Tories are Making a Strategic Error

George Osborne on the Today show this morning defended the integrity of Tory chairman Caroline Spelman over the Nanny-on-the-State charges from Michael Crick. Does anybody believe the spin being proffered that the nanny was also the constituency secretary – who in that case was looking after the kids when she was supposedly performing her six-hours-a-day of taxpayer funded duties?

It is just not at all credible, stop pushing this line, it compounds matters.

Caroline Spelman will very likely have to answer to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, because if a complaint has not already been made by a Labour MP it will be made by one of Guido’s co-conspirators on Monday. Quite rightly.

Can Spelman credibly lecture wayward MEPs on their expenses now? Can she now credibly defend and advance Cameron’s genuinely hardline policy on expense fiddling? The answer is a resounding “no”. If senior Tories publicly defend her or make excuses, as Osborne has just done, they will re-contaminate the Tory brand.

Caroline Spelman should first of all admit the truth and apologise. Pay back the money defrauded. Accept that she can’t after this credibly be the public face of the Conservative Party’s anti-sleaze agenda. It was only three months ago that Cameron gave a keynote speech blaming the loss of public faith in political institutions on the loss of trust in politicians:

Our Parliament is scorned. Our parties are shrinking … Let’s be clear what they think of us: “you lie and you spin, you fiddle your expenses and you break your promises.” To describe this disengagement and cynicism as a ‘mood’ is to underestimate both the depth and the intensity of the breakdown

Dave needs to “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk”. In Ireland in the mid-1990s the Progressive Democrats, a liberal centre-right party, came from nowhere to a decade of power on the back of a “clean hands, anti-corruption” platform. In the government coalition with Fianna Fáil they ended up turning a blind eye to Bertie Ahern’s personal financial fiddles. They were consequently wiped out electorally after voters lost faith in their “clean hands” brand. Don’t underestimate the danger here…




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