Monday, February 08, 2010

Cameron Clutches at Straws.

There seems to be no end to David Cameron's political opportunism. Three Labour MP's and one Tory peer face charges over the expenses scandal and have threatened to claim parliamentary privilege to avoid prosecution. Personally, I think it's a ludicrous defence, as parliamentary privilege is there to protect an MP's right to speak freely without fear of prosecution, it is not there to prevent prosecution for MP's who have broken the law. However, that is a matter for the courts to decide, which is why I find Cameron's intervention here so opportunistic.

In a speech on new politics, Cameron will tomorrow pledge to introduce a Parliamentary Privileges Act to ensure that MPs cannot invoke a 300-year-old bill that protects parliamentarians from legal liability "for words spoken or things done in the course of, or for the purposes of or incidental to, any proceedings in parliament".

Pledging to prevent this happening in future, the Tory leader will say: "Look how [Gordon Brown] tolerates the disgusting sight of Labour MPs taking parliamentary privilege designed to help MPs fight for their constituents; for truth and justice, and abuse it in order to avoid prosecution for fraud and wrongdoing. I can announce today that I have asked George Young [shadow leader of the commons] to prepare a new Parliamentary Privilege Act to clarify the rules of parliamentary privilege, to make clear that they cannot be used by MPs to evade justice."

Cameron also criticised Labour after the party's lawyer agreed to act on behalf of the MPs. Labour dismissed the ­criticisms because the MPs, who have been barred from standing for the party at the ­election, instructed the lawyer themselves. ­Hanningfield, who lost the Tory whip on Friday, is also claiming parliamentary privilege.

Once again, Cameron is so keen to be seen "doing something" that he is promising action where none is needed. I don't think there is an intelligent being alive who thinks that this defence has a hope in Hell of succeeding, so why is Cameron promising to change the law?

The time to change the law is if a ludicrous defence like the one being proposed by the three Labour MP's and the Tory peer succeeds. Should this defence fail, as everyone thinks it will, then the law will be shown to have worked perfectly well and there will be no need to change it.

As Number 10 has stated, Cameron is acting with "desperation". He imagines that this makes him look decisive, but it simply reeks of opportunism. He should let the court do it's job, then decide whether or not the law works. He shouldn't be second guessing the court's decision before it has occurred. And he certainly shouldn't be proposing changing the law until we have seen whether or not it works.

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