Has Cameron gambled on the expenses issue going away?
Yesterday’s news that George Osborne is to be investigated over his expense claims puts the issue back into the news. I suspect that in the public’s mind it never really went away.
Largely ignored last week, in the news maelstrom surrounding Michael Jackson’s death, was an announcement that the Conservative Scrutiny Panel had finished its work. Reportedly no MPs were to be disciplined, and it looks like no Shadow Cabinet Ministers will lose their jobs. Some money would be paid back, though full details have yet to be released.
David Cameron seems to have gambled that expenses will not resonate with voters at the General Election. He is betting that either Labour will take most of the blame, or that the public will take a â€œthey are all the sameâ€ position, only damaging in as far as it boosts minor parties with no chance of upsetting the Conservative bandwagon.
Although Iâ€™m sure some Conservative supporters will be disappointed with Cameron’s position, particularly as he was earlier portrayed in the press as being ahead of the game, Iâ€™m sure they can understand the reasons why. Where would Cameron stop if he began a clear out of those in his Shadow Cabinet who abused the system? The allegations include some of his closest and most senior colleagues and aware of how inexperienced a victorious Conservative Parliamentary Party will likely be, Cameron chose not to open the can of worms.
Has he made the correct call?
I would argue that with Brown in charge of the Labour Party, and the Cabinet as currently constituted, he probably has.
If however there is a change of leadership within the Labour Party and Alan Johnson were to become Leader I think there is a chance that Cameron has made a serious miscalculation.
Were Johnson, a â€œclean skinâ€ in the whole saga, to clear out his cabinet of those tainted by expenses, then a stark dividing line with Cameron’s team would be facing the voters.
The Conservative top team would be extremely vulnerable to the charge that, while campaigning on a change theme, a Conservative cabinet would contain many of those, who, in the old Parliament, brought it into disrepute.
Note from Morus: The author is a sometimes controversial commenter on PB.com, and this article arose out of a challenge by some of his detractors. The article has been cleared for publication by OGH, and it should be noted that whilst PB.com usually leads with non-partisan articles, this is sometimes relaxed for Guest Articles – as here.
With Phillip Hammond now 11/10 favourite to be the Next Chancellor with William Hills, ahead of Osborne at 5/4, there is a serious question as to how Cameron handles the enquiry into the Shadow Chancellor. Must he give the benefit of the doubt to a top performer (as he did to Gove), or will expenses not be the danger at the GE that it has been recently? I think tim’s piece does make the case that Cameron must gamble on how much the public will care about expenses by the General Election, and I think he is right that as long as Brown, Darling, Straw and others are in post, Cameron can afford to be lenient with his Shadow Cabinet – especially as so many of his MPs in government might be first-time MPs. The experience of people like Gove and Osborne might be too important for him to lose them over perception of profiteering from expenses.
I know PoliticalBetting.com posters will want to challenge this argument rather than the author personally, and for avoiding ad
hominum hominem criticism, I thank you all in advance. – Morus