Cash For Access: Francis Maude Faces Stormy Commons

The Huffington Post UK  |  By Posted: 26/03/2012 16:57 Updated: 26/03/2012 20:45

Francis Maude Cash For Acess

The Commons was at its rowdiest when the cash-for-access row engulfing the Tory party forced Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude to come to the chamber for a statement on Monday afternoon.

In an unedifying display which probably went down like a lead balloon among most of the public, Labour and the Tories shouted at each other, despite both sides having their own issues relating to party funding.

Even before Maude made his statement Labour backbenchers were shouting at Philip Hammond, who left the chamber just after defence questions.

This meant there wasn't a single senior Cabinet member on the front bench to handle the debate.

Labour then immediately jeered at Maude, who opened his statement arguing there was a need for party funding reform, saying it was the desire of the prime minister as well.

"Where is he?" shouted Labour MPs, as Maude insisted that "the need for change has become more, not less pressing."

The speaker intervened above the shouting. Acknowledging that Maude had been "Ploughing on manfully", John Bercow urged Labour to pipe down.

"I'm not particularly surprised the Labour party wants to drown out this statement, said Maude, "Because Labour's role in his saga is a shameful one."

Events over the last weekend have demonstrated the need for making progress," said Maude, saying much of what Peter Cruddas had said to the Sunday Times "was simply not true."

"All donations to party headquarters above £7,500 have to be declared by the Electoral Commission and comply with electoral law," he said, promising: "The Conservative Party will now go much further. I hope that all parties - and since the Leader of the Opposition has taken the trouble to come to the House - I hope he will make clear what his party will do."

Ed Miliband rose to respond for Labour, saying firstly that "it should have been the prime minister coming to this House. Because the vexations concern the prime minister's office, his policy unit and his judgement."

"I think we all know why," he told his rapturous, often union-funded backbenchers. "He has got something to hide.

"It is completely inadequate given the scale of these allegations for the investigation not how it happened to be conducted by the Conservative party.

"It is a whitewash and everyone knows it."

At this point the Tories were quite subdued, with very little barracking of the Labour leader, which was quite surprising because for once, all the MPs really are in this together. It just happens to be the Tories who are getting the heat for it this week.

Ed Millbank suggested the "Champions League" had done alright out of last week's Budget and while a few Tories shook their heads, not many did.

The Lib Dems looked just as glum, partly because of their own funding problems, partly because they're sitting on the same side of the house as the greedy Tories.

Mind you, Conservatives cheered up when Maude rose to reel off all the scandals that happened under Blair and Brown. It took Maude quite a while to remind the House of all of them. He concluded that unions don't just decide Labour policy, they also elect the leader.

"Don't let him come here and lecture us on cash for policy," said Maude. "They're past masters at it."

The Speaker gave everyone a telling-off, including Maude who was apparently not discussing government policy and just attacking Labour.

Maude got back up to continue to attack Labour anyway, including Miliband's sickie on the same weekend as meeting the leader of the GMB union.

Maude asked if Labour would release the details of all Tony Blair's press meetings with owners? Would they reveal details of which union leaders Ed Miliband was meeting? "I think we know the answer to that, Len McCluskey, Len McCluskey, Len McCluskey."

Tory MP Tony Baldry rose to warn that the yah-boo politics and blustering were putting people off politics. Nobody listened to him and the whole house continued to play yah-boo politics for the best part of another hour. The public in the galleries looked down, unanimously bemused and unimpressed.

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