The man who led the crackdown on the House of Commons expenses scandal has accused MPs of a “squalid vendetta” after they blocked his appointment to a new job.
Sir Ian Kennedy, former head of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), hit out following a vote by MPs to prevent him from joining the board of the Electoral Commission watchdog.
The Commons voted by 77 to 46 to refuse a motion endorsing Kennedy for the new job, a four-year post which would have come with a salary of £359-a-day.
But the former IPSA chief has now fired off a withering response, declaring MPs have now decided to “punish me” for being in charge of an organisation that “cleaned up the mess following the MPs’ expenses scandal”.
IPSA was set up in 2009 in the wake of the Daily Telegraph’s revelations, which led to criminal convictions for six MPs and two peers.
In a letter to Commons Speaker John Bercow, seen by HuffPost UK, Kennedy asks whether appointments to key watchdogs like the Electoral Commission should be “subject to the veto of MPs pursuing a tawdry and squalid vendetta”.
He also defends his 40 years of public service, including his oversight of NHS patient safety, and describes as “contemptible” a claim from one MP to HuffPost that he was a “quangocrat”.
One backbencher admitted privately earlier this month that they had been plotting “revenge” for what they saw as the over-zealous way and overly bureaucratic way in which the MPs’ expenses system had been changed.
Kennedy’s letter, published below, underlines his frustration at the MPs’ vote.
He was brought in to lead the new IPSA body, and spent seven years overseeing a new regime that replaced the system of self-regulation that had for years operated in the Commons.
January 23, 2018
Dear Mr Speaker,
May I first thank you and your Committee for accepting the unanimous recommendation of the independent appointments committee that I be appointed a member of the Electoral Commission. I was disappointed by the vote in the House this evening rejecting your committee’s recommendation.
IPSA which, as you know, I chaired for 7 years cleaned up the mess following the MPs’ expenses scandal. Clearly, some MPs have not forgiven me for this and seek to punish me for establishing a system which took account of the interests not only of MPs but also of taxpayers.
I have dedicated nearly 40 years to public service, much of it in seeking to improve standards in the NHS for patients. Some seem keen to belittle this service as being the work of what they call a “quangocrat”. Such attempts to dismiss the work of those who seek to serve the public interest outside the limelight borders on the contemptible. In my case, being concerned with babies undergoing heart surgery, or women suffering at the hands of a surgeon, or establishing from scratch two regulatory bodies, has always only been about seeking to improve the lives of others. I was looking forward to continuing to do so by serving on the Electoral Commission. Unfortunately, I have now been prevented from doing so. So be it. There are many other things to do.
Meanwhile a larger question must be addressed: should recommendations by your committee for appointments to independent bodies (Boundary Commission, IPSA, Electoral Commission) be subject to the veto of MPs pursuing a tawdry and squalid vendetta?
With best wishes,
Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, QC, FBA, LLD.
In a separate move on Wednesday, Kennedy also told the BBC of his irritation at the move to block him.
“There remains a rump of MPs who simply want their old system back. An unaccountable and somewhat disreputable system,” he said.
“If you are a regulator you do not expect to be loved, but you do expect to be understood...some refuse to accept that the world has moved on.”
In the debate in the Commons that preceded the vote on Tuesday evening, Labour MP John Spellar said Sir Ian had “largely created the dreadful, anti-elected member, vindictive attitude that has permeated so much of Ipsa”.
Former Tory minister James Duddridge suggested Kennedy, 76, was too old for the new job.