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Not since Corfugate in October has a Sunday paper’s front page detonated so spectacularly. Baroness Royall, leader of the House of Lords, was forced to abandon her morning tea and crumpets today to remind Andrew Marr that Labour Lords Truscott, Taylor, Moonie and Snape are all denying any wrongdoing despite allegations they offered to table amendments to legislation in exchange for cash retainers from undercover Sunday Times reporters.

Amidst the uncomfortable Sunday evenings the four peers in question must be having, Ulster Unionist Lord Rogan has to be revelling in squeaky clean feel-good factor. When approached by the Insight team he apparently gave the short shrift:

If your direct proposal is as stark as for me… to help put down an amendment, that’s a non-runner. A, it’s not right and B, my personal integrity wouldn’t let me do it.

Maybe he was just the only Lord smart enough to realise that one of the Insight reporters was the same guy who caught out Tory MPs Graham Riddick and David Treddinick by offering them £1,000 apiece to table questions in the Commons in the early ’90s, in the original cash-for-questions scandal.

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Meanwhile, things are certainly going to get scrappy in the Commons midfield battle. Plump tough-talker Ken Clarke weighed into the debate with his first sally as Shadow Business Secretary by calling for an independent inquiry into the Lords’ conduct:

The Commissioner on Standards has got to carry out an investigation pretty rapidly. If the allegations are true then this one is very serious. Some people would call that corruption so I hope they clear themselves.

Cameron’s reshuffle this week must have placed considerable strain on the woodwork of the Tory front bench, pretty much doubling the body mass as it did of the entire cabinet. Clarke’s move to the business brief has been the most talked-about, for obvious reasons, but Eric Pickles – another bluff heavyweight with a waistline to match – was promoted to party chairman, not something to be taken lightly. He’s seen as a no-nonsense talker with the same tactical intelligence as Clarke who could cause Labour trouble in its heartlands. Thirdly, the slender Dominic Grieve’s surprise demotion from Home Secretary just six months after replacing David Davis has heralded the rise of Chris Grayling, another porker with a sharp tongue.

Not to be outdone, former Labour deputy PM John Prescott is in the process of launching a website so he can “talk to people individually”:

I have a Facebook, there is a new audience that we need to connect to. I’m 70 years of age saying I’m trying to communicate with those of 18.

It’s not just giving out statements of Ministers, which I’ve done enough of, now it’s about talking to people individually.

Note the use of article before “Facebook”. Down with the kids.

Over at The Observer, Andrew Rawnsley reckons the reshuffle is a sign of nervousness on Cameron’s part; he points out, fairly enough, that Blair didn’t feel the need to bring back Denis Healey before the 1997 election. More tellingly, Martin Ivens at The Sunday Times – whose commentators incidentally gave Labour no quarter this week – thinks Osborne’s graceful acceptance of someone who clearly knows more than him about almost everything “speaks well for his political maturity”.

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In The Independent, John Rentoul thinks Brown’s attempt to block disclosure of MPs’ expenses will turn out to be a costly mistake:

The Prime Minister did not seem to realise that the expenses issue is part of dealing with the economic crisis. He will gain no credit for trying to protect people from the effects of the recession if

 he is also trying to protect MPs with their snouts in the trough.

A fair point. To round off the round-up, The Mail on Sunday splashed on a story about Treasury civil servants having a Burns Night knees-up, complete with pictures of rosy cheeked bureaucrats emerging from their revels with kilts on, while The Express urged banks to “Lend! Lend! Lend!”. Although if the likes of Fred the Shred still lucky enough to have jobs aren’t listening to cross-party consensus and transatlantic precedent, they’re pretty unlikely to stop in their tracks and listen to the Express.

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