Nadine Dorries has vowed to ‘go after’ Ipsa today after the watchdog announced her expenses were under investigation. There will clearly be more to come on this, but the claims the Mid-Bedfordshire MP is making about Ipsa being ‘asleep on the bloody job’ by not noticing that a travel ticket receipt had accidentally been submitted twice won’t come as a surprise to other MPs.
Remember that Adam Afriyie’s confidence about his coup (which I understand from friends that he remains very confident about) stems partly from the help he has given fellow Tories in fighting the current Ipsa system. Louise Mensch raises some of the problems that she identified with the system in her interview with the Standard today. And this week as MPs responded to the government’s Royal Charter proposal on Leveson, Edward Leigh warned MPs that they should ‘learn from personal experience’ when calling for statutory regulation as a response to the phone hacking scandal. He said:
‘In this place, the first reaction to scandal is to call for statutory regulation. May I urge colleagues who make such a call to learn from personal experience? In that context, perhaps we should call the new statutory regulator the independent press standards authority – or IPSA for short.’
Ipsa, and MPs’ pay in general, is a running sore in the Conservative party, but it could well become a gaping wound when the authority comes to recommending how much MPs should be paid. Its pay review is expected to report in the coming months, and at that point there will be a great deal of pressure on the Prime Minister to prevent a rise from the current £65,738 to above £80,000 when public sector pay is only rising by 1 per cent. This would be unlikely to come through a vote in the Commons as preventing the pay rise would require primary legislation. But MPs will think it important that the Prime Minister is seen to back their cause, rather than urging restraint on pay as many of them do not have the private wealth that he and certain ministers and backbenchers enjoy. As James noted last month, some of the most hostile plotters in the party are upset that he hung MPs out to dry in the expenses scandal. They see pay rises as the long-term solution to the expenses problem, and don’t want them to be delayed any more.