Denis MacShane: End the cant and save Bill Cash for the nation

Share
Related Topics

My heart sank when I read that Bill Cash, the doyen of anti-Europeans in the Commons, had been fingered in the MPs' expenses row. As a BBC journalist and trade union official I was paid per diems, overnights and all sorts of allowances that the professional classes are awarded to boost their salary.

Uncomfortable as it is for all MPs – and my allowance claims have come under scrutiny in the national and local press – the exposure of a system that should have been wound up years ago has to be healthy for democracy.

But must every MP be defenestrated to prove that the burghers of Bromsgrove are right as they devour their hard-working MP Julie Kirkbride live on television? They have got Ms Kirkbride. Must they get Mr Cash?

I hope not. Cash is my opposite in almost every way imaginable. He is passionately anti-European. I am passionately in favour of Britain being fully in Europe. He is a devoted Thatcherite free-marketeer. I am a social democrat who wants the market to be our servant not master. He is a romantic Catholic public school Tory. I consider religious ideology to have invaded and colonised too much 21st-century political space. We have done battle over Europe in the Commons for 15 years. But I leap to his defence because if the Commons does not have room for Bill Cash it will be an infinitely poorer place.

For that is the beauty of this battered place called the House of Commons around which so many want to heap a funeral pyre. It has been always been full of the Bill Cashes, the Tony Benns, the Clare Shorts, the George Galloways, the Nicholas Wintertons, the Shaun Woodwards ready to cross the floor, all of them hated by their whips and party bosses. MPs are weak, strong, vain, proud, stupid, fiddling, clever or ultra-honest individuals who will never fully conform to the New Model Army of perfect MPs that is now demand.

A little further back, the Labour Party was quick to suspend Nye Bevan as an MP at about the same time in the late 1930s that the Conservative Party was actively seeking to deselect Winston Churchill as a Tory MP because he did not conform to the party leadership. But both Churchill and Bevan were cloaked in the invincible democratic armour of having been elected freely by a free people, rooted in a time and space that constituted an unbreakable bond between a few square miles of our nation and the Parliament that decides our laws.

So when Nick Clegg calls for MPs to be recalled by a baying mob organising a petition with the help of the press he surrenders our parliamentary democracy to those with money or hate in their hearts. When David Cameron and Labour ministers call for proportional representation, they hand over power to centralised party machines to choose or unchoose MPs. Those nations most associated with political corruption – think Ireland, Greece, Romania among others – all have. When Nick Clegg says no outside earnings for MPs, he is saying goodbye to Lloyd George, Jo Grimond, Paddy Ashdown, Charlie Kennedy and Menzies Campbell without mentioning the big MP outside earners such as Roy Hattersley, John Smith or William Hague.

Please can this cant come to an end? New, rigorous rules are in place and the wrongs exposed cannot happen again. The Commons should remain a mirror of our nations, not an assembly of clones appointed by centralised party bureaucrats and subject to the approval of offshore press proprietors.

Denis MacShane is Labour MP for Rotherham and a former minister

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project