In defence of Caroline Spelman

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I don’t rate Caroline Spelman as a frontbencher. She has particularly annoyed me in the past by attacking the government for its proposals to revalue council tax (according to the Tories there is something magical about the year 1991 which means that all property taxes should based on the value of homes at that point). I question how someone who believes such nonsense can be said to be qualified to sit on the front benches of any political party. Sadly however, if you follow that logic you would have to get rid of most of all three front benches.

Regarding what will almost certainly be dubbed “nannygate” in all the Sunday papers tomorrow however, I am less inclined to criticise. I have watched both Crick’s totally unbalanced report and Spelman’s defence and am inclined to side with Spelman.

Let’s be clear; there is no doubt that her decision to employ her nanny to do some secretarial work for her after first getting elected in 1997 was in clear breach of the rules. But by all accounts it was an oversight, and one which was quickly corrected within less than a year. We are talking about what looks like a genuine mistake by a new MP, which was then corrected, and which happened over ten years ago.

Compared with, say, Margaret Beckett’s herbacious borders, this is very small fry, no matter what Crick and Guido might say. I’ve seen up close how bewildering and difficult it is for new MPs to get their offices up and running, and even to find out what they are and aren’t allowed to do. 2005 was the first year, as I understand it, that new MPs were given a formal induction. Such initiatives have always been resisted by whips who prefer to control the information their neonates receive so as to make it all the easier to keep them under control. Mistakes happen, and it is a very sorry state of affairs if we now seek to present even the slightest of cock ups by a politician as a sinister conspiracy against the public; not to mention highly delusional.

The biggest joke is Crick pointing out that the ex-nanny doesn’t mention the small bit of secretarial work she did on her Facebook profile. At around the same time I was doing temping work for the Legal Aid Board but I think Crick will struggle to find that on my Facebook profile either; that doesn’t “prove” I’m a liar for admitting I did it. I also like the comedy voice he put on when “quoting” the nanny, by way of demonstrating she must have been lying (as opposed to trying to recall a minor incident in her life ten years ago). I know what those Crick phonecalls are like having been on the receiving end of one myself; if a gobshite like me can be intimated, I’m not surprised she comes across as a little hesitant and nervous.

Of course, if it turns out that Spelman paid this woman for a longer period of time than she both she and Crick appear to agree she did, it might be a different matter. Otherwise it is a non-story and an act of scraping the very bottom of the barrel.

Now a piece on James Gray on the other hand…

9 thoughts on “In defence of Caroline Spelman

  1. “There is no doubt that her decision to employ her nanny to do some secretarial work for her after first getting elected in 1997 was in clear breach of the rules.”

    If the nanny really did do secretarial work I do not think anyone will mind. Surely the charge is that the nanny was busy being a nanny and did not do any secretarial work?

  2. But no-one, least of all Crick, has offered any evidence that she was paid to nanny between 1997 and 1998. By contrast, no one is disputing that she wasn’t paid out of expenses for anything between 1998 and 2003. It seems like a pretty weak case to me, based purely on Crick’s team mounting a sting on an ex-nanny over an incident more than a decade ago.

    The way these stings work incidently, is that Crick gets a researcher to phone them up and have a nice, cosy, ‘I’m on your side’ chat. Then an hour later Crick himself rings them up and barracks them, throwing their own words back at them. Against an experienced politico that is reasonably fair enough, but against an ex-nanny who has never, as far as I’m aware, gone into politics at any level, it whiffs.

  3. I would add that even if she was paying her nanny for nannying, if it ended a decade ago and she stopped it, it is hardly a scandal in the league of the Giles Chichester incident (itself pretty small fry in the big scheme of things).

  4. James Graham says ‘if she was paying her nanny for nannying, if it ended a decade ago and she stopped it, it is hardly a scandal in the league of the Giles Chichester incident’

    As long as she paid back the dosh – with interest

  5. I’d concede she should pay it back in real terms (RPI) but calling for interest is a little petty.

  6. Actually, I’d go further in that if it does turn out her statement today was a tissue of lies, she’s fucked. But I don’t accept there is any evidence to suggest that.

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