Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 27 March 2009

Eric Pickles made a fool of himself on Question Time

I watched Question Time last night and whilst Eric Pickles seemed to do OK in the first half, when it came to a question about MPs expenses he made an utter fool of himself.

You can watch it for yourself here. The question is from 38:30 and Pickles contribution starts at about 44:00.

I have transcribed the first part of his answer here:

Dimbleby: Eric Pickles do you have a two house system with an allowance?
Pickles: I do indeed have a two house system and an allowance, but if I could just make a brief contribution...
Dimbleby: How far are you away from Westminster?
Pickles: 37 miles.
Dimbleby: And you need two houses?
Pickles: And let me, if I could just make this brief contribution to "Hang an MP week"! If I could just...
Dimbleby: Take your time, take your time.
Pickles: OK, then let me explain why. And I have actually had experience of commuting that distance when my wife was ill, she's fully recovered now. But, for a month I did it and it was an extremely difficult experience, I'll explain why. Because the House of Commons works on clockwork. You have to be there, if you're on a committee, you have to be there precisely. Particularly for someone like me, I was a number two...
Pickles: Let me explain, let me explain, please just let me explain for a moment. I had to be there, I was number two....
Dimbleby: Like a job in other words?
Pickles: Yes exactly like a job. If you're number two in the opposition, essentially running the committee. So I was, I had to be there at 9:30 to move those amendments. (Points at Ed Davey) - It doesn't matter if a Liberal Democrat isn't there, but it matters if I'm there...
Davey: That's just cheap.
Pickles: But it matters if I'm there, I have to be there so when I was doing it properly, when I was doing this I was leaving home at 5:30 in the morning to guarantee that I was going to be there and I wasn't getting back until about 12 and 1 in the morning. Now you can do that once or twice, you can do that for a while but you've got to understand that the House of Commons runs like clockwork.
Pickles: I have never, ever claimed my full allowance. I have always claimed the amount...
Pickles: Well you can, I mean I publish them, I've always published them on my website. They've always been there for people to see. I have always been accountable and I can tell you I think things are going to come out in a week's time. You'll find I think I have only cleared about 60% of the allowance, it might even be 55% of the allowance. But I am a serious guy who will put in the hours and I will work for those hours, but I can tell you this, it is no fun doing 5:30 in the morning, right the way through sometimes, now some...
Pickles: You can't be sat on train saying to yourself am I going to make it, am I not going to make it and that's why I do it.

I found his contribution deeply unimpressive. He seemed to be genuinely unable to understand that many people other than MPs have jobs that involve long hours and require them to be there at specific times. None of them get extra houses or thousands of pounds a year to pay for their upkeep. You could tell from the audience's responses that he is totally out of touch.

Eric Pickles is often put forward by Tories as an example of a bluff speaking northerner in their ranks and this performance tonight does not bode well for them. It seems their "Man of the People" is actually a creature of the Westminster Village and hopelessly out of touch, on this issue at least.

UPDATE: Stephen Tall of LDV put up a detailed post about this at the same time as I was posting this. Great minds, etc.

Also further blog reaction here, here and in the comments here.


Anonymous said...

Your transcription is missing bits!!

As a Tory myself, I am happy to volunteer that Pickles should be kicked into touch, he certainly wont be Party Chair come next election.

The problem with Politics in all three aprties is not just the apyment of MP's it is the sheer low calibre of people who become MP's.

Pickles is a grassroots "leafleteer" the type of a Local Government Pol and Political obsessive that are in fact the hallmark of the DimLebs.

By the By, puzzled by your blog title...."Politically Active AND a Lib Dem" shurely shome mishtake, as they say.

Poor Lib dims!! Still I suppose Trainspotters, IT Anoraks and other assorted obsessives and losers need a home too, and better there than in a real, grown up political party eh?

Mark Thompson said...

Hello Mr Anonymous.

I just transcribed the bit where he initially answered the question. I did not have much time this morning so could not do all the follow up stuff. Politics Home have transcribed more of it here.

I agree that the calibre of MPs is not as good as it could be. I really do feel though and I have blogged about this before that the Lib Dems punch above their weight in this area with proportionally a lot more better MPs than the other main two parties. It's one of the things that attracted me to them in the first place.

As for my blog title - never really thought about it before. A bit pedantic for someone happy to throw around accusation of anorakedness though?

As for your last comment, I am a member of the Lib Dems (or TEH LIB DIMMZZZ!!!1 if you prefer) because my personal political outlook most closely matches theirs. I could have joined one of the other parties if I was being cynical about my motives for getting involved with politics (as with the current electoral system they are more likely to get into power) but I would rather stick to my principles.

Everything I have experienced in my party so far has reinforced my decision to join them.

Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

That first post typifies the Tories - low on actual content and high on insults. What this country needs is more constructive and informed dialogue, and less petty point scoring (i.e. Tories).