BORDERS Lib Dem MP Michael Moore has shown himself to be a man of integrity, despite the publication yesterday of secretly recorded comments criticising the Westminster coalition, writes Andrew Keddie.
That is the view of local party activist Councillor Catriona Bhatia who claimed the revelations, published in the Daily Telegraph, would enhance, not hinder, the reputation of the Scottish Secretary with grass roots Lib Dems.
“This really is a non-story, acquired by the most shoddy journalistic tactics,” said Ms Bhatia. “I’m sure those who voted for him would have been much more shocked if he had articulated support for Tory policies and given up his long-held political beliefs.
“He was merely betraying the difficult decisions which MPs from both parties are having to wrestle with to deliver a programme for government.”
Mr Moore’s comments were taped by undercover reporters during a surgery at his Galashiels office on December 10, the day after he voted in favour of tuition fees.
He said reneging on his party’s pre-election pledge was “the worst crime a politician can commit”.
According to the Telegraph transcript, Mr Moore said: “I signed a pledge that promised not to do this. I’ve just done the worst crime a politician can commit ... I’ve had to break a pledge and very, very publicly.”
On the coalition’s policy of cutting child benefit for high-earning families, Mr Moore said: “There is an anomaly here, there’s no question of it. If you were still working and you were just below the threshold you could have a much bigger income and still be getting child benefit. So, I’m not going to play down that inelegance. It’s blatantly not a consistent thing to do.”
In the course of the recording, Mr Moore said some Conservative ministers were “on a different planet”.
He added: “There are big shades of opinion ... I mean, Liam Fox [defence secretary] and I probably couldn’t stay in the same situation for very long if we were going through a big, long menu of issues. I assure you that my party and me remain passionately Liberal Democrat.”
In a statement issued before we went to press yesterday, Mr Moore said: “In nearly 14 years as an MP for the Borders, I have held countless advice surgeries across the constituency.
“These meetings are held in confidence and that confidence has never been breached. I am very grateful for that and believe that is the way MPs and their constituents should engage.
“As to this encounter with the undercover reporters, it is hopefully not a shock to anyone that I am a committed Liberal Democrat focused on promoting the party’s values and policies.
“As I said during the meeting, and many times elsewhere, the coalition has been formed to tackle deep-seated problems in this country and to address the largest ever deficit in peacetime history.
“That involves tough choices, which are not always comfortable to make, but the coalition remains committed to ensuring we tackle the legacy left to us by Labour.”
South of Scotland SNP MSP Christine Grahame said Mr Moore’s taped comments exposed the hypocrisy of the Lib Dems.
“They and Mr Moore have sold their soul for a little power, a little wealth and evidently have very little influence at the heart of the UK government,” she added.