Monday, February 08, 2010

Sir George Young demonstrates why he didn't become Speaker

I have to admit that I'd always considered Sir George to be one of the better sort of Conservatives. Still a Conservative, but a decent cove nonetheless. This morning, under pressure from Evan Davis on the 'Today Programme', he indicated that he might be struggling with the concept of relative ethics.

He had been rolled out to condemn the Labour Party for its response to the announcement that charges will be laid against Messrs Chaytor, Devine and Morley, especially given the news that the Labour Party's lawyers are providing advice to the three of them. Unfortunately, he ran into some unfriendly fire, with the question of Lord Ashcroft's status tossed back at him.

It is one thing to talk about breaches of Parliamentary privilege, but when your major donor refuses to confirm or deny whether or not he has adhered to the terms and conditions under which his peerage was granted, the charge of hypocrisy is never likely to be far away. Sir George claimed that only 5% of Conservative funding comes from Lord Ashcroft, a 'small proportion' as he put it. If it is so small, why does he have so much influence? Why does he have a team of staff in Conservative Central Office? Why, indeed, does he accompany William Hague on his foreign missions?

From a Conservative perspective, they really need to lance this boil. By squirming on this hook, they look weak on ethics, give the impression that Lord Ashcroft is running the show, and provide ammunition to their opponents whenever the issue of Parliamentary sleaze is mentioned. And by giving so much influence to him, without appearing to know whether or not he has honoured his commitments, they send out a message that they don't care, regardless of whether they do or not.

What that does is make the likes of Sir George Young look as though he is applying differing standards to his side as to that of his opponents. And the problem is that, if he doesn't really understand why that is a problem, he is hardly likely to inspire confidence should he become Speaker at some point.

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