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By Ray Fleming

THERE is obviously nothing that Labour can do to mitigate the effect of the revelations about its departing trio of ex-Cabinet ministers who have been caught by Channel 4 and the Sunday Times in the act of selling their services (and souls?) as lobbyists with an inside track to the government of which they were until quite recently members. They are pathetic, not criminal, because as lobbyists they were so obviously unskillled and unsubtle when compared with the real professionals who infest Westminster and every other political capital in the world. Barack Obama came to the US presidency promising to rid Washington of the armies of lobbyists there but instead had to defeat those representing medical and insurance vested interests by getting his Health-care reforms through Congress despite their efforts. It is understandable, given the several highly questionable but still unanswered aspects of the Ashcroft affair, that David Cameron wants to make the most of every sniff of scandal he detects in the Labour camp. But what is most needed is the date of the election and a campaign in which the parties will be obliged to decide on the relative importance to the electorate of sleaze and hard policy. The British public has probably already formed its view on the ethics of parliamentarians of all parties and would like now to get down to the basics of what the parties have to offer.