Monday, April 07, 2008

The nauseating hypocrisy of Peter Kilfoyle

I used to have a lot of time for Peter Kilfoyle. He should in my view have been made Chief Whip after Nick Brown was moved from the post in 1998 and after his resignation from the government the following year he played a valuable role in speaking up for the interests of Labour's forgotten heartlands, although such was Tony Blair's obsession with Middle England it didn't ultimately achieve much in terms in of the overall direction of government policy.

So I was even more amazed to read his early day motion tabled last Wednesday which has so far obtained nine signatures from MPs of all three parties, at least one of whom should have known better.

It reads:

That this House notes recent media commentary on the rolling programme of maintenance involving the Speaker's rooms; notes that £8.2 million has been spent on the renovation of the Press Gallery; also notes that the media pays nothing for the use of the premises, nor for London telephone calls; is bemused that 10 male members of the lobby have a car parking pass for the Palace of Westminster; is conscious of the annual subsidy to the Press Bar of £210,000; and therefore calls upon members of the Press Gallery to apply to themselves the same standards that they would demand of others.

This edm is so mendacious and misleading, so full of half-truths and innuendo that it deserves a damned good fisking, so here goes.

Half-truth: "This House....notes that £8.2 million has been spent on the renovation of the Press Gallery"

Fact: The Press Gallery essentially had the refurbishments forced on them. Back in 2003, when I was a member of the Gallery Committee, it was told that its offices no longer complied with Health and Safety Legislation, and would therefore have to be upgraded. This being the case, the Committee reluctantly went along with the refurbishment plan and tried to shape it as best it could, although it was abundantly clear from the start that the House authorities were working to a particular agenda, namely removing as many of the Gallery's communal facilities as possible and maximising the amount of office space.

This, in the end, is precisely what happened. The Press Gallery dining room was lost, the gallery library was moved to a much smaller area, and the gallery bar was infamously combined with the cafeteria. In the words of the syncretistic lobby hack Bill Blanko it now has all the atmosphere of an airport terminal.

Half-truth: "This House...notes that the media pays nothing for the use of the premises, nor for London telephone calls."

Fact: Kilfoyle knows perfectly well that if the media were to be charged market rates for the use of office accommodation in Westminster, the regional press, including Kilfoyle's own Liverpool Echo, would cease to have a presence in the Commons altogether. It is frankly unbelievable to see a man who has previously posed as an advocate for the interests of the English regions making this argument.

Half-truth: "This bemused that 10 male members of the lobby have a car parking pass for the Palace of Westminster

Fact: What Kilfoyle doesn't mention is that many MPs now have two car park passes. This enables them to park their second cars in the Palace underground car park permanently. The Commons authorities actually stopped handing out new car park passes to journalists several years ago. The ten that remain are held by extremely long-serving lobby men. Each time a journalist passholder leaves or retires, their pass is now reallocated as an additional pass for an MP.

Half-truth: "This conscious of the annual subsidy to the Press Bar of £210,000."

Fact: Peter Kilfoyle has regularly benefited from the availability of subsidised ale in the Press Bar. By my reckoning only John Spellar and Phil Woolas (whose job it was to patrol the Bar and find out what hacks were writing about the next day) were more regular attenders than Kilfoyle in the years 1997-2004. Maybe he's sobered up a bit since then.

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Anonymous said...

So which half of the £210,000 booze subsidy isn't true?

David Boothroyd said...

Paul, all you've succeeded in establishing is that the facts of the motion are true and that Peter Kilfoyle can write them up in a way that is as fair to the lobby as most of the rubbish stories about MPs expenses are fair to MPs.

Guido Fawkes said...

The hacks don't need a taxpayer subsidised bar at their place of work.

End of story.

Armchair Sceptic said...

Is it true they can still smoke in the Commons bar?

Anonymous said...

Currently Kilfoyle is censuring Liverpool FC's board of directors for their mishandling of that club's future. His biggest gripe is that the planned new stadium they have on hold within his constituency is bogged down by a power-struggle in the boardroom. On the other hand, the 'other club' in his constituency: Everton FC, are planning to shift out of there and into another town - Kirkby in the Borough of Knowsley. Much to the disgust of many supporters of Everton, Mr Kilfoyle thinks that will be a good thing and has attended meetings held with Everton FC, Tesco PLC, Knowsley MBC, and Knowsley Labour MP George Howarth to discuss the transition of the club to Kirkby.

He argues many of his constituents will be glad to see the back of Everton. Why Mr Kilfoyle believes this, yet still argues the case for another, larger stadium for Liverpool FC, is an inconsistency Mr Klfoyle doesn't address.