One cheer for Ms Harman

The Leader of the House is both a partisan Cabinet Minister, and the voice of the minority parties in government. Successful Leaders of the House take the second role seriously, and speak up in government to ensure fair play for the minority, insisting on proper time for debate and examination of the Executive on things the Opposition is unhappy with or where it has a differing view.

I have not been a fan of Ms Harman in this role, as she has failed to allow the Opposition to use the Thursday so called topical debates to highlight the issues that we think are topical, she has failed to get many of her colleagues to make their statements to Parliament first, and in some cases has failed to get statements or debates at all. It is difficult to have much confidence in a Leader of the House who cannot ensure a proper debate on a large budget which is slipped out masquerading as a technical Statement.

Yesterday however I felt some sympathy for her. She was asked exactly the question a Cabinet Minister fears – do they have confidence in someone who is currently in the news? If she had given a ringing endorsement of the Speaker she would be concerned that the government was forced into giving a running commentary on the health of the Speaker’s position, which is not something many would welcome. Most of us want a Speaker who is above all that, and who is not beholden to the Executive for support. She was also conscious that there is going to be a debate on Monday about the Damian Green affair, where the House will hear a range of very different views. She seemed aware that she had to speak for the whole House, and the whole House has not yet spoken on this matter.

The Speaker himself has shown wisdom in granting the Opposition a debate on the Budget that pretended not to be a budget, and granting a debate on the important issue of Damian Green. Both he and Ms Harman have to give the Opposition its days in court on the big issues of our time. When they do this with a good grace they will draw strength from having cross party support.


  1. rugfish
    December 4, 2008

    After hearing the pathetic twisting weasely words of Jacquie Smith on the Damian Green issue, I was heartened to hear a different tone from harriet Harman who said……….( From The Telegraph ).

    Miss Harman said she was “very concerned” at the arrest of the Tory immigration spokesman and the way police had raided his Parliamentary and constituency bases.

    There were “very big constitutional principles” that needed to be safeguarded, Miss Harman said, including the rights of MPs to get on with their job without interference from the law.

    And she said Speaker Michael Martin should look at how police are able to enter the Palace of Westminster……….

    I then felt like a deflated balloon when the end of her sentences said……….”once the investigation into Home Office leaks is concluded”.

    She WAS scoring point until she put her foot back in it !!

    On the issue of speaking up for the house, I don’t think her position as cabinet minister is in any way commensurate with her ability to be unbiased and favourable to all parties and Gordon Brown would do well to appoint another in her place or otherwise give her this a full time role.

    Personally, I’d favour someone else in the position which doesn’t carry any Brown luggage with her/him.

    1. jean baker
      December 4, 2008

      Miss Harman failed to address the extremely serious point that the terrifying police raid was executed ILLEGALLY – storming peoples family homes without the legal consent of an authorized search warrant is tantamount to ‘Stalinism’ – paramilitary incursion.

      Smoke, mirrors and media spin/buckpassing does not eradicate the ‘Mugabe’ style mindset which instigated the atrocity. It serves to confirm Nulabor’s utter contempt for British law and democratic procedures.

  2. Stuart Fairney
    December 4, 2008

    Did you see Mrs Beckett with the insane mortgage guarantee scheme she announced on C4 news yesterday?

    To call it a shambles understates the case. First she announced that the top eight banks had agreed, only to be told that Nationwide had issued a press release saying the looked forward to seeing the details of the proposals. There seems to be no budget for the scheme and (from what I could make of it, the ‘explanation’ was confused) banks will have to roll-up interest payments for up to two years and not foreclose on mortgages if you stop paying, with the government, finally underwriting costs if they do repossess.

    I could not imagine a scheme more likely to drive fragile banks into bankruptcy than one which freezes their principal cashflow, and God alone knows what the final bill for this might be. Mrs Beckett certainly doesn’t.

    It’s like we are living in the pages of Atlas Shrugged!

  3. Disheartened Voter
    December 4, 2008

    Watching Ms Harman on Newsnight last night, I thought it was one of the few occasions in recent years where a BBC journalist (Jeremy Paxman) has actually done a reasonable job of holding a Labour Minister to account. Her behaviour/demeanor when asked about her confidence in both the Speaker and the Sergent at Arms (Jill Pay) said it all. It was pretty clear that she had no confidence in either!

    I sincerely hope that on Monday MPs will not simply let this matter slide until the next election. Neither of the individuals concern appear fit to hold their respective offices and it really is time that individuals were held accountable for their actions. In a sense it is no different to the situation regarding Ms Shoesmith. In all three cases, the individuals have failed to competently exercise the judgment required of their positions and such failure should not be rewarded.

    The honorable option for all three is to resign, at least that would demonstrate some courage and that they take responsibility for their own inaction. If they are not prepared to take the honorable route, then in all case they should be removed from office for gross incompetence. It really is time to start raising the standards in the public sector – this is not a party political issue it simply about good management – people do not learn lessons unless there is a real accountability.

  4. Acorn
    December 4, 2008

    I may not have mentioned this before but, after yesterday’s charade in our so called parliament; I would just say that now would be a good time to consider separating the “Executive” from the “Legislature”. Yesterday was an excellent example of what can happen when you have a de-facto, elected dictatorship. Particularly, when a government has passed its sell-by date, as they all do.

    I would love to know what Her Maj was thinking when she read the, so called, Queen’s Speech. It was her least enthusiastic delivery I can remember. Did we actually have our third budget statement of the year; a sort of post pre-budget report on mortgage protection?

    For those of us who can only sit and watch, the parliamentary process looks a bit of a mess, even if it is a very lucrative mess for those chosen to be chosen by an increasingly dissatisfied taxpayers. This nation has moved on from the days of the forty shilling freeholders but unfortunately our parliament hasn’t; the franchise just costs a lot more now and is funded by proxies. There is a lot to be said for putting a time limit on an MP’s tenure; two four year parliaments possibly? The same for a separately elected Prime Minister and his appointed Cabinet. The profile of the Commons may then get closer to the profile of the nation.

    If things stop working on this computer, I can call up Task Manager and close it down. If it has a serious mental breakdown, I can hit Restart. Does Her Maj still have access to the restart button; if so, now would be a good time to press it? Now that would be a hell of a Queen’s Speech!

  5. Mr Ecks
    December 5, 2008

    Altogether too much niceness–not something you have previously been accused of much. If you and the rest of the Westminster so-called “opposition” don’t get stuck in to ZaNuLab soon and get some rage and outrage working this country is going to be a bankrupt Marxist police state. Pound these bastards for the sake of all of us and our childrens future. Knock them down and then put your boots to them and don’t stop kicking and stomping until they are bloody, ruptured and dead.

    “Then wasn’t the time. Now’s the time. Now we’re gonna get ’em–every ****ing one of ’em.”

    Steven Seagal–“Hard to Kill”

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