Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Conway - what should Cameron do now?

The news that Derek Conway is to be investigated over reports that he misused his staffing allowance for his elder son as well as for his younger should concentrate minds in CCHQ somewhat. The question is, what should they do about it? There are two courses that they could follow - withdraw the Conservative whip, either temporarily or, less likely, permanently, or persuade his local association to deselect him.
What is not in question to my mind is that Cameron must do something. To leave the reaction to the Commons decision to suspend Conway for ten days would look inadequate, and allow Labour MPs like John Mann full rein to play the 'hypocritical' card for all it's worth:
David Cameron is only too quick to condemn others over allegations of scandal but when it comes to his own MPs misusing taxpayers money, he has nothing to say. He should learn that true leadership is about principles and consistency, not just jumping on the next bandwagon for the next news bulletin.
For all the mealy-mouthed hypocrisy evident in that statement, he has a point. Not much of a point admittedly, as with regards to Peter Hain it was the fact that he was a minister that was the problem, no Conservative MP has called for his deselection as far as I am aware. However, there is a neat-ish solution to the Conway problem. When the Commons committee has concluded its investigations and imposed a period of suspension (whether that is the ten days currently ordered or more) the Conservatives should withdraw the whip for an equal number of days following the suspension. Ideally Conway would then retire to his study with a bottle of scotch and a revolver, emerging to declare his retirement at the next election, but that may be pushing the limits of what can reasonably be expected.
A final note on this, MPs on all sides of the House, the oleaginous John Mann included, should be careful before rushing to condemn Conway too whole-heartedly on this. The practice of employing relatives to work as researchers or secretaries is widespread in the House, and no party is immune to it being discovered that the work being done was minimal and the rewards maximal. There is an element of glass house about this that people ought to pay attention to.

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