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Surreal politics

Nick Robinson | 13:35 UK time, Monday, 20 July 2009

Norwich: Surreal. I have just watched the leading candidates in this week's Norwich North by-election lavish praise on the MP who was forced out after being accused of abusing his expenses.

Ian GibsonThe Labour candidate said: "he was fantastic, a great bloke". The Tory described him as "great" and praised his independence. The Lib Dem said: "that Norwich needed another MP just like Ian Gibson".

Just a reminder: Mr Gibson has not died, he has not emigrated and he has not decided to spend more time with his family. He resigned when the Labour Party's star chamber declared that he could not represent them at the next general election.

Thus the first by-election to be triggered by the great MPs' expenses scandal is the contest to claim the mantle of the only man who has resigned after stories had appeared about him. As I said - surreal.


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  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Shame he didn't stand as an independent

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    It does indeed seem surreal - but then again that is the by-line for most of the expenses scandal, wouldn't you agree?

    It is hard to criticise expenses claims when all parties have been subject to the odd extraordinary outgoings, and it is hard to anticipate the future bed MPs will have to lie in once reform takes place.

    Further, I expect that all of the candidates feel sympathy with him for his base reason for resigning now; the way that people in public life are currently being treated is pretty horrific.

    Ultimately the oddity of the by-election underlines why calls for a general election now are impractical, regardless of which party one might prefer, there are issues which need to be put to bed before we go to the polls.

  • Comment number 6.

    Surreal? Maybe.
    Or an effort to leech off

  • Comment number 7.

    Labour or Conservative? It's like having to choose between Scylla and Charybdis. UK Politics is just bribing the electorate with its own money and then finding stealthy ways of taking it back (and some more).

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nick Robinson

    Does none of the following strike you as surreal....

    - An unelected head of state (and an unelected prime minister too).

    - An unelected upper chamber stuff full of cronies, disgraced ex-MPs and other vested interests.

    - Devolution where the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish get to decide the destiny of the English but not the other way round.

    - Pointless select committees with no teeth stuff full of prime ministerial chums charged as a counter balance to the government.

    Well, strangely, in the World's finest democracy I find it all rather odd.

    The people of Norwich North should remember on Thursday if they bother to vote that a ballot box doth not maketh a democracy.

  • Comment number 10.

    The Conservatives will arrive a clear first, but on a slightly lesser swing than enjoyed in Crewe byelection.

    The battle for second will depend on how far New Labour can fall (currently enjoying 44% share of the vote in the constituency)- the Liberal Democrats have a strong local candidate- might they get their former by-election winnign zeal back? I strongly suspect anyone routing for the Greens (who do have a good candidate) will be disapoined.

    Greens fourth; between 2000-3500 votes (note that 2500 would constitute a doubling in their 2005 performance!).

  • Comment number 11.

    OK Nick, who nicked my posts? Good job I keep a record! There were two, here's the first one and, because nothing happened I put another similar post a bit later.

    1. At 15:11 pm on 20 Jul 2009, OnTopic wrote:

    Among the independents standing is Craig Murray, former Ambassador to Uzbekistan, who left the post in 2004 after criticising its human rights.
    If the good people of Norwich North want real representation Craig would
    be a good bet. He is not afraid to speak his mind, (politicians in general appear to hate him, perhaps because they don't like the truth) & Craig has had plenty to say about them and about the 'system' long in use in the UK which is against the public interest.
    Time to get some 'real' representation.
    Go on, I dare you.
    Learn the truth about politics, politicians, and the 'system' under which they operate. Get a few home truths, see beyond the con.

  • Comment number 12.

    Surreal indeed. Do tell us, Nick, why the electorate of Norwich N are to be given representation in the House of Cars when the electorate of Glasgow NE are not? Has anyone from NuLab ever justified that decision?

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    #2 hannafordlee

    When Ben Stephenson refers to left of centre thinking, I assume he means New Labour-type left of centre thinking, which, unfortunately, is not left of centre - they're corporate-sponsored neo-liberal fundamentalists so it's therefore impossible for them to be anything vaguely 'left'.

    On that basis, it's a silly thing for him to say and probably the reason he's head of drama as virtually all of the western world follows a corporate-sponsored neo-liberal political philosophy to a lesser or greater extent (we're at the most extreme end).

    Left and right in the traditional sense cease to exist here, they're all variations on a theme.

    To illustrate this, I don't know what New Labour stand for, or ever stood for, and it's the same with the Conservatives under Cameron (although he has just joined up with some fairly extreme parties in Europe - one still believes in celebrating their contribution to the Nazi SS in WW2 another is anti-gay etc).

  • Comment number 15.

    On one hand there is no moral or ethical shame.
    On the other the fear of liable for speaking your mind even when it is the truth
    On the one foot there is a feeling of there but for the grace of God go I
    On the other foot is the thought if I dont make any judgemental or ethical commenton others they will have nothing to hold against me

    Politicians are party dogs, no independence, no freedom to speak of their values, they are monitored and taught by spin doctors, they have many loyalties but none to the independence freedom and expressive enterprise of their electorate, for they have sold their own ideals to the party machine and expect the electorate to sacrifice individualism to the norm.

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm not sure of the point of your blog,Mr Robinson. You post no comment for over a week with no explanation given as to why; it would be useful to know: illness, holidays, other more pressing engagements perhaps? Also, your posts rarely pick up comments made by posters on this site.
    Over and out as far as I'm concerned.

  • Comment number 17.

    Or, um, possibly lots of people in Norwich thought/ think of Mr Gibson as an excellent constituency MP?

    Not, therefore, that surreal.

    Bit dull, though.

  • Comment number 18.

    How do you know who "the leading candidates" are, Nick? Surely you have not had a sneak preview of the postal ballots? If the register "does a Glenrothes", do you think the press will care this time?

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 19.

    Talking of unelected individuals, I'd like to congratulate Baron (you're fired) Sugar of Clapton on his elevation to the House of Lords.

    Thoroughly deserved I'd say, he said very nice things about the government when others weren't and stars in a reality tv show that everyone talks about the next day at the coffee machine.

    Splendid, did he really do all that himself?

  • Comment number 20.

    It is not surreal, Nick. Mr Gibson's fate was just unfortunate as he allowed the party hacks and stooges the edge they needed. I hope they will be glad they got rid of him after the voters have had their say.

    What is surreal is the Prime Minister's refusal to accept that government spending has to be cut.

  • Comment number 21.

    Even very good people make bad decisions, so while Mr. Gibson may have been a very good MP. He still did break the rules according to reports, in allowing his daughter to live rent free at his London flat. He then apparently allowed her to buy that said flat at below market price.

    Often when you have a witch hunt it turns up some very surprising victims and I am afraid Mr. Gibson appears to be one of these. However if he truely believed he had done nothing wrong and his constituents were fully behind him why did he resign.

    However it will be very interesting to see who wins this bi-election. It seems that most reports favour a Conservative win. I am not so sure, the public may very well punish the main parties for the expenses debacle.

  • Comment number 22.

    Re: # 10. At 5:40pm on 20 Jul 2009, deanthetory wrote:
    The Conservatives will arrive a clear first, but on a slightly lesser swing than enjoyed in Crewe byelection.
    Is that crystals balls you've got there old chap!
    Only two political parties have run this country since the end of World War ll, The Conservatives (or Tories), and Labour (in whatever guise).
    Take a good look at the mess we are in - time to give some others a go.
    Experienced hands are not necessarily good, safe hands, and in fact in politics rather the reverse appears to hold true. The evidence is that the longer they are at it, the worse it gets for Joe Public. Time for some real change - but I doubt we'll get it with all those political party die-hards, so you may indeed be on the ball!

  • Comment number 23.

    Post 11. I agree. What happened to all the posts before 5.30PM?

  • Comment number 24.

    Dr Gibson, not Mr Gibson.

  • Comment number 25.

    Having spoken to people in Norwich, it seems Ian Gibson was generally very well-liked, and many locals are furious that he was witch-hunted out by Londoners. So not at all strange that the new candidates should seek to associate themselves with him.

  • Comment number 26.

    Just watched Nicks report on the News Channel. Bet Dr Gibson wishes he had stood as an independent. Now that would have been fun.

    I believe he was dumped by Labour because of his independent mind and not his helping his daughter which many find a noble fault.

  • Comment number 27.

    Ian Gibson was one of those MPs with an independent streak about him. Who, unlike many of his collegues, was not afraid to speak his mind. For that he paid dear. His alleged misdeamenour was rather petty compared to those of the big hitters in his party. Gordon Brown took the easy way out and made Ian Gibson one of the scacrifical lambs. Blackening the reputation of a good man name to save his own political career. The good people of Norfolk are a rather rebellious lot and voters of all political persuasions will come together on Thursday to give Gordon Brown a good pasting. Brown has failed to put in an appearance on the hustings and his photos have been air brushed from party literature. Just goes to show what a liability he is nowadays. On Thursday Mr Brown will know exactly what we good folk of Norfolk think of what he did to Ian Gibson. Gordon - What`s round, comes round. I think the win for the conservatives will be spectacular.

  • Comment number 28.

    Re: #23. At 6:14pm on 20 Jul 2009, Economicallyliterate wrote:
    Post 11. I agree. What happened to all the posts before 5.30PM?
    Reget that I don't know the answer to that one. Since the 1st recorded posts are at 5.27pm I guess they might have gone walkabout!
    Not being flavour of the month for a great many months (approaching 24 years worth) with both Conservative & Labour parties, there is always a slight possibility that someone borrowed mine, fully intending of course, to return it at some time in the future! A claim made in relation to certain correspondence which went 'missing' many years ago.
    Certain 'public servants' can , it appears, borrow such things for as long as they or their bosses please - just as long as they did not intend to deprive me or the intended recipient on a 'permanent' basis.

  • Comment number 29.

    16. At 6:00pm on 20 Jul 2009, tomsuthers wrote:
    I'm not sure of the point of your blog,Mr Robinson.

    Not sure if addressing anything to the author is really going to help much...

    The Blog Is Dead.....oh no it isn't, oh yes it is...

    Our own Nick Robinson has recently confessed that he's stopped reading the comments on his blog

    Certainly an 'interesting' view on how you take on board news and views vs. how you broadcast it without troublesome contrary opinion. Not sure how those who have taken the time to write here in reply might feel, mind. Some have suggested the less than supportive replies (that oddly often still seem to be OK with a rather draconian moderation system on this particular thread) might be the cause, but then as you say the point of a blog with 'Post a comment' is rather quaint.

    As the politicians some 'reporters' so like to wallow with, if you only set to transmit and never on receive, you might get unpleasant surprises if those you think are meekly absorbing your missives actually react to just being talked at as opposed to being engaged with.

    We seem to be at an odd stage where those who used to dominate the news agenda are not liking the erosion of their (often less than objective, or benign) influence, and are trying to get back to the 'good old ways'.

    Good luck with that.

  • Comment number 30.

    welcome back Nick! - I for one ... and it looks like I'm the one ... have missed you terribly - anyway you're here again now, so how about a little blog, say tomorrow morning, on the rather disturbing paucity of good ideas from Her Majesty's Opposition? - I don't mind writing it for you if you're pressed for time

  • Comment number 31.


    Did you write that post yourself? Sometimes, I do wonder if you subscribe to the Infinite Monkeys Theorem. Do you have semi-ferral chimp chained to your keyboard, working night and day to originate works of such a polished and thought-provoking standard?

  • Comment number 32.

    What I find 'surreal' is that I submitted 2 Comments to this Blog Article before any were Published and neither has appeared at all!

    Of course they were highly critical of Mr Robinson's lack of genuine reporting on the key Parliamentary issue: REFORM.

    The damp-squib of nil reform of Parliament which had Mr Robinson and all journo-pundits so exercised and excited just a few weeks ago. Mr Robinson actually wrote '..Parliament is changed forever..' and 'historic moments..'! What a load of surreal nonsense!

    So MPs will have to submit to an independent auditor - - big deal - - frankly that was minimal requirement after the Expenses scandal!
    So Peers can resign - - big deal - - when they see they can claim more from being in the Commons!
    So 2 x house flipper is elected Speaker - - now that IS a big deal - - clear indication our 650 MPs still live in a surreal world where someone representing the Nation should have the highest probity and integrity but has deliberately set-out to slickly use the rules to their own advantage takes a key post for Reform!

    Thus in a Bye-Election at Norwich the Citizens are treated to all 3 main Party Candidates declaring themselves whiter-than-white (like 649 others did in the past) but not one has a genuine proposal or even comment to make on how Parliament can be made more 'transparent', 'accountable' and 'representative' of the UK Electorate!
    Do tell, do gush Mr Robinson on how the Candidates are examples of the 'new' MP - - except of course you cannot - - everyone of them is a clone of the same wretched Party clique system that has so reduced our 'democracy' in the eyes of the Public to the point that fascists are preferred in some constituencies! Did you ask any of them if Norwich mattered? You know 'mattered' as in, if elected will you be a Member of Parliament for the Citizens of Norwich or for your Party and your Pocket?

    So, Mr Robinson, any chance you or anyone at the BBC or indeed any UK media organisation getting off their lazy rears to actually challenge the body-politic about why REFORM of PARLIAMENT in the UK/England has turned like Dali's clock-faces into a surrealistic slipping, sliding damp squib!?

  • Comment number 33.

    A somewhat low-key reappearance by Robinson after his unexplained absence, just like Damian McBride who also resurfaced today. Today was also the day the Shadow Chancellor announced major changes to the way in which the UK financial services will be governed if they are returned to power. Quite a choice then for a rather more inspiring blog, for sure the BBC Business Editor covered the George Osborne bank reform story but that didn't stop Peston having a least two nibbles over the Osborne/Mandelson/Deripaska saga did it? Some things, however, don't appear to have changed, in the first twenty two posts, five were removed.

    Meanwhile, back in Norwich North and this weeks by-election, no doubt at all Ian Gibson is a competent and popular Member of Parliament, just like many other Labour MP's, however, I can't help feeling an opportunity
    for the Tory's and Labour to repair some expenses fall out has been missed by not forcing others to resign their seats for similar reasons.
    It's not acceptable to me to allow many others to retire at the next Election on the pre-text's offered. Has Ian Gibson been made a bit of a scapegoat?

  • Comment number 34.

    #30 Sagamix

    'Paucity of ideas'? Like scrapping the FSA? Like breaking up RBS? You know, to protect the consumer?

    When the Tories are elected in a few months, with the LibDems in Opposition, you'll have your work cut out trying to think up a few good excuses to explain away the demise of the Labour Party - policy ideas will be the least of your worries.

  • Comment number 35.

    30. At 6:38pm on 20 Jul 2009, sagamix wrote:
    welcome back Nick! - I for one ... and it looks like I'm the one ... have missed you terribly - anyway you're here again now, so how about a little blog, say tomorrow morning, on the rather disturbing paucity of good ideas from Her Majesty's Opposition? - I don't mind writing it for you if you're pressed for time
    Steady on saga, you'll be offering to take part of Nick's salary next!

    If it moves - salute it.
    If it doesn't - paint it.
    But never volunteer for anything - you'll only get used.

  • Comment number 36.

    sagamix at #30

    Pop over to Robert Peston's latest offering if you believe Her Majesty's Oppostion Party is suffering with a paucity of idea's. If Robinson takes you up on your very kind offer to write the next blog, perhaps you can kick off with, say, 500 words on Damian McBride. Of particular interest to me would be rather more words about the situation the British part of the NATO contingent in Afghanistan find themselves in. You probably know the one, an apparent lack of helicopters that would certainly help British troops and others to avoid the improvised explosive devices the old Mujahadeen were taught,(allegedly by US and UK Special Forces),how to use against the Soviets or simply how why the British rations packs, (Meals Ready to Eat) are half the size of their NATO colleagues.

  • Comment number 37.

    29 JunkMail

    Go back to the start of the comments, ie 5.27. Its like the Mods have been switched on and posts are disappearing left right and centre.

    As they were pre modded, why ?

  • Comment number 38.

    Surreal indeed, I eventually decided to sign up and start delivering my tuppence worth on Nick's fabulous blog, but it seems that I wasted my time today as mid afternoon posts including my first effort were completely ignored - what a joke this is, maybe tomorrow then......

  • Comment number 39.

    At least he resigned and that is something many others have failed to do. In these times even admitting wrong-doing when caught passes for integrity. Frankly, with the financial collapse, they all should have resigned for not protecting the public who lost retirement in those banking schemes. They all dance with the devil so picking one or the other probably won't make a bit of difference as the bankers are running everything. It is not the global economy that should worry everyone it is the global banking network and the politicans who support it. They hold nothing dear but money and will sell a city, county or country down the river for profit. The banking/investment cabal has taken over and been able to do so through the creation of a worldwide failure, not because of some great success. They steal with impunity.

  • Comment number 40.

    muppet @ 34

    Paucity of ideas? Like scrapping the FSA? Like breaking up RBS?

    no ... good ideas, I said, not chase the breeze, lock the SDATHHB type stuff

    now if they were to promise legislation to stamp out the crazy City bonus culture, they would probably secure this particular Floating Vote

  • Comment number 41.

    #40 sagamix

    Breaking up the RBS isn't a good idea, sagamix? Sounds like a good start to me. A bit more ambitious than creating 300 jobs making batteries, announced by Mandy and Co today.

  • Comment number 42.

    Surreal indeed! Nick can't be bothered reading the comments, nor it appears, making any worthwhile political comments himself

    It could be construed that Dr Gibson was forced out rather than doing the honourable thing by resigning, just as it can be construed all is well with British politics judging by the lack of political comment from the BBCs senior political editor. Maybe it's time I stopped reading this blog too Nick!

  • Comment number 43.

    40 sagamix

    I see your favourite Harriet Harman was reported last week to be using the word "shocking". What could she be describing ? The lack of helicopters in Afghanistan? The massive rise in unemployment ? Or what passes for democracy in this country at the moment ?

    No. It was Arlene Philips being taken from Strictly Come Dancing. It's interesting that she used such strength of language on that somewhat trivial celebrity related issue - but you never hear her use such words to describe anything that the government does - I named but a few earlier. Funny that. She seems to have a paucity of ideas herself.

  • Comment number 44.

    Saga I too welcome the return of Mr Robinson. Whilst, I occasionally think that his blogs are a little in favour of the Government, if he is not there I have no opportunity to pass comment and to trade ideas and views with others such as yourself. Still passing yourself off as a floating voter I see.

    Nick I do not find the candidates praise of Dr Gibson too surreal. He was something of a pain in the neck for Mr Brown and his "honourable" resignation has given the parties a chance to test the mood of the nation. The labour chap couldn't do anything else could he!

  • Comment number 45.

    polero @ 36

    why the British rations packs, (Meals Ready to Eat) are half the size of their NATO colleagues

    think I can answer that one to your satisfaction - by our "NATO colleagues" you mean the Americans, I'm betting ... a.k.a. land of the free and very obese, due to truly gross food portions ... and so half of that is probably enough for anyone

    muppet @ 41

    it is an okay idea (I don't mind it happening, actually) but it's a bit late - would have been so much better ... wouldn't it? ... if they'd proposed it when there was still something worth breaking up - saying it now (sorry Shania!) don't impress me much

  • Comment number 46.

    Welcome back Nick! I've been wondering where you've been especially during a period of Brown's 'will they or won't they?' mishaps e.g. cuts in spending, helicopters etc. Seems that the two main men, Mandelson and Darling, disagree with him.

    Anyway, to the matter in hand....

    Whatever the reason for Mr Gibson resigning (perhaps to embarrass Brown by forcing a by-election that Labour may not win) he has done the honourable thing. There are many more who should follow his example!

    Who is going to win? I don't care, I live in Surrey. I'm just glad to see the back of a money grabbing MP!

  • Comment number 47.

    #45 sagamaix

    Yet another trivial riposte to a serious point, to the best of my knowledge, the Canadians and Estonians amongst others, aren't very obese and went to war, whatever the political rights or wrongs of the mission in Afghanistan, properly equipped. I can't be sure but I might be safe in surmising their respective Prime Ministers and Exchequer colleagues ensured sufficient funding was released so their troops weren't purchasing essential items of kit from their own money.

  • Comment number 48.

    46 rockBigPhil

    I live in the East Midlands - but as a Tory voter I do care who wins.

    Whilst the polls seem to indicate a Tory win, I believe the the result may be closer than people think. A strong performance by the Greens UKIP and the Independent chap might throw up a surprise. The LibDems seem to do well in this scenario. Whatever the result though, I suspect that it will be another kick in the teeth for the Government.

  • Comment number 49.

    I dont know if any one had chance to notice but post 13 has now been removed

    I dont know if the moderator has lost the plot or just a sense of humour

    But given that the title of the blog starts with the word surreal and given the connotations associated with the number13

    I had, I thought, wittily posted nothing it was blank so the moderator has removed a blank space i.e. no comment and replaced it with a comment on nothing how surreal is that

    Ah, see how clear it becomes when you write it down, now the penny has dropped - the moderator has a more weird sense of humour than I do - touché.

  • Comment number 50.

    #48 oldreactionary

    I don't care because I don't vote and never have. Mainly due to joining the Army aged 15 and serving 24 years. During this time I wasn't allowed to vote. I left just before the '97 election and when I decided I should vote, I couldn't see anyone who deserved my vote.

    I dislike and distrust this Labour government but I'm not convinced by anyone in opposition either. I don't want to be held responsible for playing a part in replacing one idiot with another!

    If all the errant MPs, including all those ministers (Government and Shadow) who have fiddled their expenses did the honourable thing, then we could start afresh and I may decide to vote.

    Brown, Cameron, Darling, Osborne etc. etc. have all admitted they 'made a mistake' and have repaid. Well that's OK then, isn't it? Yeah right!

  • Comment number 51.

    polero @ 47

    trivial response? - why? - was just offering a probable (and completely serious) explanation for our rations being smaller than the Americans - wasn't commenting on the other points ... equipment, boots, helicopters etc ... since I don't have much of a clue about military stuff like that - and if you're now saying that Our Boys are getting meals which are half the size of, say, the Estonians/Canadians (rather than the Americans) then that does indeed seem strange and, if true, very wrong - but is it true? - what makes you so sure that Estonian soldiers are habitually receiving a double UK portion dinner?

  • Comment number 52.

    #50 rockBigPhil

    If you live in one of those English constituencies which are not marginal, then it's difficult to see what purpose your vote would have anyway. In a marginal constituency, however, a vote against whichever of the UK Tweedledum/dee parties that happens to be in power, would be worth while.

  • Comment number 53.

    50 rockBigPhil

    Whilst I respect your decision not to vote I will pass the usual comment that you do get the Government that you deserve and as such, I am not so sure that your comments in respect of MPs expenses are quite so valid. By not voting you are abdicating the decision as to who governs us to others ie you have opted out.

    My own views on the expenses scandal is that i am disgusted, but at the same time blame the system that has developed as much as the MPs themselves.

    I am concerned that in Norwich, as potentially the rest of the Country in the General Election, we will end up with an MP / Government that is elected by default due to abstentions, or on the basis that some will vote for negative reasons to try to ensure that someone is not elected. Again I respect someones right to vote tactically, but again say that you will get the Government that you deserve. In an ideal world everyone entitled to vote will do so for the person/party that most closely matches their views and ideals and will be prepared to accept the result irrespective of who is elected.

  • Comment number 54.

    #52 oldnat

    You are absolutely correct. I live in a very strong Tory constituency whose current MP fiddled a huge amount on expenses and has since paid it back. He will become an important Cabinet Minister should the Tories win the next election and I would be ashamed to vote for him. He should have resigned immediately and I've told him so!

    Deciding to serve your country should be an honour, not a way of raking in as much cash as you can.

    They are all very contrite, but only because they were caught!

  • Comment number 55.

    #51 Sagamix

    I'm not the worlds greatest writer, as is probably obvious from my humble offerings here, but as an avid reader, the military and political angles of Iraq and Afghanistan have really caught my attention. Putting aside the political leanings or agenda's of whichever author's work I'm midway through, (I do my best to see through all of that), my point is, that compared to many of the coalition partners, the UK military, in different ways appear woefully underfunded. Presently, helicopters is the big stick with which Cameron and Clegg are trying to beat the Government. Funding for everything these days of course is becoming increasingly difficult to manage, I honestly believe though that Gordon Brown recently and during his previous role could and should have done considerably better in this regard. The field rations thing I alluded to earlier is just one example of Treasury cost cutting.
    Anyway, that's me done for the evening, no doubt you have your latest Harriet Harman fantasy to be, err, bashing on with. With luck we can cross friendly swords again at some other point, no doubt we'll be miles apart on loads of Westminster type issues in the coming months.
    Kind regards

  • Comment number 56.

    So no real surprises there then. My neighbours in Norwich mostly thought highly of Ian Gibson, he was, it appears a very good M.P. for his constituents. He is the 'sacrificial goat' while other more serious offenders in the expenses row, got away free. It is politics loss not that of the good doctor.

    By the way, where have you been lately, conspicuous by your absence. Nothing serious on the family side I hope? I ask as since 9th July, there have been many political stories gone unmentioned.

  • Comment number 57.

    old nat and BIG phil re Wasted Votes ...

    but there's another way of looking at this - leaving me to one side for a second, everyone's vote counts ONE and so, unless the result in your constituency is a tie or a candidate winning by a single vote, then your turning up to the Ballot Box has precisely no impact whatsoever on the outcome of the Election - given that there never has been such a result in the history of our parliamentary democracy, it means that everybody's vote is, and always has been, wasted - and if ALL votes are wasted, it equally follows (per Darcethenon's theorem) that NO vote is wasted ... do you see?

  • Comment number 58.

    I think that the three mainstream political parties will watching the result in Norwich very closely indeed to see if any indicators can be derived for the outcome of the forthcoming General Election .

    All three parties (Labour, Lib-Dem and Tories) must be hoping that the English electorate will have their usual collective-memory-of-a-goldfish and will be praying that the whole 'expenses' saga will have been forgotten by the time of the next General Election.

    And that might just happen too.

  • Comment number 59.

    Hi Nick,

    "Surreal Politics" ???

    Indeed I think it is more like surreal reporting!
    Norwich is important to the good people of Norwich. The rest of the Country knows which way the wind is blowing, and is worried about other things.
    So where is the headline & in depth analysis regarding the NAO refusing to sign of the accounts of SIX sets of government accounts - including astonishingly, the TREASURY!
    Why no info on the £32BILLION fall last year in tax revenue = 10p tax rise or £1000 extra tax for anyone lucky enough to still have a job!
    Most surreal of all, absolutely NO investigation of the massive hole in the Defence Ministry accounts - including the fact they have no idea of the whereabouts of £155million commuication equipment.
    Anyone seen Phil Silver ?

  • Comment number 60.

    #57 sagamix
    "unless the result in your constituency is a tie or a candidate winning by a single vote, then your turning up to the Ballot Box has precisely no impact whatsoever on the outcome of the Election"

    It happened in the council elections of 2000 - see this website's Hague savours local victories which states: "One local council election result had to be decided by the toss of a coin after the Labour and Conservative candidates both polled 572 votes. The Labour candidate won the toss in the Worksop North East seat of Bassetlaw District Council in Nottinghamshire after three recounts failed to separate the candidates."

    I believe it last happened in an election for the House of Cards in the 1880s, but at the general election 1997 the margin of victory in Winchester was precisely 2 - pretty close!

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 61.

    Nothing from Mark Mardell since 19th. June 2009.

    Is he still alive?

    I hope so.

    Has he not got a deputy who can take over?

    Does the BBC not care about Europe or about "Europe" i.e. the "EU"-dictatorship?

    Interesting stories are not being reported by the BBC.

    Does the BBC not wish to be world class?

  • Comment number 62.

    brownedov @ 60

    really, I didn't know that - quite a thought though, I must say, an exact Lab/Clown TIE in the General Election ... both seats and popular vote ... and Who Rules then decided by Catch and Brown tossing a coin - a classic case of "Heads We Lose, Tails We Don't Win" that'd be, wouldn't it?

  • Comment number 63.

    SuffolkBoy2 @ 61

    You ask 'Does the BBC not wish to be world class?'.

    We have just found out that it is indeed 'world class'.

    In that the Beebs's top level management have demonstrated that they have 'world class' expenses, which even makes our deeply unloved MP's look like amateurs at the expenses racket.

    Not really the sort of thing that one should be particularly proud of, particularly when you take into account that the extractive License Fee tax is one of the countries most hated taxes.

    To its credit, the Beeb knows that this model of funding cannot continue for much longer and have taken significant steps to ensure alternative funding streams from its commercial activities.

    PS. So it is reported that Nick Robinson does not read his bloggers comments anymore. As the vast proportion of comments on many blogs add very little/no value to the general debate, then that is hardly surprising. Although I was amazed by a recent thread on the Stephanomics blog recently, where virtually every comment was of extremely high quality. Now, that is rare.

  • Comment number 64.

    #62 sagamix
    "TIE in the General Election ... both seats and popular vote ... and Who Rules then decided by Catch and Brown tossing a coin - a classic case of "Heads We Lose, Tails We Don't Win" that'd be, wouldn't it?"

    Most unlikely, but it did happen in Zanzibar when it was still a colony, I think.

    What's most likely is that your Tweedledums and Tweedledees will continue to fight over their rattle and forget all about the need for constitutional reform. If they do, then TTFN to the UK and welcome to independence for Scotland followed by Wales. That will lead to a very long period of Tweedledee rule in England with UKIP becoming HM's Loyal official opposition in the not too distant future.

    Not what I would want, but there you go.

    On topic, I do hope that the only candidate likely to fulfil his promises - Laud Howling - takes Norwich N and does indeed show Duff Gordon & Co. what the electorate think of Westmidden.

    Won't post again on this thread, but do come and join our bletherings - deanthetory could do with some unionist allies.

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 65.

    #57 sagamix

    (and thanks to the ever erudite Brownedov!)

    You are of course talking arithmetically, and Brownedov has confirmed that in marginal seats one vote can make a difference - hence why I excluded them from my earlier post.

    However, practical realities remain true. An independent thinker in a constituency like rockBigPhil's (you wewre discourteous to omit his first name - a peculiar English habit) has no chance of influencing the result of the election of his MP, due to the sad manifestation of voters as party clones - so obvious on this blog.

  • Comment number 66.

    And for all you europhobes who are concerned that the EU wastes your money -

    "The Department of Work and Pensions, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office all had their end-of-year accounts questioned by auditors."

  • Comment number 67.

    If he's that popular (and from all accounts I don't doubt that he is), why isn't Dr Gibson standing as an Independent?
    It's probably best that he isn't. If he were, and he won, would that mean that the electorate didn't give a fig about the expenses scandal, or that they had become thoroughly bored by the whole affair?
    Dangerous territory, popularity, I think.

  • Comment number 68.

    An "interesting" subject choice Mr Robinson.
    How you managed three blogs in one day on the Tory spin doctor, I found remarkable.
    And now spinning on this teensy weensy local story, also quite remarkable.
    A plethora of subjects were there for the blogging 'twixt the 9th of July and now, and you chose this little local difficulty.
    I see your moderators are manfully trying to defend you from the disenchanted and downright nasty bloggers , how sweet!

  • Comment number 69.

    All very nice, that praise.

    But can the BBC please devote some needed attention to postal voting and sctrutinise it in a way that serves the public? Last time in Norwich 11 thousand out of 48 thousand voters ordered their MP by royal mail. Now, that vote was for a contested seat. In a much less contested seat in Glasgow, the number of postal votes was 1600 out of 28 thousand

  • Comment number 70.

    JohnConstable and #63.

    Re, "..Nick Robinson does not read his Bloggers Comments anymore... as the vast proportion of Comments add very little/no value to the general debate that is no surprise.."

    Well, that is about as smug and indifferent an attitude to the License Fee Payers as is possible and therefore I would presume you must be a BBC Colleague of Mr Robinson!?

    In all seriousness I would say if Mr Robinson does not read these Blogs he should be dismissed from his post asap.

    Who is to judge whether one Comment or another 'adds' or is of 'value'? Citizens of the UK own the BBC - - it is a Public body - - every employee of the BBC is employed by the UK Public. Every Citizen who contributes to its funding is entitled to have their disparate views Published and entitled to expect the willing participation of those employed by the BBC in entertaining and taking account of those views.

    Your suggestion about Mr Robinson's attitude to his Blog audience taken with the BBC Expenses and Pay scandal would place the BBC on a par with the wholly discredited, patronising, out-of-touch 650 MPs... Oh! I see what you mean... Yes, unfortunately there is very little doubt you are right... afterall, can anyone recall the last time the BBC reflected BRITISH interests!?

    BBC = Bought By Continentals

  • Comment number 71.

    Re 26, xTunbridge;

    Helping his daughter at his own expense is a noble fault; helping his daughter at our expense is certainly not. If he improperly misuses public money, how is it any different that his daughter benefits rather than him?

  • Comment number 72.

    66. At 02:43am on 21 Jul 2009, oldnat wrote:
    And for all you europhobes who are concerned that the EU wastes your money -

    Phew... another massive wrong. Order is restored and all is now again made right in the world.

    70. At 08:08am on 21 Jul 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    I think Mr. Orwell has been spinning a lot lately:

    'All are free to comment, but some think that their comments should be less moderated than others because, well, they are right!' It's a variation on the fondly cherished libertarian notions of freedom of speech I find so reassuring.

    He who owns the pitch and ball calls the game. Unless you happen to only 'own' it via 'unique' funding. Then a small minority who consume/spend your money do. Simples.

  • Comment number 73.

    Mr Gibson is the ONLY MP that deserves the Right Honourable title.

    Yes, he was caught with his had in the cookie jar (LIKE the MAJORITY of MPS), but UNLIKE AN other MP he did the houourable thing and stood down, forefiting the MASSIVE sums of transition cash we pay MP's who lose their seats at general elections.

    His standing down has persionally cost him between 50 and 100 thousand pounds of transitional payments.

  • Comment number 74.

    Slightly off topic but a point that is still not being looked into by the press.

    I have been writing to the inland rev, Darling and the PM. Asking why NO MP is being investigated for illegally filling in and supplying false declerations on their tax returns.

    MP's have an addition sectoin to their tax returns, in that section the declaire their ACA (Second homes payments) and the have to sign a deceleration that the payments were "Solely and excusively used for their duties as an MP" they are also given a box to declaire the amount of the payments received for which this did not apply (ie where they owe tax). The guidline document states that EVEN if the fees office paid the claim in full, MP's ARE eligable for Income TAX where monies were not exclusivly used for their duties as an MP, it even gives a few examples.

    One obvious area is where an MP declares the house where their family live FULL time as the MP's second home. They CAN NOT claim that days where they were in London but the faimily were at the so called "second home", that the FULL second home payments were soley for their duties as an MP.

    Is such cases if the MP signed the declairation on their tax return and didn't tell the tax office that X days the property was used by the faimily then they have commited tax invasion and fraud!

    YET WHY are no MP's being investigated!

  • Comment number 75.


    Probably a fait accompli.

    What is more interesting is that Alan Johnson let slip on Marr on Sunday that there is eight months now until the GENERAL election. Yippee!

  • Comment number 76.

    Oldnat and #66.

    Re, ".. for all you Europhobes... waste money.."

    Not quite certain why you put the link up?

    The relevant parts were all covered by the BBC UK News pages and mentioned by SKY News yesterday.

    The projected billions not 'accounted for' by the UK/England Government that has led to the 'qualifying' of HM Public Accounts is largely to do with the relatively new Public Expenditure saving the Banks etc.
    Whether one agrees with the Jock's-Darling's policies or not it is the diverting and appropriation of vast funds for the hoped-for alleviation of the Economic downturn that caused the UK National Audit Office to do something it apparently had not done before in the modern era.

    Quite what that has to do with being 'anti' or even 'pro' EU is something you will have to go into detail about: As a confirmed 'anti-EU' I know the EU has all sorts of difficulty balancing any Budget (see its useless, unmandated Parliament for financial reports), however, that is not the same as UK/England difficulty with managing its Public Expenditure/Exchequer.
    There is no doubt troubled 'financial' times lay ahead when the Union has to face up to paying for the previous misappropriations and present overspend.
    The Political Parties (inc. SNP) all admit as much but choose to use varying descriptions of what in essence will become the massive Cuts in Public Expenditure and Increases in Taxation for the British Public.

    Unfortunately, the European Union would appear not have bothered to face up to its financial errors/issues. For 30+ years it has and continues to overspend, waste and misappropriate the 27 member Nations' monies without ever having balanced its books. It has never shown even the slightest indication it ever intends in the future to do so - - it is an institution running entirely on debt - - and unlike National Governments such as the UK and Scottish Parliaments shows no sign of adjusting policy to meet the present huge Economic constraints.

    Indeed, were it not 'International' at multi-Government level the EU would be the modern example of the classic banana state: All the symptoms are there, an unrepresentative-unaccountable ruling clique, a vast economic entity designed to ensure the political elite and their big-business supporters gain most financial reward, the elected representatives accruing yet more power whilst Public vote diminishes at every election, and the Citizen almost entirely ignored as spurious grandiose new policies drawing even more funds are announced bearing no relation to expressed Public interest or need.

    Call me Europhobic if you must, but, I'd even take the Jock in No.10 for another 5 or 6 years ahead of that bunch of charlatans in Brussels - - 'qualified' accounts or not - - better a Union/National clown the Citizens can at least affect in some manner than a wholly unresponsive, uninterested and unreachable devil with a hand in everyone's wallet.

  • Comment number 77.

    Well fellow responders: I know a lot of you make a point that Nick takes a pro zanulabour line, however, just imagine the scene if it was actually Andrew Marr?.........Dooooooohhhhhhhhh.....

  • Comment number 78.

    @ dysgwrcymraeg (77)

    Just to let you know, Mr Marr is married to Ms Ashley, of Guardian as well as BBC fame, whose father is a labour peer, previously MP.

  • Comment number 79.

    Anyone listening like me to the Radio 4 prog: 'Expenses, the MPs story'?

    A remarkable piece of work; I did not catch the presenter's name but she did a fine job whether she intended to or not.

    What a shower of unquenchable, unconscionable, out-of-touch frauds these MPs are?

    They feared a 'suicide' and they hated the 'hate' mail with gas chambers and guillotines! Some have quit because the 'pressure is beyond them' and some fear a revertion to 'rich and powerful' only standing for election!

    Is this a joke? Is there a planet Westminster separated from planet UK? Are these people for real?

    Of course they are: They are the same elected Members of Parliament who stood by whilst their colleagues at best misappropriated and at worst stole Public Monies. The same MPs who blacked out their entire Expenses claims when they Published their version. The 650 MPs who tried for 2 years to resist complying with the Freedom of Information Act to cover up their duplicity, corruption and dislike of the Public. MPs who had already voted themselves extraordinary Pension Funds and Salaries 3 times the National Average plus Expenses and then went on to rent 'adult' videos, bought compost, duck-homes, avenues of trees, 2, 3, 4 houses with Public Monies and then claimed it all back on Expenses!

    MPs said, ".. Parliament is just laying on its back... paws in the air.. a hatred of politicians..". No! Really?

    What did those MP or any contributing MP for the programme do about the UK Citizens' requirements in the previous 5 years?

    In no particular order:
    Did they listen and oppose ID and CCTV? Did they give the British Public a vote on a PM after Blair? Did they listen to the Public before Iraq? Did they try to understand and respond to fears about Immigration? Did they actually do anything about Jobs for Brits? Did they stop the 10% Tax being withdrawn? Did they insist on a Referendum on the EU Constitution? Did they demand a Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty? Did they plan for an English Parliament? Did they resign and hold a General Election after the Expenses scandal? Did they nod through lax laws that allowed Banks and Investment Companies to bankrupt the nation? Did they allow rich executives to retire on huge Pensions whilst allowing 3.5 million Workers to be sacked? Did they owe allegiance to their Party above their Citizens or conscience? Did they even once consider representing the UK Public interests in improving Health-Education Services first and foremost? Did they check UK Armed Forces were properly equipped to do their bidding? Did they quash Police-Judicial Political Correctness in favour of the Innocent Citizen supported by Law and Order? Did they support London's Olympic bid whilst closing playing fields and commons?

    Who knows: We do know whilst all the above was/is going on they were very careless about completing their Expense Claims.

    End of sympathy.

  • Comment number 80.

    This disappeared yesterday, so a late re-posting.

    Pretty surreal political blog, really.

    Norwich is a by-election, triggered by the government, not meaning much when a general election in ticking ever closer.

    While a massive debate rages about the quality and quantity of equipment and the required numbers of troops forced to exist in Afghanistan.

    While government still finds it hard to say that total public spending will have to fall very soon. (Despite a couple of significant think-tanks saying even the NHS may have to tighten its belt...)

    While there is a genuine political debate over the re-shaping of regulatory authorities (and their powers) to stop bankers making a hash of all our lives in future. And the bankers helped by governments carry on as though they were entitled to screw up and allow US to bail them out as naturally as day follows night.

    While various bits of the "health profesion" can't offer a common perspective on how pregnant ladies should live their lives in a Swine Flu environment. How joined-up is that?

    While a QANGO says that "charity" can only be said to be real if it offers most help to the poor. (AKA let's attack private schools... Never went to one, so it's all moot to me.) How does that square with helping people with a stammer, who can come from any background? Or a cancer victim, who could be rich as Croesus, but still suffering? Someone burnt in a car crash?

    While Blair looks like being shoed-in to the EU "Presidency". The great proponent of social fairness who ... won't say that.

    While the national auditors won't sign off the accounts for several government ministries - INCLUDING THE TREASURY? Because they aren't quite sure where the money went?

    While... Forget it.

    Norwich? Nice place. As a lead piece after a few days away? Will it make any difference to anybody? Whoever pops in may have to pop out again by June of next year.

    There are still places of higher education who were convinced that the Learning and Skills council had enough people who had learnt something and had a little skill to count up to the total of the money actually available... Tough. So instead of this mess there will be 2 or 3 mini-QANGOs. So no doubt the people who lose their jobs in the big one will get redundancy, before switching to new roles in their off-spring.

    I bleat on constantly. It's not the principle. It's not the policy. It's the DELIVERY that counts.

    A decade of very, very poor delivery. A decade of blizzards of initiatives, statements, White, Green Papers, laws aplenty (so many that even the judiciary says "Stop". For goodness sake, if the judges cant keep up, what chance does Joe Public have?).

    End result? Massive public debt. Unfinished buildings of further education. Wrecked financial framework. Windmills as the wonderfully underperforming, hugely expensive and subsidised way forward. (Of course, alongside un-built nuclear power stations. And totally unproven CO2 capturing coal-fired power stations. I wonder how many will be on-line before we have to switch off existing nuclear plants?)

    Come on Nick. At this point, a totally unnecessary by-election is hardly centre-stage in political life, is it?

  • Comment number 81.

    "79. At 10:04am on 21 Jul 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:
    Anyone listening like me to the Radio 4 prog: 'Expenses, the MPs story'?


    They feared a 'suicide' and they hated the 'hate' mail with gas chambers and guillotines! Some have quit because the 'pressure is beyond them' and some fear a revertion to 'rich and powerful' only standing for election!"

    Sorry ony ONE MP has quit AND Stood down, all the rest of the "quitters" have opted to stand down at the next general electrion thus garanteeing them selves between 50-100 thousand in transitional payments.

    I was also anoyed thet the program did not look into the probable faulse declarations MP's have been placing in the MP's Incom Tax Forms, where they have to explicity delcare what percentage of their ACA's were exclusivly used for their duties as an MP.

  • Comment number 82.

    The Norwich by election is a side show. The surreal element is the absence of a general election through which the whole country can pass judgement on the government and set new direction. Britain needs change.

  • Comment number 83.

    The Times reported:
    "A mountain of bad news was buried by the Government as it rushed out reports and 26 ministerial statements the day before MPs go on holiday. Whitehall sources said that many of the reports were ready to be published weeks ago, and would normally be released in stages, but ministers had insisted they all be delayed till yesterday.

    The dangerous state of the public finances was laid bare by the reports, which showed that the Governments tax take plummeted by £32 billion last year. Figures from HM Revenue & Customs showed income tax, national insurance, VAT, stamp duty and corporation tax fell by £21 billion, while other debts and legal liabilities had cut income by a further £10 billion.

    The figures were disclosed as the National Audit Office (NAO) refused to sign off six sets of Whitehall accounts because of fraud, error, overpayments and IT problems. The accounts, covering billions of pounds, included the Ministry of Defence, the Treasury, the Revenue, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Home Office and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. The Government also slipped out reports criticising its training programmes and announced delays in several policy areas."

    Now, that's the sort of thing I'd expect a political commentator to take a fairly close look at...

    Not the fluff. Not the pretty promises. Any politician can do that.
    Just focus on the real, cost-effective and sensible delivery on behalf of the public. That's harder to spot!

  • Comment number 84.

    Yes Econce I think we knew that Marr's father in law is Jack Ashley the Labour MP and his wife is Jackie Ashley who writes and advises the Labour Party speeches etc.

    Robert Peston's father is a Labour Peer too.

    Greg Dyke was standing as a Labour MP.

    Stephanie Flanders is heavily lefty as are many many BBC reporters.

    They recruit from left leaning indoctrinated universities (who also to some extent work for the government - universities whose professors and academics endorse government hobby horses such as swine flu, climate change, financial and social issues etc.).

    This government could not get by without a certain input from the trades unions and the lefty universities.

    Utterly disgraceful.

    All under the aegis and auspices that is ostensibly "owned" by themselves. The government are weak.

    They cannot see that a vast majority of this country's problems is that families no longer exist, they are jigsaw families who do not guide their children. They do not show examples. They do not teach right from wrong.

    Looney liberalist lefties.

    A degree in common sense is what they distinctly lack.

  • Comment number 85.

    Ian Gibson has one quality that all MPs should have - INDEPENDENCE - a constituents' MP. If only most of the rest - not my MP David Drew who is cast in the same mould as Ian Gibson - has the guts to voice their voice instead of following the party line when they know it is wrong, being bullied by the whips, or keeping quiet while climbing the greasy pole - we the public would be much happier.

    What we want IS independent MPs.

    On another point, but related, I was interested in Alan Milburn's report on "posh" people getting the top jobs. This is totally party political. It would be far more correct to say that the better educated people get the top jobs, with a certain degree of nepotism thrown in.

    The answer is simple.

    1 Improve the level of education from the bottom up rather than reducing from the top down by castigating private education.

    2 Make students works harder making exams harder not easier, and elimate course work which is now just a cheat.

    3 Find a way of getting ALL parents to show an interest in their childrens' education and getting them to aspire higher.

    4 Give proper career information from an early age. I speak as someone who ended up taking the wrong A levels and ended with a science degree instead of an arts degree, and had no careers advice whatsoever.

    Oh, by the way - I also had free school meals, a full university grant, parents who had little or no education, and lived in a council prefab. Did it stop me getting on - NO. But looking at kids from the same area now (I left in 1969 to go to university) all I can say is that standards have dropped - crime is rife, parents prefer to laze at home on benefits rather than work, and their children have little or no discipline.

    A return to old values (even if they were in some cases misguided) would be a good start.

  • Comment number 86.

    78 dyn.

    I knew Mr Marr has a Labour slant but I didn't realise it was backed quite so strongly.

  • Comment number 87.

    Maybe now we will be able to understand that irresponsible reporting can lead us up the wrong path. The telegraph and other reporting did not try to put any value on what MPs are paid it just assumed like the witchfinder general everything was wrong. This gentleman is obviously a loss to his community, losing the Telegraph will never be a loss to anybody! In a world where we tend to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, newspapers beware, can't even use them to wrap chips in today.

  • Comment number 88.

    21st July 2009, The total outstanding government debt stands at £798.8bn, a rise of £157bn on year ago, equal to 56.6% of UK GDP.

    Think votors should seriously think about that before placing an X next to the Labour candidates name.

  • Comment number 89.

    Of course it will not matter one bit who wins this bi-election or even the General Election until the political parties come clean and have an honest conversation with the electorate. I have seen nothing from any of the political parties that they will address the important issues and are willing to change the way the economy is run in any substantial way.

    It is taken, that whoever wins the next election will increase taxes, we are asked to believe this is necessary to pay for public spending and to deal with our debt. If we do this we will almost certainly ensure that we will become bankrupt in my opinion.

    It is perhaps better to make the case for lower taxes in spite of our fiscal problems in the Country. None of the parties will make this case because none of them are prepared to take the drastic measures needed to cut public expenditure. They would much rather tinker about with our public sector as it is, than overall it from top to bottom. Lower taxes for business are essential in the years to come to encourage investment and entrepreneurs. At the moment business is deserting the UK for lower tax economies and this will continue, taking valuable jobs with them. Without the jobs in the private sector there will be no one to pay for the public finances or our debt. With the loss of the City as a source of high revenue we need as much as possible to encourage new business to fill the void. We should have established our Country as a low taxation one, during the boom years instead of increasing the public spending.

    There is also the case to be made for lower taxation on the individual. People if they are allowed to keep more of their own money will spend more, save more towards old age and provide for themselves. At the moment they look to the state to provide in which case a lot of the money is wasted. A much smaller state should be the ambition of any incoming Government but I see absolutely no sign of this coming from any party.

    Fortune favours the brave, and I am afraid none of our political class are.

  • Comment number 90.

    "extremesense" -- the exact same criticisms, barring the West Lothian Question, could be applied to 1992. The Head of State has no political powers that require democratic election. The House of Lords has been a better scrutinising body and more likely to send bills back to the Commons for improvement since its reform in 1999 by the Blair government. Select committees have had no teeth for donkeys' years.

    And "maketh" does not maketh a commend sound more intelligent.

  • Comment number 91.

    Do you think, Nick, that all the candidates were simply shocked by the attempted rehabilitation of Mr McBride?

    Your absence missed that particular cherry.

  • Comment number 92.

    I think the general consensus is that The Telegraph did us all a favour by exposing The MP's expenses shenanigans. The question of whether MPs are adequately paid is an entirely different matter. As for The Telegraph itself as a teacher for most of my life I fell out with the paper when it followed the Thatcher line of having a go at Public Sector workers in the 80s and 90s. That doesn't mean to say that it doesn't do a good job in other respects and I disagree with your assertion that it is a useless vehicle. I think it would be sorely missed if it disappeared.

  • Comment number 93.

    You want surreal Nick?

    How about Baron Sugar of Claptrap being elevated to the House of Lords and given a post in Government? He's going to advise small businesses on what exactly? How to demean employees? How to bully interview candidates? How to select intelectually stunted egotistical candidates for a farcical television show where the prize is probably to unblock Sugar's toilet for a year and then be fired (where exactly are previous winners?).

    Seeing His Holyness Sir Baron Sugar in the House of Lords was truly surreal. Who next? Doctor Who as Science Minsiter? Muffin the Mule as Farming Czar?

    This Government beggers belief.

  • Comment number 94.

    notfooledsteve and #87.

    Clearly content of #87 belies your monicker!

  • Comment number 95.

    71 ChiefWhiteHalfOat

    No helping ones children at ones own expense is a duty never a fault.

    Helping them using money sourced elswhere is a fault.

    However in the scheme of things,( duck houses, moats, tudor beams 20k on a seaside love nest,50k on an extension for a child etc etc), allowing your daughter to share a house you are entitled to and then, instead of making a killing on the sale, as have so many of the others, he sells it at an affordable price to his daughter.

    We have incurred no more expense than if his daughter had never been involved.

    I still maintain a fault yes, but noble. And the people of Norwich North semm sympathetic to that.

    He has been dumped by Labour because he wasnt a yes man to the party line. His offence was miniscule compared to others who are still sitting pretty.

  • Comment number 96.

    @ ikamaskeip, post #70

    With regards to this bit;

    "In all seriousness I would say if Mr Robinson does not read these Blogs he should be dismissed from his post asap."

    It may come as some suprise to you to learn that those of us who actually HAVE full-time jobs (and care about how well they get done) can't possibly keep up with the flow of posts on even one of these blogs, let alone all of them.

    Me, I popped in to pass 10 minutes while I'm waiting for something - I don't suppose I shall get a chance to have another read until late this afternoon, if at all. And I'm NOT a busy political journalist with deadlines to keep and occasional segments on the News to present.

    No, Nick Robinson - or anyone else at the BBC - should not be obliged to read through hundreds of comments every time he posts a story. Not least because, a fairly large bunch of them always appear to be from rabid partisans who think "bias" means mentioning Gordon Brown's name without adding the words "that good-for-nothing, lying piece of donkey-excrement" in a news report.

    The fact that so many of you guys seem to be expecting Robinson to directly answer whatever bizarre accusation you've come up with this time - THAT's surreal.

  • Comment number 97.

    Susan_Croft and #89.

    Some thought-provoking comment.
    Yes, UK missed opportunities over the last decade and infact the last 3. And yes, the 'smaller state' should be an ambition of any incoming Government, but, with the omniscient EU encroaching everyday the little men and women of Westminster will jealously guard what little remains of their powers and of course Brussels is all about unresponsive 'big-Bureaucratic-one-size-fits-all-Government'.

    Unfortunately your last sentence is the realism of what constitutes UK politicians' calibre these days.
    It is incredible how low Parliament has sunk in the eyes of the Public. Regrettably, even after the Expenses scandal, there is no sign of genuine, lasting, meaningful REFORM of Parliament, or a realisation by the 650 miscreants and their toady-stooges in the 'other place' that real CHANGE is needed to redress the Democratic defecit.

    One could wish a plague on both Houses, but, it has happened, and STILL the glib, slick, greasy palmed, duplicitous body-politic don't get it!

    Brown-Cameron-Clegg! What a trio of no-marks!

    The UK is struggling under the weight of the worst crisis since Summer 1940 and they bleat at each other about who is 'cutting spending' and 'increasing taxes' when every single UK Citizen knows we are all in it up to our arm-pits and truth be told probably a damn sight higher!

    A Union on its political-fiscal-civil knees crying out for 'the few' to whom we all would happily 'owe so much' were they despite being outnumbered to take on the task of leading the recovery of these Island peoples through the morass with personal honesty, integrity and self-less commitment to the explaining and implementing the real needs of the Citizens.

    And what do those 3 sub-standard oratorios come up with?
    Not 'blood, sweat, toil and tears' realism but a yaboo-sucks chant about how the Nation will pay the least sacrifice with each of them in No.10.!
    It is truly sickening that from a Union steeped in Pitt-Palmerston-Disraeli-Lloyd George-Churchill-Atlee-Thatcher (yes, even her!) we now findourselves landing Gordo-Dave-andwhatisname!?
    So diminutive crustaceans in quality and statesmanship the shrimping net would surely have cast them aside.

    You wrote, "..fortune favours the brave and I am afraid none of our political class are..".
    If only one of them would find the courage from wherever to stand up and tell it how it is: UK is in dire need of Political acumen and more importantly Political realism, and yet, we find only the Westminster mollusc, clinging limpet-like to their petty positions when a true Leader would unflinchingly speak with authority for all Britons.

  • Comment number 98.

    mikepko 85

    Alan Milburns report actually made me want to laugh, here we have a Government that has been in power for 12 years and has destroyed education and they have only just realised it.

    You are right to say that it is the better educated that get the top jobs rather than because of elitism. There needs to be not only be a revolution in how we run our economy but in our education system as well.

    The Grammar school system may very well be disliked by many including the Labour Party, however it is the only one that works. With Grammar schools you get the brightest pupils who want to work and are able to do this by not being held back because of less able pupils. In the Comprehensive system the focus is always on the less able pupils and the disruptive ones which the teachers take more time over. Thus the really clever pupils are held back constantly and lose interest.

    Balls is now setting about destroying the only other means of excellence we have which is private schools. The parents pay fees, while they subsidise the state system for school places they do not take up. Yet Balls wants these schools to fund places for poor pupils and in so doing putting up the fees for the other parents. He also wants to take away their charitiable status which in turn will effectively shut down many. The proposals to open the Independent schools up to the state system by sharing of teachers, playing fields and science labs will further undermine their excellence.

    Really what it amounts to is the politics of envy and really an admittance that Labour have failed completely in education. Because if the state system worked why would you want bright pupils from poor backgrounds to attend private schools anyway.

  • Comment number 99.

    Get the lot of them out.

    Norwich, do us all a favour and do not vote one of the conceited, self serving main parties in again.

    We need people of principle to get us out of this, not some quivering party placements who have to ask HQ if they can blow their nose!

  • Comment number 100.

    #62 sagamix &
    PS to my #64

    Sorry to break my trappist vows but I thought you ought to know that Zanzibar got it very close TWICE in 1961. The memory must be going, but in my defence I was only 12 at the time.

    How Important is 1 Vote states that their Afro-Shirazi Party won the 1961 [June] general election by a single seat, after the seat of Chake-Chake on Pemba Island was won by a single vote. I'm not sure of all their other references, but it's a pretty compelling list of why ONE vote can matter, particularly in antiquated plurality systems like Westmidden's.

    EISA is pretty reliable and their Zanzibar: 1961 elections gives the history of both the January and June general elections. First, it was 10 ASP, 9 ZNP & 3 ZPPP, with 1 ZPPP supporting the ASP and 2 the ZNP giving a tied vote when they attempted to form a government. They added a constituency and tried again in June, and with the ZPPP split staying the same the ASP were able to govern by 12 votes to 11.

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!


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