Monday, 4 February 2008

Snout-gate Winterton in trough?


Tory MP Lady Winterton having been sacked twice from the shadow cabinet, the last time for telling a vile racist joke has now got herself in hot water over her expenses -she appears to be claiming rent on a property she already owns-she has transferred the ownership to a trust. Those really cleaning up are her children-shades of Mr Conway.

I was particularly drawn to this story having fought her in two general elections.-1987 & 1991 when I polled over 18,000 votes on both occaisions. More of this story can be found in Edward Pearce's book 'Election Rides' Faber and Faber 1991,which chronicled one of my campaigns. I remember discussing the election results with Chris Davis, we both had similar results and he pointed out that I had the consolation of a chapter in Pearce's book. A few months later he had the consolation of a by-election and then a safe seat as an MEP.

Anyone I always found her to be the worst of Tories. Her voting record shows her opposition to transparent working in parliament. She put out press releases opposing gay rights-voting against civil partnership and a raft of other civil rights measures. She was 'hyper' about lesbians getting families. She visited South Africa in the days of apartheid and in the view of many gave succour to the white regime- hence I found nobody who was surprised that she was telling racist jokes.
She played the grande dame well-despite coming from a family of miners. She had a compliant local media. She only held one public meeting I am aware of, and her husband reportedly shouted at some of the teachers present! She always boycotted the Churches election meeting and never appeared on a platform with other candidates.

Now she has been caught acting in a way that many will consider reprehensible. She may have avoided breaking the letter of the law but does anyone seriously believe that the MP's housing allowance is a way of making a massive deferred payment to your children? She loved to pose a s a tough law and order Tory..

But the truth of the matter is that she will not think she has done anything wrong. Her husband will stoutly defend her. How nice it would be if she was contrite and said sorry and paid back the money. I saw nothing in her character that makes me think she will. I would like to be wrong.
The outcome of all these revelations will be to reduce public respect for MPs. We need clear rules that are audited. The norms of good recruitment and equal opportunities should apply to MPs.