Just watching the news as the latest revelations on MP expenses roll onwards. It’s the turn of the Tories with Alan Duncan and Michael Gove’s names in the frame. No doubt we will have our turn in due course.
On Sky this morning – it was the main topic of debate – and it is quite breath-taking at times. I think MPs who need a second home should have one – and a decent one – but have long time been on the record as saying that if you buy a house using public money to pay your mortgage then any capital gain (or loss) on sale should go to the House of Commons. What makes for such shameful reading is that public money is used to do up places, name them as primary homes to avoid capital gains tax and then sell for a profit. That’s where it is so wrong. And I guess the other glaring bit of the expenses debacle – is the idea that it’s ok to employ a gardener at the tax payer’s expense.
This will run and run.
They are being broadcast tomorrow night (Sunday), but were recorded during the week. So on Wednesday it was a matter of dashing off from a meeting with Nick Clegg and Brian Eno (who has agreed to advise the party on youth issues) to the recording – which was enjoyable.
Having been nominated just after arriving at Parliament in the Rising Stars category (only done once per Parliament) and lost to Michael Gove, I can tell you that it is far more pleasant sitting there not having been nominated and therefore not having to have a camera stuck in your nose when they announce the winner – when just like the Oscars you clap wildly and ensure fixed grin remains on face.
Always a really well-attended do with lots of the great and the good and celebs. Cheeky Girls – needless to say with Lembit in tow, Jeremy Irons and Angela Rippon – to name but a few. I sat next to Michael Cockrell who confessed to having omitted making any of his documentaries about Lib Dems since the year dot. I offered to remedy this omission by sending him some ideas – and I will do Michael!
Trolling into work and looking forward to the day’s entertainment – the Budget – a phone call shattered my plans. The Press Office asked if I would cover the BBC panels at 11.30 and again at 2.00 on the Budget.
So – arriving at work – I give apologies to Home Affairs team meeting and study for about an hour before going over to Millbank. My co-panellists are Alan Milburn and Michael Gove. David Dimbleby is the master of ceremonies and as they usher Bill Morris out, we are ushered in and miked up. You get very little time to make your points thought the second session was a bit longer.
The key issues for me are that Brown ducked taking action to tackle the ever-growing inequality in our society – which is bad for all of us. (Much more detail in my conference speech of a few weeks ago).
No action either for pensioners, and worse – he took away the £200 rebate they got last year on Council Tax. ‘Scuse my cynicism – but last year’s rebate was just before a General Election. And now it is over, the money is cut! This year fuel costs are rocketing and pensioners on fixed incomes unable to cope with all the rises – including Council Tax – yet the £200 was cut.
Alan Milburn went first – then Michael Gove – and they both were trying to out-green each other. Which really got my goat – because quite frankly they haven’t got much of a genuine green credential to rub together. David Cameron’s green clothes are a bit like the emperor – riding a bike does not make up for voting against things like the climate-change levy or talking out the new climate change private members’ bill every Friday. And Brown’s green bits of the budget are peanuts in terms of what is needed. Welcome the rise in car vehicle license for worst polluting cars – but please – nothing at all on air travel. All the good I (or you) do in a whole year by turning off lights, or computers on standby, using less heat and so on and so on – are all nothing compared to a single air flight!
In the evening I go to what will probably be my last Race Equality Joint Consultative Committee at Haringey Council. (I step down as a councillor on May 4th). I worry about the Council’s commitment to what should be one of the most important forums for Haringey. This committee only meets about twice a year and although they are meant to meet in other forms – the feeling I got was that there was no leadership from the (Labour) Council Leader on this at all.