Apart from a desire to find out just which of our MPs are corrupt or inept we must surely be reaching the point where everything that needs to be said has been said. Though much which needs to be done is still to be done.
The most common excuses seem to be that either things “were within the rules” or where down to “honest mistakes”, as it’s terribly easy to forget when you’ve paid off a mortgage, or forget to only claim for the interest part of your mortgage. Given that the “rules” apparently state that all claims must be incurred solely during the performance of their duties as MPs and that luxury items are right out very few of the claims we’ve seen come even within shouting distance of these rules. So we are left having to decide if our representatives are either criminal or incompetent. In either case they’re surely not fit to hold high office, if you can’t understand the principle rules of no luxury items and incurred purely in performing one’s duties, how can they possibly understand the rules they’re bringing into force. If they are so bad at accounting they forget they’ve paid off mortgages or that they’ve already claimed for something how can they possibly make sense of departmental budgets or hold anyone to account for public spending? If it somehow turns out that they are uttering the odd word of untruth regarding these matters, then how can they possibly be trusted to not be corrupt. The individual degree of how much they may or may not have mistakenly claimed isn’t the problem so much as how much it has said about the gulf between them and us and how little we can trust them. If we can’t trust them with “small” things, why trust them with large ( I seem to recall a rather famous tale about talents..)
I’d much rather they had drink problems, secret lovers or any number of human failings as long as these failings were dealt with out of thier own pockets. Provided they understood that they were in the commons at our behest to represent us and acted in that way.
The two things which have stood out for me more than anything in this whole sorry mess are the lack of understanding from the great and good and the lack of action. Whilst everyone is entitled to fair process and these things do take time it seems that there will be little real penalty for these honest mistakes, which (as many others have observed) outside of parliament would result in anyone else being at least unemployed and far more likely to be facing serious criminal charges. (though it seems that they may be some charges being brought). But for the “repayments” as observed elsewhere the money being re-paid is just going back into the pot it came from. For those “paying back” capital gains tax unless they’re admitting tax fraud that will count as credit to their future tax bill, as for the rest of us at least those are the only two options you can’t just give the tax man a bit extra out of the goodness of your heart. Suddenly we can’t move for MPs saying how they’ve been speaking out against the system for years, yet there don’t seem to be that many publishing their full expenses rather than summaries (and the devil is so often in the detail).What has been stopping them all these years from acting unilaterally and publishing their full expenses, voting for transparency, only make claims within the bounds of their new found austerity. Whilst it takes formal action in parliament to force them all to obey such rules what stopped any of them doing this before hand? Even know when they are talking about taking action why do they refer everything to outside bodies (that they appoint) rather than doing the job they are paid for and consider the matter and legislate themselves? It must surely be better that they take responsibility and decide these things themselves rather than hand it to a bunch of their mates and then turn round later and say “the nasty quango made us do it then ran away”?
But for lack of understanding you can’t beat the MPs that have claimed they were of “modest means” despite MP’s basic wages putting them in the top 10% of wage earners. But those non-luxury items they need still manage to include 15 grand book cases and 8 grand telly’s. These are people who think spending 17 hundred to reupholster a sofa is better value than spending four hundred in DFS. It is apparently all our fault though as we deserve corrupt MPs if only we’d trusted them for the last god knows how many years and let them police themselves then none of this would have happened, we forced them to abuse the system by not trusting them… or something like that I assume. Despite it being our fault though, it seems that if we have the cheek to consider not voting for the main parties then that will imperil democracy itself for we may let in extremists as heaven for fend we vote for anyone that might actually represent us. No our only allowed course of action is to vote for the same old parties and trust them to be honest and act in our own best interest for if we don’t trust them democracy will fail.
There is thankfully an upside to all of this we’re finding out who the decent MPs are (Labour Home, Telegraph) even if they’re not getting a terribly high profile (Kate Hoey MP deserves special mention for speaking up for the whistle blower). That is however a telling point that few if any of the honest and decent MPs are anywhere near the front benches, and they also seem to have been blissfully unaware of the corruption around them – otherwise surely they’d have spoken out? The other far brighter point though is that people are paying far more attention to our politicians and to their actions and are getting involved in politics again. Hopefully we’ll all remember these events by the time the general election comes round and not be gullible enough to vote them all back in, though such a time may yet be sooner than expected (which perhaps can be encouraged).
As a last word it’s worth reading what Ms Brooke has to say on the matter over at the BBC.
Update: Just came across this The Last ditch explains why it was not within the rules