Andy McSmith's Diary: Douglas Carswell’s 51-word opening punch as a Ukip MP has PM on the ropes


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Indy Politics

Douglas Carswell has spoken 51 words in the Commons as a Ukip MP, and already he seems to have sent David Cameron into retreat. At Prime Minister’s Questions, he asked about a promise the Conservatives made in 2010 that they would legislate to give constituents the power to sack sleazy MPs. This became a live issue during the expenses scandal.

The Government has drawn up legislation, but there is an argument about whether it actually delivers what the Tories promised. It would only apply to an MP who has been sent to prison – who could be expected to resign anyway – or who has been suspended from the Commons for at least 21 days.

Carswell urged Cameron to back a counter-proposal coming from the Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, under which any MP would be vulnerable to the sack if 20 per cent of the local electorate signed a petition.

Cameron seemed to agree. “Frankly, in getting this Bill together we have come up with the minimum acceptable for recall,” he replied, “but I think there are a lot of very good arguments to be had about how we can go further”.

Generally, prime ministers do not get up in Parliament and rubbish government legislation. David Cameron must have been spooked by Ukip.

A Conservative defect?

Some people say that Ukip is as much a threat to Labour as to the Conservatives. It is indeed taking support from Labour, but among the active members there are thought to be many more ex-Tories than former members of any other party.

That is borne out by research by the Local Government Chronicle into the political backgrounds of 323 out of the 357 current Ukip councillors. It discovered that 77 are defectors from other parties, of whom 56 came over from the Conservatives, but only five from Labour and three from the Liberal Democrats. 

All over for ‘cruel’ farmer

There is a vacancy for a Ukip candidate in the most marginal Tory seat in the country. Until today, a farmer named David Evans was flying the Ukip flag in Camborne and Redruth, which the Tory George Eustice won in 2010 by just 66 votes. But Evans has been deselected after pleading guilty to six charges of cruelty to animals. In February, animal health inspectors found 119 sheep on his farm had died from exposure, and another 141 had to be put down.

Lords hit by laundering rules

Members of the House of Lords and their relatives are having problems with bank accounts because of a general assumption that you cannot trust a politician.

Lord Wright, a former head of the diplomatic service, has two sons who tried to open accounts in Singapore and New York. Each was asked who his father was. When they revealed that they were the sons of a lord, they were refused accounts.

Lord Clement-Jones, a Liberal Democrat, was unable to draw money from a cash machine. His son had the same problem. Lord Levene of Portsoken, who has had a long career in business, government and banking, wanted to open an account in France, where he has a second home. “One is treated like the Spanish Inquisition,” he complained.

They have fallen foul of rules designed to prevent dictators and corrupt politicians from using the banking system to launder money. Banks have to show special vigilance when dealing with “politically exposed persons”– and that includes members of the backwater that is the House of Lords.

The Government is trying to get the EU’s Money Laundering Directive amended to allow their lordships to access their money and go back to sleep.