Alexandras are really not so great

BROTHER and sister comedy duo Douglas and Wendy Alexander spent the weekend bemoaning the alleged partisan conduct of the Scottish Nationalists, who managed to get her banned from the Edinburgh parliament for failure to declare expenses to her successful leadership campaign.

Graham Dines

BROTHER and sister comedy duo Douglas and Wendy Alexander spent the weekend bemoaning the alleged partisan conduct of the Scottish Nationalists, who managed to get her banned from the Edinburgh parliament for failure to declare expenses to her successful leadership campaign. However, they chose to ignore one crucial factor - she broke the law.

All campaign donations have to be declared. Ms Alexander did not, and she has quite rightly paid the price, being banned from the Scottish parliament for a day. After toughing it out, she decided her position was untenable and quit as Labour's leader in Edinburgh.

All MPs at Westminster and Brussels and in the devolved assemblies have such generous and tax-free allowances that they regard it as an insult when taxpayers start asking questions they would rather not answer.

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MPs have a giant mote in their eye when it comes to expenses and allowances. They cannot see that public money is involved and therefore their paymasters and employers - that's you and me - have a confounded cheek in daring to ask how much they are trousering every month.

If their pay is so poor at £60,000-plus - and the majority of an MP's constituents would like to be paid £60,000 for three years' work, never mind one - why do they queue up at selection meetings fighting each other to become candidates?

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Miss Alexander, when campaigning to become Labour's leader in Scotland, received donations which she failed to declare. For that, she has been sanctioned.

Douglas Alexander, the UK International Development Secretary, hit out at the treatment of his sister, claiming the SNP was guilty of following the “politics of personal destruction”.

He said his sister had taken “a very tough decision, taken in very difficult circumstances.

“I have to tell you those feelings do not extend to those Nationalist MPs who have engaged in such partisan conduct through the Parliament's standards procedure in recent months.”

Mr Alexander said the SNP may believe it has won a “tactical victory” with his sister's departure. He added: “I fear that Scottish politics may be the loser if we see a politics of personal destruction in the years ahead.”

Meanwhile, Glasgow East's MP David Marshall has quit through ill health, forcing a by-election is this ultra safe Labour seat. Or it was safe until Gordon Brown got his hands on the reins of the UK government and Labour imploded in Scotland.

The powerful forecast of the PHI100, Britain's most authoritative survey of expert and insider political opinion, is that the Scottish Nationalists will take the seat in which the demography is mostly social housing as well as being home to Celtic football club.

The panel's prediction will cause great apprehension within Labour's already frightened ranks because the PHI100 has established a reputation as the most accurate predictor of election outcomes.

The politically balanced panel was the first to correctly forecast that Boris Johnson would be elected Mayor of London. The panel, which includes senior politicians and strategists from all the main parties, also accurately predicted the outcomes of the by-elections in Crewe & Nantwich and Henley, forecasting a substantial Tory win in the former and an increased Conservative vote in the latter.

A substantial majority of the panel is forecasting a victory for the Nationalists in Glasgow East. Most - 55% - think the SNP win will with a narrow majority and a further 10% of the panel believe that the SNP will win comfortably.

For Labour to lose this seat, which had a 13,507 majority in 2005, would shatter the morale of Labour MPs, already reeling from the loss of Crewe and a humiliating fifth place in Henley.

And the position of Gordon Brown would be made yet more difficult, perhaps even untenable.


RICHARD Howitt, Labour's Euro MP for the East of England, has found himself at odds with Harriet Harman, t he UK's minister of women and equality, Ms Harman, giving details of a Bill to promote positive discrimination, said in the Commons: “We will legislate to give more scope to employers who want to increase the number of women or black or Asian employees to take positive action.”

Mr Howitt, a noted and highly successful campaigner on disability rights, commenting on an EU directive which aims to put an end to discrimination on grounds of disability, sexual orientation, religion, belief and age, said there should not be a hierarchy between different forms of discrimination. “We cannot outlaw discrimination in one area whilst allowing it in another. I will not support legislation which will divide and rule.”

EU 1, UK 0.



COLCHESTER MP Bob Russell has strongly defended the British military presence in Afghanistan. In an intervention in Prime Minister's questions, he told Gordon Brown: “I attended the funeral in my constituency of Lance Corporal James Bateman. He did not die in vain, and nor did any of the other seven members of 16 Air Assault Brigade who have lost their lives in Helmand province over the past month.”

He continued: “The Prime Minister has referred to the 43 nations that are in Afghanistan. Will he confirm, however, that the number of European NATO countries in southern Afghanistan can be counted on the fingers of one hand? Is it not time that our European allies did more to send their troops to the front line, and that they stopped relying on Britain to take the brunt?”

Gordon Brown's reply lacked the resolve Mr Russell was seeking. “The hon. Gentleman will know that the French have agreed to put extra forces in Afghanistan, and they will allow the American marines to move south into Helmand province. At the same time, the Germans are offering support in policing, which will allow us to increase dramatically the number of police who are being trained in Afghanistan. As for helicopters, we have asked all European countries with helicopters to make them available for the difficult terrain in Afghanistan.”



THE Conservatives are facing a tricky by-election to Suffolk county council in a division where they held on in 2005 by just 22 votes.

Ben Redsell's departure, having pleaded guilty on Monday at Norwich crown court to sexually assaulting a 19 year-old woman, seven counts of making indecent pictures of children and three counts of possessing indecent pictures of children, will mean that the voters of Woodbridge will go to the polls sometime over the summer.

On the surface, Woodbridge looks a typical Tory town, with expensive housing and wonderful waterside walks. Yet the Liberal Democrats have done well here in the past, although they lost the seat in 2001 to the Conservatives by a majority of 464.

Redsell took over the Tory candidature in 2005, only to see the majority slashed to 22. The Conservatives will be hopeful that the tide running for David Cameron will be enough to hold on, especially as last time, the county elections coincided with the national contest which produced a higher than normal turn-out.

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