Saturday, June 27, 2009

Moonlighting MPs In Spotlight Of Shame

MPs are bracing themselves for fresh revelations over obscene earnings from the great outdoors as some start to make a sharp exit from their sharp practices in the House of Greed. As the spotlight turns from second homes to second jobs, 'moonlighting' Milburn is an early runner.

Brown is hoping Tories will be painted as the Party of Plenty but when greed breeds, there's no account for taste.

For most people, a second job means getting home knackered and dragging yourself out again just to make ends meet. For some MPs it's a nice little earner and a chance to make a mint on the back of their influence and on the back of taxpayers who pay their wages plus expenses and put them in power in the first place.

Cameron's Tories will be caught like rabbits in the headlights of the moonlight as Brown is set to make MPs' second jobs his next big thing for a summer clean-up of the Palace of Plenty and some MPs scrabble for the exit before a July 1 deadline to come clean over lucrative earings. It's not just the Tories or New Labour. LibDems like John Hemming are making a packet on the side.

But today up popped arch Blairite ex-cabinet minister, Alan Milburn, leaving politics to once again spend more time with his family. A regular thorn in the side of Brownies, he's no great loss to the true Labour Party.

On the surface cheerleader Hattie Harman’s plan to ban MPs from having second jobs, was a golden chance to wrong-foot the Tories. But what happens when New Labour MPs are booted out of office and the boot is on the other foot?

Faced with years in the political wilderness, scraping a meagre living as an MP earning three times more than average Joe, government MPs face a close call in the dying days of the New Labour brand. Leaving parliament before the election with a fat pay-off may make financial sense but makes a mockery of their bleatings that they are just in it to serve the people.

On balance Tories are probably worse culprits of this shady practice. But as with the expenses scandal they are not the government. New Labour is the party of government and has the most to lose in the court of public opinion.

Cameron is having a stab at cleaning up. So too Brown. But, as with the expenses scandal, this is more a chance for them to clear out the deadwood and axe those whose face doesn't fit in the new election order, rather than a root and branch clear out of the crooks, spivs and chancers.

After all, would a leader sack a general on the eve of battle, unless that general was useless, plotting a coup or the leader is so deluded they think they can win the battle all on their lonesome.

But Cameron is learning from Brown's mistakes. Making sure everything is shipshape before setting sail is always a better bet than finding out you've not enough lifeboats after you've hit an iceberg.

So shadow foreign secretary and after-dinner darling, William Hague, who last year earned a fortune, has now started giving up his outside interests to concentrate on the day job.

Penning the odd newspaper article or giving the odd after-dinner speech is part and parcel of being a politician. But hiding full earnings from the public or masking the whiff of conflict of interest takes MPs down the slippery slope of sleaze.

MPs don't take up second jobs for the fun of it, they do it for the cash. Firms don't hand over the dosh out of the goodness of their hearts - they're in it for political influence.

Former health secretary Milburn manages to squeeze in quite a few odd jobs while raking a fat MPs' salary plus expenses. A non-executive director at Swedish healthcare company Diaverum AB, he's also earned more than £25,000 as a member of Lloyd's pharmacy healthcare advisory panel. And over £20,000 as Member of the Advisory Board of PepsiCo UK, according to his entry in the register of members' interests.

His departure follows on the heels of former trade minister, Ian McCartney who's announced he is standing down at the next election and giving up a £113,000 consultancy with American gas and oil company Fluor.

Meanwhile, top Tory Oliver Letwin, has promised to give up 60 grand a year doing work for the Rothschild bank. Frontbencher David Willetts has said he'll be giving up his 80 grand a-year as consultant. Alan Duncan has agreed to scale back his complex interests. Others are digging in their heels.

For Brown now the danger also lies in ex-ministers being a bit too quick to jump ship and jump in bed with firms linked to previous political responsibilities.

The register of members' interests doesn't reveal the full picture. What's needed is an 'expenses file' showing how much MPs rake in on the side. Maybe the Telegraph will oblige.

Milburn wasn't the first and won't be the last to leave for pastures new. As with the expenses scandal, the 'moonlighting' revelations will end up damaging all MPs in the eyes of an increasingly fed-up and disgusted public.

All MPs are tarred with the same rotten brush however squeaky clean some certainly are and that damages politics. But MPs have only themselves and their greed to blame for getting themselves in another fine mess in the first place.

The Orange Party has a simple solution - just deduct the cash for jobs from MPs' salaries plus expenses. Any left over give it to charity. After all MPs bleat on about just wanting to "serve the public". Put the money where their mouth is.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Can Brown Shake Off McPoison 'Link'?

Twice Brown has been forced to deny dealings with his disgraced spin doctor McBride. Twice he was forced to stand at the commons despatch box and deny any links. Spiteful Tory trouble stirring to ruffle Brown's feathers? Or is McPoison back already? There's something fishy going on.

For the Tories the name of Damian McBride is spat out through gritted teeth. Forced to leave Brown's side in shame with his tail between his legs after being exposed at the centre of a nasty email smear campaign against top Tories.

Revenge could be a dish best served cold at the dispatch box.

Since McBride went to ground, many political observers have raised the vexed question. Where's McPoison? What's he up to now? Is he up to his old tricks offering "informal briefings"?

The mere suggestion forced Downing Street to put up the story that he's turned his back on the dirty tricks of politics, short listed for another job as an "outreach worker" for his old school. Some kind of penance perhaps or maybe taking the outreach just a little bit too literally?

The Orange Party was taken aback somewhat when for the second week running a Tory asked the PM a planted question during PMQs over links with McBride. The Westminster Mole is pondering the same intriguing question with equally intriguing conclusions.

The first week's question to Brown was messed up. Woolly, imprecise, asking only about alleged "informal briefings", that allowed Brown to get away with a simple denial. Tory high command was furious.

Not so this week. A very tight, detailed, precise question designed to pin Brown down, which had all the hallmarks of being drafted by Tory central office.

Tory backbencher James Duddridge demanded to know whether Brown had had "any correspondence, emails, telephone conversations or texts from McBride". Brown again brushed it aside with: "I have not" but here's the rub - the MP asked him to send his answer to the Commons Standards watchdog. Outch.

MPs cannot accuse one another of lying in the House. But they can force someone to account for themselves if what they've said is a bit dodgy. A prime minister caught lying to the House and its curtains for Brown.

Are the Tories onto something? What is clear is that all communications between a prime minister are routinely monitored by Downing Street and the spooks. It goes with the job.

It's designed to protect a prime minister from any false accusations and to give Downing Street a steer on a PMs thinking. Blair never had a mobile phone, Brown has. The record is there on the grounds of national security and in the best interests of the state.

Falling into the wrong or right hands and it's a case of Gotcha.

Ex-spin doctors have a habit of turning up like a bad penny. Disgraced Campbell is doing quite well with his feet under the Downing Street table blogging for the Blair brand.

And why not. Nice work if you can get it. Old habits die hard and McBride could well have offered some kind words of advice. Some lines to take on a vexed issue. No one would bat an eyelid.

But now Brown has been forced to deny it to the House. It only takes one transcript of a text message, one mobile phone link and he's toast.

The Tories maybe on to something. Or just giving Brown a taste of his own medicine. The McPoison wounds of Smeargate ran deep. What is clear is they won't give up, if only to make the struggling Supreme Leader sweat.

Picture: McBrown and McBride in happier days


Will Mandy Drop Brown After Iraq U-Turns?

With more U-turns than a drunken driver deluded Brown's long-awaited Iraq war inquiry is set to descend from fudge to farce changing at every twist and turn. Now the shabby stitch-up deal between Brown and Mandy to protect his boss Blair has been exposed. Brown could be cast adrift after serving His Master's manipulating purpose.

For arch political plotter Brown, the problem was intractable. Go for a full blown cover-up and risk the wrath of backbench Labour MPs and many in the Party or bow to Mandy on a promise to prop him up in the fag-end days of his premiership.

In the end the struggling Supreme Leader chose his own political survival over the Party and the people.

The outcome of the shabby deals has left the Iraq inquiry a confusing mess and left McCavity Brown looking foolish.

Playing out in the full public spotlight it was difficult keeping up with U-Turn Brown.

Standing up in parliament and announcing the inquiry would be held in secret to cries of a stitch-up. Now some bits could well be held in public.

It would not apportion blame. Then his own foreign secretary directly contradicts this, telling MPs exactly the opposite.

The inquiry is not a full blown legal public inquiry and does not have powers to subpoena witnesses under oath. Now it seems it can ask witnesses to make a formal promise to tell the truth.

The country was duped and taken to war on a lie. Everyone knows that. So why take such a suicidal line on something which gets right up the nose of many backbench true Labour MPs, military chiefs and families of the war dead and injured?

Brown was out-manoeuvred and out-classed as he caved in to Mandy pressure. A squalid little deal was struck to get Mandy support for increasingly beleaguered Brown and part of a Mandelson plan to protect Blair and his bid for the EU presidency.

John Kampfner, in the Spectator, blows the gaffe on the Prince of Darkness in a brilliant piece of incisive writing. Mandy's boss Blair has a lot to hide. Inquiry revelations could damage his plan to become EU president. Demanding a secret inquiry was part of the deal for supporting beleaguered Brown during the failed Blairite plot to oust him. In return he gets to be top-dog.

Now the inquiry is being dragged screaming into something resembling what it should have been in the first place. McCavity can turn around and say he kept to his part of the deal and it's out of his hands. But that won't keep Mandy or Blair sweet.

The inquiry outcome into the disgrace of a war is still set to take a full year until after the general election but could still blow both Blair and Campbell out of the water.

The power behind the throne will not be a happy bunny. Brown's last hope will drop him like a ton of bricks when the time it right.

Any spin of 'winning' yesterday’s vote on a Tory motion was a hollow victory. True Labour 'rebel' MPs have been let down and were expecting more than this sham, disgusted by the whole charade. It still leaves a bitter taste and a festering reminder of a fag-end government which spent billions of pounds and lost dozens of lives, fighting an illegal war.

A bunch of faceless cronies and government props will still be locked away behind closed doors. The issue of the legality and how the wool was pulled over everyone's eyes and the smokescreen of WMDs will be buried under the usual smokescreen of secrecy.

The shameful legacy of events leading to war has left many with blood on their hands, not least a disgraced two-faced ex-prime minister Blair and his "taste for war" and the squalid part played by New Labour chief spin doctor Campbell over sexed-up dossiers, invisible WMDs and the death of government scientist, Dr David Kelly.

There is still raw anguish of the families of brave servicemen and women whose loved ones were sent to a bloody war ill-equipped and duped into the Iraq killing fields on the back of a pack of lies and deceit. The dreadful legacy is still fresh in many people's minds.

The whole shameful episode needs the disinfectant of the public spotlight. The stitched-up secret inquiry with a whitewash outcome in a year's time would have put the clocks back to the bad old days of New Labour lies, deceit and spin. But now there's a chance it may have some real teeth after all.

But Brown has lost control of the inquiry and with it his power continues to ebb away.

The casualty could well be Brown. Mandy doesn't need him any more. Billy no mates Brown could be left to face September's leaving party conference all on his lonesome. Time to make that dignified exit and do what he's adamant he would never do - walk away.

Meanwhile another war rages in the new Vietnam of Afghanistan as over-stretched troops struggle to keep up with the doomed US surge to root out invisible Taliban.

Few had the guts to challenge war-mongering Blair in his Iraq war. Few have the guts now to ask what the hell we are doing out there in this bloody, hopeless and winnable war.

Picture: Front cover Private Eye


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Berk's Arrogance Laid Bare

The true colours of smug, arrogant squeaker Bercow has been vividly laid bare on YouTube in a contemptuous spat with ITV News' political editor, Tom Bradby.

Without doubt this is one of the most disgusting displays of pompous arrogance by a politician on camera the Orange Party has ever witnessed. Disgusting, discourteous and downright rude.

Bradby was clearly taken aback during the interview for yesterday's Evening News, asking questions any journalist worth his salt would have asked, not expecting such a nasty little put down from a nasty little man.

MPs stuck two fingers up to the electorate with the election of squeaker Bercow showing they don't give a toss about honest decent voters. Berk stuck two fingers up to Bradby and through him to the public.

The Orange Party has been at the sharp end of political interviews in the past and the sharp end of the tongue. Brady too, with Prezza and Brown spats under his belt. But never before has such appalling behaviour been played out in front of the camera. This is truly disgusting show of shameful showmanship.

New Labour cronies who voted in their government prop should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.


Get A Grip Darling

Saint Vince has done it again. A week since the economic god warned to take talk of the end of recession depression with a large pinch of salt, a leading economic think-tank has come up with the same stark conclusion, warning of dire times ahead. And tough-talking Bank of England boss, Mervyn King, has once again stuck the boot in, telling useless Darling to get a grip on his huge deficit.

If only this fag-end government would for once play it straight with voters instead of an endless game of economic cat and mouse and political point scoring. They may even pick up a few votes from a public who prefer honesty to a daily dollop of Brown sauce.

The recession is very far from over warned Cable in an article in the Independent last week: "What we are seeing is an economists' and financiers' recovery rather than a real one."

And back in that real world of real people with real fears and the real economy, the UK is predicted to sink further into the red than any other major developed country next year, in a grim warning from The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

At a stroke this blows out of the water the government's cunning plan to spin a recovery in time for a general election and put up deluded Brown as the only true saviour of the world.

The mother of all economic crises seems "mysteriously to have vanished" said Cable, in the face of a "determined counter-offensive by the forces of optimism". This diagnosis, he warned, is profoundly wrong.

Now with a stark message, the OECD has revised down its forecast for the UK economy in 2009 and warns the UK is in "a sharp recession" with output set to contract by 4.3% in 2009, worse than its previous forecast of a 3.7% fall.

But the worst is yet to come. The OECD predicts zero growth in the UK economy in 2010 and says the UK budget deficit will hit an eye-watering and totally unacceptable 14% of GDP next year.

Echoing the views already expressed by Saint Vince, the OECD calls on the UK government to cut back the ratio of debt to output which is set to be a lasting legacy for generations to come.

Something has to be done about it. Now. Not leave it it for the other lot to clear up after the election.

This UK forecast is much worse than those the Treasury made during the Budget. It's the worst in the developed world.

"Public finances have deteriorated sharply" warns the OECD, particularly concerned over the size of the UK's budget deficit. And that came as Bank of England governor Mervyn King called for tough action to tackle the "truly extraordinary deficit", firing off a broadside to Darling's economic disaster plan.

But will the government listen? Will it heck.

Even if the UK reduces government borrowing by a paltry 1% of GDP per year for the next seven years, it will still have a staggering gross debt-to-GDP ratio of 125% by 2017, one of the largest in the OECD.

So much for the recent spin by the National Institute for Social and Economic Research suggesting the recession is bottoming out in the UK.

This is all in stark contrast to bouncy Darling’s optimistic forecast. The OECD projects zero growth for the UK next year which is heading into worst-case scenario territory.

The warning bells are there. But the government isn't listening. Unemployment will soar above the three million mark. Darling is faced with a massive budget deficit billions bigger than he's factored into cloud cuckoo land financial plans.

It all makes for grim reading and blows out of the water the Brown spin which weary voters have to put up with.

Telling people what they can already see every day around them, the OECD reckons UK unemployment, which currently stands at a 12-year high of more than 2.2 million, will "rise substantially" and "labour market conditions will remain unfavourable for a long period".

But the dire state of the economy and what to do about it is being reduced to a daily round of lies from a discredited government set on a collision course with voters.

King and Cable have a lot in common. Both gents of the old school of economics. Both right on the ball. And both seem to live in a permanent state of despair over the debt which is piling up and the mess which is unfolding around them.

When will this discredited government of lies and deceit wake up and realise it's not just Saint Vince and the governor of the Bank of England who can see through the sham? Voters can see through it and feel it in their everyday lives.

Never mind the pathetic party politics and political posturing. It may all make for fun and games at Westminster but people's livelihoods are at stake here.


Who Guards The Expenses Guardians?

Parliamentary democracy is being torn to shreds in the dying days of a fag-end government with plans for an unelected quango to oversee MPs' expenses. At the heart lies the vexed question: who will guard the guardians in Brown's Big Brother House?

Once again the government has found a neat way of side-stepping responsibility and accountability for its shabby actions, at a stroke sweeping away centuries of constitutional tradition at the centre of our democratic process.

On the surface it all sounds so sensible. MPs can't be trusted, so set up an 'independent' body to keep them in check.

That in itself is a sad indictment of democracy. The checks and balances are already firmly in place. They are called voters who can see through the lies and deceit and boot out the crooks and spivs if only they were given the chance.

But without that election, parliament and democracy is being reduced to a sinister farce. Scratch away at the surface and a rotten underbelly is exposed, threatening the cornerstone of constitutional democracy and parliamentary sovereignty.

For the first time, parliament will have to play second fiddle to a bunch of faceless beaurocrats and cronies. In a complete reverse of the way this country is supposed to be governed, MPs will be answerable to unelected bureaucrats not the electorate.

Time and again when the government gets itself into a mess it digs itself into a deeper hole, wriggling around with another unaccountable and unelected quango to get itself off the hook.

Trust in parliament and MPs is at an all-time low. But proposals set out in the Harman Bill move the constitutional ship of state into unchartered waters. If in doubt, set up another quango. That is not the way to build trust.

As Oborne points out today, the Parliamentary Standards Bill takes this country into "untested constitutional waters, proposing nothing less than subjugating the centuries-old sovereignty of Parliament to an unelected quango."

And to add insult to injury: "This new Bill will be voted on by a House riddled with expenses cheats which has just elected a tax-dodger as Speaker."

The despicable true colours of this smug, vile, arrogant little man propped up by New Labour cronies were vividly laid bare last night in a contemptuous interview with ITV News' political editor, Tom Bradby. The most disgusting display of pompous arrogance by a politician the Orange Party has ever witnessed. In this country.

MPs stuck two fingers up to the electorate with the election of squeaker Bercow showing they don't give a toss about honest decent voters. Bercow stuck two fingers up to Bradby and through him the public.

The rot is set to continue.

The new Parliamentary Standards Bill will set up the “Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority” to administer MPs’ pay and allowances, as well as establishing a "Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations" to probe alleged breaches of the rules.

But there's a rub in the Harman Bill. IPSA members and the commissioner will be approved by a 'Speaker’s Committee', at a stroke handing vast power over to a bunch of political elitists who are not accountable to the electorate.

Just how will these guardians be selected? How can voters be sure they will stay corruption-free?

An elected Parliament, warts and all, is at the heart of democracy. Parliament and its lawmakers are the highest court in the land. As Oborne observes: The Commons is set to be reduced to a farce. Parliamentary government, a national joke.

So who exactly guards the guardians? The answer comes back. No-one.

The Orange Party fears for the future of democracy which is paying the price for the government's stubborn refusal to hold a general election.

The answer isn't more rules and regulators. A 'root and branch' reform of the whole expenses system, clearly setting out who can claim for what, where and when would solve the problem for the future.

Procedures are already in place for a strict enforcement of the rules and laws already there to catch culprits. It didn't work in the past because those with a vested interest turned a blind eye to the scandalous abuse.

If all MPs expenses had been truly out in the open in the first place, the squalid expenses scandal would not have happened. No MP would want would any dirty washing hung out in public.

In a democracy, the electorate is the best regulator. Voters are quite capable of kicking out the crooks, the spivs and the chancers. They're chomping at the bit but denied the chance.

What is not needed is yet another unelected, unaccountable quango or committee. Only a general election can begin to restore public trust in politics and politicians. Some will fall by the wayside and that is exactly why one is not being called for the foreseeable future.

Thanks to the font of all expenses at the Telegraph, voters now have enough information to dig out the truth behind the lies and deceit of the self-serving servants of the public.

But without that election, voters will continue to be treated with contempt. Revenge is a dish best served out of a cold ballot box.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Spiv For A Speaker

Government MPs have smug grins on their faces after one of their kind was elected Speaker, despite flaunting his token Tory credentials. Unless there's a massive change of heart and conscience, the election of second homes flipping spiv, Bercow, will only inflame public mood as voters treat the whole squalid mess of an election charade with the contempt it deserves.

Quentin Letts over at the Mail gets it in one - They voted for someone who could be even worse than Gorbals Mick!

Born-again Bercow finally beat off a challenge from Tory toff Sir George Young after MPs voted with their feet to ignore government favourite Old Ma Beckett amid claims of a stitch-up by the whips.

Pointedly, the Conservatives were the only ones in the House not greeting the election of a New Labour ringer with rapturous applause. Cameron's welcome was decidedly lukewarm.

More comfortable sucking up New Labour than the Tories, despised Bercow's biggest problem now is that most of his own party hate him as he tries to square up to a bitterly divided House.

And that doesn't bode well for someone charged with clearing up the stench of the expenses scandal, restoring public faith in parliament and steering the commons with an impartial hand on the tiller in the run up to a general election.

Chancer Bercow was in with a chance not for his parliamentarian skills but because he slimed up to MPs and backbenchers for years touting for the top job.

Displaying all the superficial charm of a used car-salesman/merchant banker, squeaker Bercow's toughest task now will be to charm voters, fed up, angry and thoroughly disgusted with a discredited Commons.

What was needed was a good egg, someone in it for parliament not themselves. In the end, New Labour MPs lined up to support their Trojan Horse in the speaker sweepstakes because they saw in him one of their kind and could get one over on Dave. No wonder Brown looked so chuffed with himself.

This obnoxious little man insists that he's got what it takes to restore trust in Parliament and politicians but it's difficult to see how an expenses cheat would be capable of repairing the damage of the House up to its greedy neck in sleaze and corruption.

As failed speaker hopeful Ann Widdecombe so assiduously puts it: The speaker needs the "goodwill of parliament" to succeed. The new Mr Speaker hasn't got what it takes. With many Tories detesting this vile man and New Labour voting for him in a game of ya boo sucks to the Tories, he's not the right man to restore that much-needed public trust.

MPs have learnt nothing from the devastating expenses scandal, clinging onto the the vain hope it will all blow over.

The font of all expenses shows all-round slime-ball Bercow is no stranger to the expenses scam. The Telegraph reveals how he 'flipped' his second home and twice got his tax form filled in at taxpayers expense, a move which a tax expert described as “scandalous”. So much for the much heralded fresh start.

For the history books, Bercow becomes the first 'Conservative' Speaker since 1992, following Labour's Martin and Boothroyd into the hot seat. But a Tory in name only without the guts to cross-over to his new found friends.

As the election sweepstakes unfolded, government shoe-in Beckett fell at the second hurdle, with revolting MPs refusing to play ball with a stitch-up by government whips, leaving squeaker Bercow to be installed as a ringer in the big comfy speaker's chair. The messy game of party political one upmanship will do nothing to restore battered public confidence.

MPs were still up to their old tricks, trying to juggle their favourite into the top job, treating the public and parliament with contempt. The Orange Party wholeheartedly agrees with Rachel Sylvester over at The Times. This shows the commons at its worst.

How depressing that MPs could not seize this opportunity to show the public they truly understand their anger and need for a fresh start with a Speaker who was relatively clean and not too tarnished with the expenses brush.

MPs still have a lot to learn from the public wrath over their squalid expenses which saw disgraced speaker Martin getting the boot. The Commons does not exist to serve their own greedy self-serving interest.

The high office of speaker does not exist to serve the self-serving interest of a two-bit politician who's motive to become Speaker is based more on personal ambition rather than on a honest belief in the need to clean up the Commons.

What's most disturbing is that the appointment of squeaker Bercow could bring the House even further into disrepute.

The Orange Party may be proved wrong and he may turn out to be the best thing since Betty B. But he's on probation and may not last long with the Tories waiting in the wings to pull the rug from under his feet.

Everyone wanted change except MPs with the most to lose. But for now it's back to business as usual in Brown's Big Brother House.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Is Speaker Stitch-Up A One Horse Race?

Government favourite, Ma Beckett, could romp home in a stitched-up Speaker sweepstakes, if the whips have their wicked way. Most hopefuls having their grubby little hoofs in the taxpayers' till. A messy game of party political one upmanship is being played out at Westminster as MPs fall back into their bad old ways to elect a new Speaker which will do nothing to restore battered public confidence.

A month after disgraced speaker Martin was booted out in the wake of anger and disgust over expenses, MPs have learnt nothing.

The culture of sleaze and corruption is as bad as ever. The election for a new commons ringmaster/mistress has all the hallmarks of a charade from the start to the finishing line.

For the second time in a row, the government is hoping to install one of its own in the top commons job in its squalid bid to control Parliament. But the Orange Party prays common sense and decency will prevail.

Disgraced Martin's forced removal and a new speaker for a new greed-free dawn was a golden chance to send a reassuring message to voters that the Commons was ready for a fresh start.

Yet many of the candidates are the very MPs who've milked the expenses system with great gusto.

Treating the public and parliament with contempt, MPs are up to their old tricks, trying to juggle their favourite into the top job.

Even before the new speaker takes the chair, The Times reports claims that Beckett could make it because of a Party stitch-up. Turn-coat token Tory Bercow has long touted his speaker ambitions as a New Labour darling.

At a stroke, a bunch of crooks, spivs and chancers are ignoring their responsibility for restoring public faith in democracy choosing, instead, to debase the tarnished reputation of the commons with a Beckett or Bercow expenses cheat and government prop.

All the front-runners have form. Fresh from her gardening leave, Ma Beckett, spent almost £11,000 of taxpayers' money on gardening. All round slimeball, Bercow, 'flipped' his second home and Tory toff Sir George Young, claimed the maximum second homes allowance available for two years running.

All roads lead back to Brown, who shoehorned his pal Martin into the job when Blair called time on respected Tiller Girl turned school ma'am Betty Boothroyd. Now New Labour Party whips are up to their usual arm-twisting tricks to try to stitch-up the contest for Ma Beckett.

In a secret ballot no-one will ever know who voted for whom and that could throw up some surprises. But a likely re-run of the shabby process that put disgraced Martin into the job in the first place is on the cards, with second-rate Brown at the centre of the shoddy skulduggery to put his bod at the centre of parliamentary power and influence.

For the public, the Speaker is seen as a tourist prop, a grand figure in the pomp and ceremony of public life. But behind the scenes the position is all powerful, controlling the heart of democracy, the reputation of Parliament and MPs' expenses.

If any party leader thinks today's messy squalid spectacle is the way to restore public confidence then they will be bitterly disappointed. Whatever the outcome, whatever the spin put on it, the result will only inflame the public mood as voters treat it with the contempt and cynicism the whole squalid mess deserves.

The role of Speaker is supposed to be politically impartial. Tradition dictates that the high office is swapped between political parties so the post can command the respect of the whole of House.

Martin was a New Labour stooge. Ma Beckett, standing for the keep-things-as-they-are-Party, would follow in his shoes. Bercow brings to the contest nothing but shame and distaste from Tories. Sir George is too grand to be the choice for a people's parliament.

Meanwhile as the speaker sweepstakes continue, Brown has the gall to call for a clean up of Parliament with more transparency while at the same time whipping up support for one of his own to make sure power stays in Brown's Big Brother House.

After the expenses scandal and speaker Martin's fall from grace, it seemed for a short time MPs would get their house in order and find someone who could command the respect of the House and the country.

There are some good eggs in the rotten basket but the Orange Party fears they'll be swamped by an out-manoeuvring charade.

How depressing that MPs cannot seize this opportunity to show the public they understand that need for change.

How depressing that MPs still do not realise that the Commons does not exist to serve their own greedy self-serving interest?

Instead, it's politics as usual for a fag-end government trying to put in place a commons lap-dog, as it limbers up for its final lap of power.