Once I heard that Andrea Leadsom – in her role of Leader of the House – would be speaking for the government today in Parliament I wasn’t hopeful. I’m sure Ms Leadsom has many talents but inspiring oratory isn’t one of them. As it happens, that wasn’t the main reason for my hopes heading south – or the fact that she says “absolutely” in nearly every sentence. She does; check it out. It was the message that her selection to front this issue for the government sent; it said we don’t get it.
I know that the purist could argue that this is an issue of House of Commons procedures and protocols and that she should speak to that given her role. That simply will not do. The optics here are as important as the using the correct knife and fork at dinner. The government needed to show that it understands how serious the issues that have been raised are; that it knows this is not about process or procedure but about culture; that this is an issue of leadership. Nobody who works within the Palace of Westminster could have been surprised by these hideous, disgusting allegations and therefore they know that this is a big issue – an issue that has been around for years and years. It needs decisive action. Instead it got cliches and platitudes; the hallmark of this government and this prime minister. Cue the repeated use of “zero tolerance”.
Just for the record, zero tolerance would have resulted in at least one minister being already out of a job and one former one losing the whip. Zero tolerance would be the Prime Minister writing to the Speaker as Prime Minister not a party leader – owning the issue, showing leadership, showing the way forward. Zero tolerance would be action not talk today; instead we got vacuous comment after vacuous comment from the government front bench. It is so dispiriting.
I wrote recently about Universal Credit becoming Theresa May’s Poll Tax; it is clear to me that if this issue is not gripped – and the evidence of today suggests it will not be – we are looking at Theresa May’s expenses scandal.
Photo taken from the BBC News website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41798728