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IAN PAISLEY’S suspension from Democratic Unionist Party membership after the House of Commons decision to exclude him for 30 sitting days from September 4 displays a belated recognition by the DUP leadership of the seriousness of the charges he faced.
He might well have imagined he could brazen out his wrongdoing as DUP leader Arlene Foster did over the hundreds of millions of pounds lost on her watch through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, but there is no comparison between the two scandals.
Paisley put on a bravura performance in the House of Commons last week, complete with Tony Blair-style catching of breath to indicate he was close to tears.
He apologised for failing to declare two luxury family holidays paid for by the Sri Lanka government, following which he lobbied the British government to undermine a UN investigation of mass state-sponsored slaughter at the end of the Sri Lanka’s civil war.
The North Antrim MP expressed regret, acknowledged embarrassment and apologised to Foster, but he has stuck obstinately to his yarn that he had made a “genuine mistake.”
When? Accepting the first family jolly worth up to £50,000? Or the second valued at an equal sum? Or failing to declare either of them to the Commons? Or doing the Colombo government’s dirty work by trying to devalue the UN probe?
The major question Paisley has refused to answer is why he acted — or failed to act — as he did.
His priority appears to have been to defend his right to continue in office as North Antrim MP, displaying truculence by smearing those calling for a by-election as “opportunists” and insisting that he will fight in any such by-election, “as I have never run away from an election in my life.”
He was backed by East Antrim DUP colleague Sammy Wilson, who said Paisley “has admitted that he did wrong and he has apologised to the party, to Parliament and to his constituents for that,” after which there should be no additional sanction imposed.
Fortunately, the rest of the House thought otherwise.
In the wake of successive expenses scandals and ministerial misdeeds, for Paisley to have been given a rap on the knuckles would have signalled that MPs continue to see themselves as members of an exclusive club to whom normal rules don’t apply.
Compare the indulgence Wilson extends to Paisley with the brutal consequences for benefit claimants who make real mistakes brought on by the stress and hardship in which they survive.
Paisley has been caught bang to rights. He should step down without the need for 10 per cent of his constituents to sign a petition. His time is up. He should go now.
A pay rise that’s not a pay rise
GOVERNMENT promises of pay rises for some public-sector workers bear all the hallmarks of a snake oil salesman’s patter.
Tories and their right-wing media allies have made a practice of demanding that Labour explains how every election pledge will be financed but find no difficulty in dispensing with this requirement today.
Government ministers, who have slashed real pay for public-sector workers as part of the capitalist austerity agenda, pretend now that the brakes are off, but they are putting no new money forward.
Pay rises will have to come from already imposed departmental budgets, putting further pressure on services, equipment or employment levels.
The Tories remain addicted to austerity and, even taking into account their latest three-card trick, will preside over lower living standards for public-sector workers.
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