The Sunday papers have two interesting political “resignation” stories this morning.
The Mail on Sunday says that a senior official at the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) — the operations director, Nigel Gooding — has quit his post “for the sake of my health and sanity” after a series of rows with MPs over the new, stricter expenses rules.
Has the expenses scandal become the domestic equivalent of the Iraq war, the story that never goes away? This new parliament has already had the David Laws resignation, and now this. Depressing. I guess we’ll have to get used to another round of hand-wringing, head-shaking and cries of: “They still don’t get it!” For the sake of our collective “health and sanity”, I hope not.
Then there’s Alan Johnson — one of the popular, plain-speaking and pluralist Labour MPs I’d hoped would run for the party leadership. Johnson is backing David Miliband but the Sunday Telegraph claims that the former home secretary is considering standing down from his Westminster seat and fighting a by-election on the issue of proportional representation.
Says Patrick Hennessy:
The shadow home secretary’s dramatic gesture would mirror the controversial stand taken by a Tory occupant of the post, David Davis, in 2008.
Mr Davis quit the shadow cabinet and announced he would fight a by-election in his parliamentary seat of Haltemprice and Howden on a civil liberties platform.
Mr Johnson, who was the favoured candidate of many Labour MPs to replace Gordon Brown as prime minister, has always been a passionate advocate of electoral reform.
If he fought, and won, a by-election on the issue in his seat of Hull West and Hessle — next door to Mr Davis’s seat — it would put him in prime position to play a leading role in a referendum campaign to change the way all MPs are elected.
Under coalition plans, a referendum on replacing the current “first-past-the-post” regime with the Alternative Vote system, which allows voting for more than one candidate, could be held as early as next year.
If Johnson makes this “dramatic gesture” I’d be 100 per cent behind him. AV is a poor replacement for first-past-the-post — and I can’t tell you how depressed I was to listen to the five Labour leadership candidates refuse to go beyond a commitment to AV at both the New Statesman hustings on Wednesday and the Compass hustings yesterday.
I just wish Johnson had threatened to make this move while in government. After all, if Labour had pledged to legislate for a referendum on AV+, rather than AV, it would have made a Con-Lib coalition all but impossible.