The Politics Blog 14/04/14

  • Morning, welcome to the Politics Blog...

    First on the agenda today, is Nick Clegg's monthly press conference. He's plugging a new announcement about garden cities - promising three new towns in countryside between Oxford and Cambridge under Lib Dem plans. However he's sure to be asked about his party's dismal poll ratings over the weekend - dropping to just 7%. Maybe he is regretting those TV debates with Nigel Farage?

    Also in the news, Jeremy Hunt has announced plans to extend GP opening hours. There will be an extra 10,000 health workers by 2020 to support the drive.

    British politicians will also have a keen (and worried) eye on what is happening in Ukraine. The situation is expected to dominate talks between European Union Foreign Ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg.

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    Here's my flick through the morning's papers...
  • My 54 second video on the morning's papers

  • Nigel Evans MP has just been speaking on Daybreak after being cleared of rape and sexual assault.
    He said he was "shell shocked" by the accusations and felt like he had been "hit by an Eddie Stobart truck every day."
    Interestingly, he said he had received lots of support from other MPs - name checking Jeremy Hunt - but had not spoken to the Prime Minister.
    He also said that he doesn't want his old job back, but is keen to return to the backbenchers to "have a voice", because he has lots of things to say.
    First on his list will be reforms to the criminal justice system. He thinks it is wrong that people who are acquitted have to pick up their own legal bills and also wants the Home Affairs Select Committee to look into whether those accused of sex crimes should have anonymity.
  • Sky's Vincent McAviney has some thoughts on the aftermath of the Nigel Evans case.

    Over the weekend MPs have been at pains to caveat their calls for support for staff with “I’ve never had issues like this in my office but…” missing the point that if there are it can escalate and seriously damage the careers of everyone involved.

    MPs operate in parliament effectively as 650 small independent businesses there to represent the interests and views of their voters.

    If you look at the adverts for staff posted by MPs on W4MP (a website advertising parliamentary jobs) you will see a commonly used phrase: “Candidates must be sympathetic to the views of Conservative/Labour/Liberal Democrat party”.

    Quite simply this is code for "you must be a fully paid up member of the party and have a track record of having volunteered and campaigned for us."

    The successful applicants are then paid for by Parliament but inevitably undertake party political work. There really is no way around this given the unique nature of political work but a voluntary code of conduct issued by their respective party but not enforced is frankly pointless.

    If this is the route all three parties are going to go down then why not agree a cross party code, consulted on with representatives of parliamentary staff, which MPs publicly sign up to and which Commons’ authorities can therefore arbitrate disputes with.

    Once an agreed code is established then it should be for a centralised HR department staffed by civil servants and not party workers to oversee and enforce it.
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