Gordon Brown's failure to turn up for the State Opening of Parliament may well have been because he couldn't look David Cameron in the face. Mandrake hears that one of Brown's final acts in the Downing Street bunker was quietly to organise a pay cut for his successor which he must have known would leave him out of pocket to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds.Now, some might say that that was done for sound economic reasons since the country faces economic collapse due the parlous state of the public finances - thanks, er, to Brown. That conclusion would be completely naive. Even Walker's conclusion, jovial as it is, and quoting a 'Whitehall source' is wide of the mark in my humble opinion.On Brown's orders, the Prime Minister's remuneration package was cut from £194,000 to £150,000, but this was done with such stealth that no formal announcement was ever made.
"This was pure Gordon," harrumphs my man in Whitehall. "Quite prepared to make the big sacrifices – so long as it wasn't him who actually had to make them."Not so. While his pocket-lining, self-serving instincts were certainly part of the motivation for his actions, Brown did this out of pure malice for his successor. That's why he did it secretly. As a result, Cameron will earn little more than he did as leader of the opposition, and could well earn less in terms of salary alone given that he has also handed himself and the cabinet an example-setting 5% pay cut, unaware that Brown had already sabotaged that good faith gesture.
As far as I'm concerned, Brown is a seriously twisted individual who finished the way he started in office, by sticking two fingers up ostensibly at the hated Tories, but really at the entire population of the country he pretty much single-handedly ruined. He must be held to account, and, if fraud or corruption are ever uncovered, brought to book for his crimes against the people of Britain.
In the meantime, let's focus on something else. It's not just that he couldn't face David Cameron at the Queen's Speech, or that he hasn't turned up in parliament once on behalf of his constituency since he was booted out of Number 10, or that he has continued to draw an MP's salary while, in effect, going AWOL (I hear he's been in up in Kirkaldy but effectively incommunicado since his ousting)...these things are bad enough. It's not any of that, however, but something far simpler. Clearly, there is a strong case for him to be suspended from parliament pending a review of his activities, or lack thereof, since regaining that safest of safe seats, (and whether his supporters in that safest of safe seat like it or not)]. If necessary, legislation should be introduced to this end. It should be applied not just to Brown but to any MPs suspected of not discharging their duties of office adequately.
Well, I know it won't happen - which is a pity - but, in the end, something must be done about Brown. He deserves some kind of punishment for his vicious spite and, ultimately, his cowardice both in and now out of office.
If nothing else, though, we should expect and demand better from our backbench MPs.