Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Goodbye to the Speaker

I was in the Chamber today for the Speaker's statement, and the tributes to him on his retirement. I thought Gordon's speech was very moving. The less said about Nick Clegg's the better. Obviously it would have been insincere of him to have paid a glowing tribute, seeing as he'd called for Michael Martin to go, and he acknowledged that, but I would have thought he could have managed more than two minutes (most of which was a party political broadcast for the Liberal Democrats). Cameron was smooth and shallow, and managed to fill the time without really saying anything. But Gordon was very good, talking with genuine feeling about how Michael Martin had risen from humble origins and, against the odds, achieved high office. (Clegg tried to suggest the Speaker and Ming Campbell came from almost the same place; geographically maybe, but not in any other sense).

I was sitting very near the Speaker, and he was obviously deeply moved by what Gordon said, to the extent that it was a relief when Gordon made a joke about other MPs being asked to roadtest the Speaker's branded whiskey (he's teetotal). He looked considerably steelier during Cameron and Clegg's 'tributes'. I think I'm right in saying that - by sheer coincidence I'm sure! - not a single Tory backbencher who was not on the order paper was called at PMQs today. Only Cameron, Lee Scott (who Cameron allegedly refers to as his 'bit of rough') and John Randall - aka the only Tory with a bushy beard - got to speak. And the Speaker may have allowed himself a little flicker of schadenfreude when Cameron not only gave us an open goal but virtually ran out of the goalmouth shouting 'here it is, shoot!' (That is, his admission it's a Europe-wide recession, although actually it's global).

Speaking of football, I was at the Labour gala dinner at Chelsea FC on Thursday night. Apart from stalking Jimmy Choo (very small and wearing rather disappointingly ordinary black brogues although I'm not sure quite what I expected) and chatting to Hattie, aka Holly from Red Dwarf (very nice, rather shy), I also got into conversation with someone called Scott Minto who I now know is quite a famous ex-footballer. Eddie Izzard gave an entertaining after-dinner speech, during which he announced his intention to run for King of China in fifteen years time.

During pre-dinner drinks someone had thoughtfully laid on a few footballs so that we could have a kick around on the pitch. I managed one goal, but that was before the goalie arrived. Still, in 4" heels, it was quite an achievement; unfortunately Mr Choo missed it. Then the lads arrived: Douglas, Hilary and Andy taking shots and David Miliband performing surprisingly well in goal. Eventually I had to march onto the pitch and threaten to take their ball away unless they came in for dinner. And they obeyed! Oh, the power of being a whip.


Steven_L said...

"...when Cameron not only gave us an open goal but virtually ran out of the goalmouth shouting 'here it is, shoot!' (That is, his admission it's a Europe-wide recession, although actually it's global)."

It's not global actually. Have a read of table A4 starting on page 193 of this IMF document:

Much of Africa, Asia and the Middle East are still experiencing positive real GDP growth and are forcast to continue to do so.

The recession has mainly taken a grip in the advanced consumer economies of the west.

Cameron was making the point that no one likes Gordon because he talks rubbish and treats us all as if we are fools.

A point well made I thought.

Whitby Bridge said...

re MPs' expenses. I see you redacted along with the best of them.

Frankie said...


is what Americans drink.


is what we drink.

But you are not one of us,

Are you.

Kerry said...

Actually the Irish call it whiskey too... the Scots call it whisky, but I'm not Scottish. However, Speaker Martin's whisky is indeed spelt whisky, I will grant you that.

As for Whitby - I didn't have any choice over redaction. In fact I tried to get them not to black out some details, but they wouldn't - they said they had to apply the same rules across the board. So you have the silly situation whereby you can't see that I claimed for a burglar alarm, even though I'd be quite happy for people (and burglars in particular) to know I have one!

Kerry said...

I feel the need to return to this, even though you should really be ignored. Most of my mates drink Jack Daniels, as did I before I developed a intolerance for alcohol... are you suggesting that makes them less British or something than if they went for Glenfiddich? That's plain silly.

Will said...

Good riddance! What we need now is a speaker who will cease all the old out-dated perks and bring forth modernization.

Bristol Dave said...

I thought PMQs was an absolute farce this week. Does Gordon actually listen to any of the questions Cameron puts to him before reeling off his pre-prepared (innacurate) catchphrases and Tractor statistics? Not one of his answers to Cameron was even remotely acceptable in my opinion.

And the planted questions on the Labour benches were just toe-curlingly embarassing.

Cameron wasn't as strong as he could have been, and Clegg was his usual shouty "fake outrage to try and make a name for himself" self. Also anyone ever noticed that when Clegg starts talking everyone in the house just starts having a chat? Is this intentional?

Glenn Vowles said...

Name dropping is used to position oneself within a social hierarchy. It is often used to create a sense of superiority by raising one's status. By implying (or directly asserting) a connection to people of high status, the name-dropper hopes to raise his or her own social status to a level closer to that of those whose names he or she has dropped, and thus elevate himself or herself above, or into, present company.

Name dropping can also be used to identify people with a common bond. By indicating the names of people one knows, one makes known his or her social circle, providing an opportunity for others with similar connections to relate.

Retrieved from ""

Bristol Dave said...

Talking of expenses Kerry, I've just had a read through yours (heavily redacted, though I appreciate you didn't have a choice in the matter).

Whilst I find it hard to believe you spent exactly £400.00 (conveniently the maximum you can claim, all without reciepts) on food solely related to your parliamentary duties for most months the expense forms cover, one thing that really baffles me is the payment of £1000 to Jean Corston for a load of old furniture in her office that you were taking over, which includes such delights as "1 old worn out photocopier" and "one old printer".

Presumably this furniture was paid for originally with taxpayer's money, so why do you then have to pay for it again, with taxpayer's money? Jean was hardly going to be able to take it with her, and since it was probably paid for out of her IEP, did it really belong to her anyway?

I'm confused.

This and more in my blog post here.

Dick the Prick said...

Jack Daniels was a Welsh dude and there's still some jolly good Welsh whiskeys available.

Kerry said...

The food issue I've blogged about before. Basically I asked for advice on how we could possibly keep tabs on how much more we were spending by virtue of being away from home, and was told that people just claimed the £400. As a new MP I followed that 'rule' but increasingly felt this couldn't be justified and - as you will see if you look through the forms - claimed less. Unlike many I did not claim for weeks when Parliament was not sitting. We now have a regime whereby we simply tell the Fees Office how many nights we spend away from home, and are given £25 per night - which actually works out at between £300-£400pm. Is this justified? It's considerably less than many in the private sector would get, but seeing as this is a permanent arrangement, i.e. being away from home half the week, some would say we shouldn't be entitled to subsistence payments at all. I think this is likely to be changed again, possibly scrapped, when Kelly reports.

As for the money paid to my predecessor, I haven't checked out what was shown on the redacted invoice but it related to a lot of office furniture - desks, office chairs, filing cabinets, sofa, table and chairs, etc. It was the cheapest way of furnishing my office, rather than starting from scratch. Jean asked me for this payment because although she had purchased the items through the office costs allowance, she paid tax on their acquisition. It's one of the anomalies of our situation - if I buy an extra computer for the office, even though it's purchased through the IEP (office costs) I am taxed on it as though I have personally acquired an asset, so I'd in effect pay 40% of the cost. I don't know whether that means I own the asset? (As compared to the other computers which are provided by the parliamentary estate and repossessed if an MP loses his/ her seat). You could argue that all such assets purchased with public funds should be regarded as the taxpayers' property - that seems sensible to me. But then we (MPs) shouldn't be taxed on it, should we?

Hope that explains things.