesty are the most precious assets of all.

PH: Is that the same "trust, integrity and honesty" which cultivated a brutal smear operation in the heart of government?  The same trust, integrity and honesty which worked against Tony Blair for a decade, blocking many of the former PM's reform proposals in the process?  The same trust integrity and honesty which weaves lies and exaggerations around every statistic there is?  I could go on...

And for all those striving hard in these difficult times to do the best for their families, working long hours to give a better life for their children and to improve our public services and communities I apologise - on behalf of all parties - that the political system has let you and the public down.

PH: Erm, the political system has "let down" those looking to "improve our public services and communities"? I think the "roadblock to reform" is 'fessing up to more than he means to here.

I want to assure every citizen of my commitment to a complete clean-up of the system. Wherever and whenever immediate disciplinary action is required I will take it.

The bottom line is that any MP who is found to have defied the rules will not be serving in my government.

PH: This is the key point.  Brown still stands by the sanctity of the rules.  Very few people have actually broken the now discreditied rules, and this will enable Brown to hang on to everyone in his Cabinet.  Cameron is at least spelling out the dishonesty of this approach - as the Tory leader said in his press conference last week, "I don't care if these actions were in the rules, they were wrong".

The action must be swift and comprehensive.

PH: "Swift"?  Wasn't Brown emphasising how we needed to wait for the results of the Kelly Review a few weeks ago (before rushing out that YouTube video).  And wasn't he emphasising the same point in PMQs this week (before Downing Street realised that Cameron was taking a lead on this, and that Brown would have to catch up)?  If there's one thing Brown isn't - it's swift.

On the whole politicians do work hard for people but MPs who have abused the expenses system will have to make reparations for the past. I have called for independent scrutiny for every claim made over the last four years and an independent means of deciding how much should be paid back.

Westminster cannot operate like a gentleman's club where MPs or parties alone decide themselves whether your money should be paid back.

PH: Hm. "Gentlemen's club".  Is it just me, or is Brown trying to create parallels with those fiendish Bullingdon boys?

It is absolutely right that each MP will need to justify to the public, not just the authorities or their party, the money they have spent on allowances.

Transparency to the public is the foundation of properly policing this system.

I am under no illusions that repayment will not necessarily be sufficient sanction. Unacceptable behaviour will be investigated and disciplined. I do not rule out any sanction.

PH: And nor should he.  But as his emphasis is on MPs who have "broken the rules", there aren't actually many that will need disciplining.

But for the future we need even more fundamental change. Already I have asked Parliament to ensure - and MPs have agreed - that outer London MPs cannot claim a second home allowance.

PH: As in PMQs, Brown's trying to make much of the flawed package of expenses measures that he announced in that lamentable YouTube video.  Truth is: that half-baked plan didn't quite work out how he wanted.

MPs should not themselves come up with the future system that should govern their allowances. Therefore we are agreed that the Committee of Standards in Public Life should come forward with much needed reforms.

It is clear that the revelations of the past week will have a lasting impact on our politics.

As well as righting wrongs and cleaning up the system, there is now a clear need to go much further, as we start the process of rebuilding trust in our political system.

We must all now come together to make that happen.

PH: And Brown saves (what in his eyes is) the best 'til last.  This is the central dividing line that he's trying to create.  On one side: the government, who are willing to work with all parties to overcome this crisis of our democracy.  On the other: those nasty Tories, who are refusing to cooperate with the Dear Leader.  Problem is, what Cameron has done so far it to tap into the public mood; a mood which calls for action rather than spin.  Although, it should be said, if the Tory leader wants to maintain that lead, then he's got to come out stronger on issues such as the future of Michael Martin.