Thursday, June 05, 2008

Giles Chichester runs aground

It will be of little consolation to Giles Chichester, who has just resigned as leader of the Conservative MEPs after six-figure questions were raised over his expenses, that he is the subject of today's Trivial Fact of the Day.

He gains that accolade because he is the son of Sir Francis Chichester who in 1967, and at the age of 65, became the first man to sail around the world single handed. I have vague memories of this event and of Sir Francis as a latter-day New Elizabethan.

His son Giles will not be remembered so fondly. In particular, his attempt to dismiss the affair as a “technical breach of rules" was inadequate and his second attempt:

“It is embarrassing, not least, because I have introduced a new code of guidelines for my Conservative colleagues for expenses.

“Here I am leading that process for the last couple of months and whoops-a-daisy I am shown up to have made a mistake. OK, hands up, mea culpa and I am putting it right.”

was absurd. "Whoops-a-daisy" deserves to enter the political lexicon.

Bearing in mind Iain Dale's insistence that Chichester is innocent until he is found guilty, what will the political fall out be?

Labour's concentration on Tory "sleaze" during the 1990s flowed in part from the lack of serious policy differences between the two parties. And this episode will be used by some to damn all things European, regardless of which party is responsible.

If it is to have any significant effect - and with the Conway family enterprise Chichester's resignation threatens to form part of a pattern - it will be to remind votes of the way that money values predominate in the modern Conservative party.

But that, of course, would require the other parties to stand for something different. And for Labour, at least, that will be the hard part.

No comments: