Who’s shameless now? Cameron goes over the top
The Mole: The Tory leader is in danger of pushing the expenses issue too far
The Mole wrote on Friday that David Cameron would miss the expenses saga because it gave him the perfect opportunity to grab the moral high ground and give his own wayward MPs a good ticking-off last year when they were found to be claiming for floating duck houses and moat cleaning and so on.
He was seen to be doing something - not always easy for an Opposition leader.
I concluded my piece by saying Cameron would now be looking for a new issue to exploit. I did not expect him to cling on for dear life to the expenses farrago.
But that's what he's doing, giving a widely leaked speech today in which he will vow to change the law - if the Tories win the election - to stop MPs using parliamentary privilege to "evade justice".
That's because he believes the three Labour MPs who face criminal charges for false accounting - Elliot Morley, David Chaytor and Jim Devine - are planning to hide behind the privilege law which protects MPs from being sued for what they say in the House of Commons.
But Cameron will save his strongest words for Gordon Brown - saying the PM is incapable of parliamentary reform, because he appears to tolerate the "disgusting sight" of Morley, Chaytor and Devine trying to avoid criminal prosecution.
"At the very least, Gordon Brown should withdraw the whip from these shameless Labour MPs," Cameron was due to say. "And more importantly, he should make sure this cannot ever happen again."
The reason Cameron is refusing to drop this bone can be seen in the opinion polls. Following two recent surveys showing the gap between Tories and Labour closing to single figures - which would mean a hung parliament - another poll came out yesterday showing the same thing.
ICM's survey for the Sunday Telegraph didn't just show the gap at nine points, down from 10 points a month ago; it put the Tories on only 39 per cent, the first time their share has dropped below 40 per cent since last June.
The sense that the Tories are wobbling is now widespread and it's no surprise that some of the Sundays were talking up an early election, with Brown perhaps trying to wrong-foot Cameron with an April 15 election instead of waiting until May 6.
Any sign of panic in the Tory camp could well persuade Brown to go into action.
If today's speech doesn't exactly spell panic, it does suggest Cameron is out of ideas. Last year's stand on expenses showed him at his best, moving fast and leaving Brown looking inactive. But with today's speech he's in danger of looking like a man playing politics.
Apart from anything else, if he goes much further with this "shameless" talk, he's going to be accused of denying the three Labour MPs a fair trial. And anyway, who's being shameless now?
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