Signs are that Labour activists this weekend have had a torrid time on the doorstep – one candidate reports having a door slammed shut in her face. This has led about 70 activists and candidates to sign a letter to the Labour NEC chair, Cath Speight, in which among other things they describe the prime minister as having been "negligent" in letting the MPs' expenses crisis get this far.
The activists are writing to the NEC calling for tougher action than what is currently proposed. They don't think it should be up to the parliamentary commissioner to rule on whether an MP kept to the rules because it's the rules that stink.
This is the text of the letter:
Dear NEC chair
We are writing to you to register our protest at the conduct of many Labour MPs, ministers and cabinet ministers in allowance and expense claims funded by hard working British taxpayers during the tenure of this parliament. We are also gravely concerned that the party leadership has failed to take charge of a critical situation on an issue so fundamentally defining to the character and reputation of our party, its supporters and activists.
We are particularly disappointed with a number of aspects of the leadership's response including:
• The continued reference by Labour spokespeople to the "system" being wrong and "needing reform". Undoubtedly this is the case. But the "system" does not force Labour ministers and MPs to make specific claims that abuse public trust and in some cases are an abuse of public money. Making an expense claim is a matter of individual responsibility. Our party has been left looking incredibly insensitive and out of touch with hard-working and fair minded citizens.
• The prime minister, and the collective leadership of the Labour party, have been negligent in protecting the reputation of the party by failing to speedily apologise for our MPs, by failing to take immediate and clear disciplinary action, and by regularly appearing to side with Ministers and MPs who have made excessive and exaggerated claims in the face of justifiable public anger.
• Many of the claims are for things that, in all conscience, 99% of Labour party members outside of parliament would never be able to bring themselves to claim, even if a "system" allowed them to.
Therefore, we ask that the NEC:
• Organise a thorough review of suspected excessive and abusive claims — regardless of whether they were eventually signed off by an over-worked fees office.
• Support the immediate removal of the whip from individual MPs who have brought the party into disrepute over this issue and allow CLPs [constituency Labour party] to trigger reselection ballots against them.
We write this in a spirit of solidarity and heartfelt concern for the reputation of the party that we will continue to work hard for. We are a group of leading loyal activists from across the breadth of the Labour party, who will not hesitate to defend the future of our Labour movement, which should always stand for fairness, compassion and integrity, no matter how inconvenient living by these values may be.
In solidarity, Cllr Richard Bingley (former Labour party press officer)
Fred Grindrod (National Policy Forum and former parliamentary candidate)
Beryl Milnes (former chair of Hemel Hempstead CLP)
Tom Flynn (Labour parliamentary candidate)
Cllr Allan Davies (Labour parliamentary candidate)
Ffinlo Costain (former parliamentary candidate)
Cllr Sarah Bogle (councillor, Southampton city council & former parliamentary candidate)
Funda Pepperell (Labour parliamentary candidate)
Malcolm Clark (branch secretary, Streatham CLP)
Cllr.Brian Norgate (councillor, Eastleigh borough council)
Andy Wilson (former president, Southampton University Labour Students)
Gavin Shuker (executive member, Luton South CLP)
Michelle Savage (National Policy Forum and vice-chair of East of England Regional Board )
Cllr Shiria Khatun (former Labour press adviser and Tower Hamlets councillor)
Peter Cooper (Southampton Labour party...