Occasionally, very occasionally, I check out the Daily Mail website. Afterwards I take a shower. Anyway, I digress. The Mail has run two stories in the last few days which take me back to the 80s (yet again).
One of the most vociferous &, ahem, "creative" stooges of Neil Kinnock at the time was a trade union official by the name of Jane Kennedy. She supplied Labour HQ with enough ammunition to fire at Liverpool City Council. Kennedy duly got her reward when she was elected as Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, the seat that Terry Fields represented, a couple of boundary changes notwithstanding.
Kennedy's rise up the New Labour pole has been relatively smooth; she is now a junior minister.
That ascendancy, however, may now be about to stall (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1120694/Minister-sleaze-row-research-job-partner-taxpayers-expense.html ):
"A minister is at the centre of a sleaze row after failing to disclose to Westminster officials that she uses taxpayers' money to employ her partner as her researcher.
"Jane Kennedy, Minister of State for Agriculture, Farming and Recycling, lists Peter Dowling on her constituency website as a member of her office staff responsible for research and parliamentary affairs.
"But she failed to mention him on the Register of Members' Interests - despite new rules making it compulsory from last August, following the scandal surrounding Tory MP Derek Conway's employment of his sons and wife."
The Mail piece says Kennedy refused to say how much Dowling is paid, but notes she claimed over £80,000 in "staffing allowances" over the period 2006-2007.
The Mail trains its sights on Dowling. In typical Mail style, it goes for the personal over the political, & may well make Kennedy cringe:
"Sources in Ms Kennedy's constituency of Liverpool Wavertree have described Mr Dowling as a 'ruthless political operator' who had been 'the driving force' behind her constituency Labour Party for a number of years.
"One said: 'It is not like he is her partner and so so he is helping her out. He is the real brains behind the Liverpool end of things. He is the one who makes up all the leaflets, he is very, very involved and everyone else just falls into line. He has got a finger in everything that goes on in Liverpool.
"Jane does her stuff in Parliament, he runs the Liverpool end. He is a nice fellow, quite charming, but very cunning and bitter towards his political opponents.' "
The Mail does add that Kennedy has now registered Dowling with the Register of Members' Interests. Nevertheless, the mud has stuck.
Today's Daily Post, normally a refuge for local major politicos to lick their wounds as they "explain" their story, ie., spin like a woodentop, attempts to do just that. However, there are more questions than answers in its treatment of the story (http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2009/01/19/mp-who-employs-partner-says-i-did-nothing-wrong-64375-22722461 ):
"Ms Kennedy said listing [Dowling] was a suggested move and was not compulsory.
"She said she had consulted with the registrar and the commission for standards who said it was not compulsory, but she had opted to list Dowling on Friday."
The Post report goes on to state:
"Declaring family employment was voluntary, although recommended from April 1 last year and was compulsory from August 1."
So for five months Kennedy was in clear breach of regulations which had been spelt out to all MPs after the Conway affair. I recall Kennedy's berating of Hatton et al, her main (& fictitious) claim being that the council was opaque & secretive; how could the people of the city have confidence & trust in the council, she claimed, when there appeared to be no real accountability from their elected representatives. Over 20 years later the boot's on the other foot. Kennedy's murky dealings have been rumbled. Moreover, she has shown the sort of wilful disregard for accountability that she claimed Militant was guilty of in the 80s.
The Daily Post's David Bartlett casts an eye over Kennedy's case in his occasionally diverting blog & what it might mean for her Wavertree seat (http://blogs.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/dalestreetblues/2009/01/analysis-of-labours-most-vulne.html#more ):
"Ms Kennedy's majority has steadily declined since the 1997 election when the seat became known as Wavertree.
"In 97 she received 29,592 votes (64.4%) of the vote - not surprising given the Labour landslide.
"Four years later, although only 20,155 voted for Mr [sic] Kennedy she still took 62.7% of the vote.
"In 2005, she received 18,441 votes - 52.4% of the vote, with the Lib Dem Colin Eldridge in second place with 13,268 - 37.7%.
"And if this slow erosion of votes were not bad enough for Ms Kennedy, boundary changes at the next election are estimated to roughly halve her majority."
The phrase, "writing on the wall" springs to mind, doesn't it?
Kennedy got her feet on the careerist ladder by assisting Kinnock in black propaganda against Militant. How ironic that her ministerial status could be jeopardized by a combination of the same tactics from the venal Mail & her own dubious stratagem.