Cameron attacks Brown

2010-02-08 16:18

London - David Cameron launched a personal attack on Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Monday over the parliamentary expenses scandal, raising the heat of pre-election rhetoric as Conservative poll ratings continued to sag.

The Conservative leader said Brown was a "shameless defender of the old elite" who was a roadblock to political reform, according to extracts of a speech released in advance.

He accused Brown of being "secretive, power-hoarding and controlling" and of tolerating the "disgusting sight" of Labour MPs charged with fraud over expense claims trying to use parliamentary privilege to avoid prosecution.

The assault on Brown's character comes after a week of opinion polls showing the Conservatives slipping to a single digit lead over Labour.

Analysts say that could lead to a hung parliament with no party winning a majority in the election expected on May 6, an outcome that rattles financial markets already concerned over Britain's record £178bn budget deficit.

Prosecutors on Friday last week brought charges of false accounting against three Labour MPs - Elliot Morley, David Chaytor and Jim Devine - as well as the Conservative Lord Hanningfield. They are all due in court next month.

Criminal

The Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said lawyers for those charged had raised the possibility of their claiming protection under parliamentary privilege.

The ancient privilege gives MPs legal immunity over what they say in parliamentary debates and Starmer said its wider application should be tested in court.

Politicians from all parties have dismissed the suggestion that parliamentary privilege could prevent a criminal prosecution.

Cabinet Minister Harriet Harman said on Monday that MPs were subject to the criminal law like anyone else.

"MPs are not above the law and if they commit an offence they have to face trial," she told BBC radio.

But she warned Cameron to avoid making any prejudicial statements about the impending prosecutions.

"Because of our doctrine of innocent until proved guilty, it is usual that there is not political comment.

"He's got to be very careful what he says, or his comments might jeopardise the trial."


Read more on:    gordon brown  |  david cameron  |  london  |  uk
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