A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New Labour Democracy!

That part-time MP, little Dougie Alexander, who thought he was doing a favour for another part-time MP who doubles up as Prime Minister, has had to apologise for his eager-beaver approach to Scottish democracy. During Prime Minister's Questions today, David Cameron sought to obtain answers, after a report by eminent Canadian election expert Ron Gould was published.

David Cameron - "The independent report on the Scottish elections was published yesterday. It found that the Labour Government put party interest before voters’ interests in conducting those elections. Will the Prime Minister now offer his own personal apology for the unacceptable conduct of Ministers?"
The Prime Minister - "I do not accept that at all. What the Gould report said was that some decisions about the elections could have been better made. These decisions were supported by the Conservative party. The Conservative spokesman on Scottish affairs, the hon. Member for
Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (David Mundell), said: “I accept that the Scottish Conservatives acceded to a single Scottish Parliament ballot paper". That was the first decision that was made. The Gould report does not put the blame on any individual or any institution. What it says is that all political parties must take their share of responsibility for what happened.

Mr. Cameron - "How can the right hon. Gentleman possibly deny that that report says that Ministers put political interests ahead of voters’ interests? I thought that politics was going to be different under this Prime Minister. [Interruption.] The report says that Ministers in the Scotland Office—[Interruption.] Let us just listen to what the report said. It said that Ministers in the Scotland Office “frequently focused on partisan political interests, overlooking” voter interests. In a democracy, that is a complete scandal. The right hon. Member who was responsible for this fiasco as Secretary of State for Scotland is now the International Development Secretary and the Government’s election co-ordinator. How can he possibly go around the world lecturing other countries about probity in their elections?
The Prime Minister - "Because the right hon. Gentleman is misleading people about the conclusions of the report. Let me actually—[Interruption]. I will be temperate by quoting from the report itself - “Throughout the review…we have had no intention of—and in fact have
scrupulously sought to avoid—assigning blame to individuals and institutions or questioning the legitimacy”. The Gould report conclusion refers to the good intentions of those involved in assembling and conducting the elections. He then says in the interviews he has done that
“Party self-interest’…is not necessarily related to one party”. He does not assign blame to one party or one institution. What he is saying is that the political system must change, and
that is why we have accepted his recommendations.

Mr. Cameron: I do not know how the Prime Minister has the gall to accuse me of misleading anybody. He should take a look at page 17 of the report, which says that there “was a notable level of party self interest evident in Ministerial decision-making”. Is not the least we deserve that the Minister who took the decisions explains himself to the House of Commons and is stripped of his responsibility for elections? The Prime Minister promised us a new type of
politics. He said that he would be more open and honest. He said that he would be frank about problems. He said that he would be candid about the dilemmas. That is what he said in his leadership speech of 100 days ago. After his performance today, does that not feel like 100 years ago?

The Prime Minister: All the decisions were agreed by—[Interruption.]
Mr. Speaker: Order.
The Prime Minister: They were agreed after a long process of consultation involving all the parties. I have just quoted the Scottish Conservative leader saying that he supported the single ballot paper, and let me quote Mr. Gould again. He says, “I don’t think I would absolve any party” and “Party self-interest’ in this context is not necessarily related to one party.” This was not a failure of one party or one institution; it was to do with decisions that we should have made together and with decisions that we have now made to change the system.
I would think Douglas Alexander would have to button his lip on visits abroad now, especially to dodgy regimes with an electorally malfunctioning executive. When in Edinburgh do as Alexander?


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