I've caused a stir
If you ladle it out, you've got to take it, as the old saying goes.
My post yesterday has provoked 52 MPs (and counting) to sign the following Early Day Motion tabled by Peter Kilfoyle:
"THE REPORTING OF MR NICK ROBINSON
That this House deplores the innuendo of the blog of Nick Robinson, the BBC's lobby correspondent; calls upon him to substantiate the imputations he makes in his blog concerning the Speaker and hon. Members; and also calls upon the BBC to publish a full, itemised account of the expenses of Mr Robinson, in the name of transparency and accountability of public funds."
Mr Kilfoyle posted his comments below yesterday's blog in which he describes as "outrageous" the suggestion that some MPs are too afraid to condemn the Speaker because he'd abuse his position in the chair to punish those that did.
My aim yesterday was to not to imply that the Speaker has or would abuse his position but to explain why the public statements of support for him did not represent the mood of all MPs.
There is clearly a great deal of anger in the Commons about the reporting of questions about MPs and the Speaker's expenses. Perhaps I can tempt Mr Kilfoyle and, indeed, any other signatory of the motion to spell out in greater detail why. We'll publish them when we get them.
In the meantime, here's my suggestion for "some competing and, occasionally, overlapping theories" (to quote yesterday's post) for that anger:
1. MPs feel that they are victims of a "witch hunt".
Most MPs work hard, find juggling a job based in two different places far from easy and were appalled at what they regarded as Derek Conway's flagrant abuse of the allowances system. They hate any suggestion that "they're all at it".
2. MPs resent being at the receiving end from people who are often paid better than they are.
Many - though, by no means all - Westminster journalists are paid more than the politicians they report on. To add to the resentment journalism traditionally had very lax policing of expenses.
3. Many MPs feel that their pay is held back because of their public visibility.
The conventional wisdom at the moment is to say that MPs should not set their own pay. The problem is that even when independent reports - such as that from the Senior Salaries Review Body - have recommended pay rises both the Labour and Tory front benches have refused to back them fearful of the public response. The result, over the years, is that MPs have taken to granting themselves higher allowances.
4. MPs loathe the intrusion into their private lives that's resulted from increased "transparency".
Increased transparency was meant to be the solution to the so-called "culture of sleaze" but, instead, many MPs believe Freedom of Information has simply offered journalists and their political opponents a never ending supply of prurient enquiries about how they furnish their houses or how much they pay their staff.
5. Many MPs are angry that the criticisms on individuals are sapping confidence in Parliament as a whole and, therefore, in democracy.
And, I almost forgot, there is a sixth reason.
6. The Committee of MPs who are reviewing expenses has declared that it will establish a new system of allowances that will command public confidence.
This morning the Commons committee reviewing MPs' pay and allowances said it would complete its report before the House broke up for the summer and not in the autumn as originally suggested. The Members Estimate Committee, which is chaired by the Speaker, said in a special report that as "a first step" it had agreed to cut the £250 threshold for MPs submitting expenses claims without a receipt.
It said that "We are conscious of the need to establish a structure which will endure and will rebuild confidence," and would take independent advice on how to put in place a "robust and transparent process" for claiming and auditing allowances. Moves are already afoot to force MPs to declare if they are employing a family member.
Change is in the air.