Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Monday, 8 February 2010

Star Chamber suspensions.

David Blackburn in the Coffee House asks
If this is a suspension, what is an expulsion?
Sky’s Jon Craig asks one of those questions you wished you had posed: wasn’t Elliot Morley suspended already? Yes, he was, on the 14 May 2009 and with immediate effect. However, showing a fine disregard for the manner in which repeat offenders are usually treated, Labour suspended Morley again for good measure.
Here's an extract from Jon Craig's piece at Sky
On May 14 last year, just a day or so after the Daily Telegraph began unleashing its avalanche of disclosures about MPs' expenses, the Prime Minister said this at a Labour Party elections campaign launch:
"Where standards are transgressed and mistakes are made, we have got to take action.
"That is why we have suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party Elliot Morley because of the allegations, which are serious, which have been made against him. Where there is irregularity, it has got to be dealt with immediately."
Now call me old fashioned. But you would have thought the Prime Minister meant that Morley had had the Labour whip withdrawn, wouldn't you?
Well, yes, because that is what happened to those in other parties who'd been caught with their hands in the public purse. But there was a lot of kerfuffle, so it was hard for mere mortals to keep track of what was going on - we relied on being told the truth.

It did began to unravel a bit, when some MPs were able to wipe the slate clean by handing over some rather large cheques. But, frankly, by then nobody was at all surprised because those who did this at the beginning were important people, too important to be seriously told off.

Anyhow, there's much more information in Jon Craig's article, it's worth reading it all, because it goes some way to answering his question. So also, in part, does a comment left at Political Betting
For those keenly interested in the PLP (lots of you, seemingly), this is the position for Elliot Morley - he’s been suspended but not expelled, pending his attempt to clear his name. He’s not entitled to attend PLP meetings unless he’s acquitted.
So what some people thought was a serious punishment was little more than not being able to attend a few meetings and, as somebody else points out
 70: genuinely confused here. Do any of the those three Labour MP’s named today still hold the Labour Whip?
and also
72: XXXX, studiously avoiding the elephant in the room. He is still entitled to vote and prop up Gordo’s lame government.
His flagship policy to “clean up politics”, voted through by those facing criminal charges.
Back comes the response, which helps to clarify things
@ 70:  ....... They have been suspended (which means they can’t take part in any PLP proceddings) but not expelled (pending resolution of their cases - presumption of innocence etc.). The claim that it’s some recent decision relating to a vote on a Bill is mistaken - it was taken last June.

Some of the posts above imply that people think that anyone being prosecuted should no longer be able to sit as MPs, but in fact none of the parties have the power to remove MPs from their seats (otherwise the temptation for whips would be huge!).
@ 72: I try not to comment on MPs (and haven’t commented on Elliot Morley, apart from stating the position on his suspension), so ....
*shakes head*
This explanation seems to further muddy the waters and is another of those things that make the  Rigbys say, "Surely it can't be right."

It seems that a Labour MP can appear before Mr Brown's Star Chamber, and be told they've done something so bad that they should be punished, but now we're told that their serious punishment was little more than not going to meetings.

The peculiar thing is that these MPs have been before a disciplinary committee and have been punished even though it wasn't a big punishement, at least not to people who don't like attending meetings - so how is it that anybody can say these people were 'presumed innocent'?

How can that be?

You don't punish people for nothing - do you?


Oh, and if anybody wants to find out more about Mr Brown's Star Chamber, there's an historical item in Wikipedia and this ... which is run by Mr Ed Balls department, DCFS
What is the Star Chamber?
The Star Chamber is one of the main vehicles in the Department's drive to reduce bureaucracy impacting on local authority children's services (including education) and schools. It was formed in 1999 to review existing and proposed data collection exercises originating from within DCSF and re-launched in October 2006 with a wider remit and enhanced powers. The Star Chamber ensures that new data collection exercises do not create unnecessary burden; do not duplicate in content existing collections; seeks to keep data requests to the absolute minimum needed to develop policy; and will amalgamate and streamline exercises wherever possible.
Surely this can't be the heart of the disciplinary body called The Star Chamber which is much feared by Labour MPs?


418 said...

"Star Chamber" = Failure, big time. "Star Chamber" is a general term meaning any powerful court of special jurisdiction and I don't mean "special" in the ameliorative sense. People, like DeadheEd Balls, who resort to a "Star Chamber" want to sound tough on, say, bureaucracy and the causes of bureaucracy (or in Gay Gordon's case tough on MPs' troughing which he and B'liar encouraged over the years as a bribe for lax scrutiny of proposed legislation); what they don't seem to get, is that the need for a "Star Chamber" shows that the person setting it up has failed and needs to take remedial measures of the most drastic kind. The description in Wikipedia, for once, has some merit. In particular, I note and would give my imprimatur to: "Court sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, no right of appeal, no juries, and no witnesses. Evidence was presented in writing. Over time it evolved into a political weapon and became a symbol of the misuse and abuse of power by the English monarchy and courts." Sounds like SIAC, another brilliant example of a knee-jerk response to a complete failure of policy ( ). What is less reliable is this: "No clear etymology can be found for the name of the chamber; the most common explanation, dating to the later sixteenth century, is 'because at the first all the roofe thereof was decked with images of starres gilted.'" I have been in the Star Chamber: there is a sign saying, "Star Chamber" on a wall in the Palace of Westminster and sure enough, the ceiling inside is painted midnight blue with a constellation of golden stars; all ersatz of course as the lot save for Westminster Hall was firebombed by the Luftwaffe but I assumed (I was young and still rather innocent) that the Star Chamber in the Palace of Westminster is a replacement for the notorious Star Chamber where Charles I got the judges to do his bidding in the matter of Ship Money and other non-consensual activities. Ersatz, a German word, is what best describes our Constitution in the UK: "we relied on being told the truth"; do not rely on any such thing.
8 February 2010 23:44

Mrs R said...

"the ceiling inside is painted midnight blue with a constellation of golden stars;"

Sounds a bit like the EU flag.

418 said...

Yes, but the stars, pleasingly, are not in a vicious circle. xx418

Mrs R said...

That's easily fixed - paint's cheap.