Saturday, 23 May 2009

Some thoughts on MPs expenses

There has been a huge amount of comment on and off line about the information revealed by 'The Daily Telegraph' on our MPs ACA (Additional Cost Allowance) and their expenses generally and there are one or two points I want to make about the whole sorry saga:
  • I have thought for a some considerable time that the MPs we elect to our Parliament very much mirror society in general. Thus we have a few that are outright crooks, a significant number who are honest and hardworking and then a great wadge of people in the middle who probably don't think of themselves as bent but who are happy to use the system to their maximum advantage. Thus like many other groups of people.
  • I don't think it's even a third, certainly much less than half, of our MPs who have come under 'The Daily Telegraph' spotlight so far. In the interest of natural justice I think that the expenses of all MPs have to be exposed. We know that when the 'official' figures are produced for our consumption then these statistics will be very sanitized and therefore won't expose the same lurid details as have been published in The DT.
  • I recall Benedict Brogan, who moved to the Telegraph from the Mail shortly before this story exploded, saying that there were 25 people working full time on this scoop. It is a very complicated business, for instance enquiries have to be made at the Land Registry regarding ownership of property and whether there is a charge (mortgage) on said property. Despite the reporters best attempts there will be the odd error creeping in but I'm confident that 95% or more is accurate.
  • Because of the looseness of the rules it is a nightmare for the leaders of the parties to pass judgement on what is or is not OK. However fairly obviously it is easier to throw back benchers to the wolves than those who are ministers or shadows.
  • Gordon Brown is in a particular pickle. Opinion seems to be that he will wait until after the elections of 4 June to make a government reshuffle. If, as seems quite likely, Hazel Blears gets the boot following her "YouTube if you want to" newspaper criticism of Brown, her dismissal following the exposure of her expenses claims will be seen as yet again Brown being dilatory. Like him or not, David Cameron appears to be quicker off the mark than the Prime Minister although he has problems enough with his own errant MPs.
  • Some folk, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury and Tory MP Nadine Dorries, feel that the DT revelations have made their point and that the continued drip drip of information being published by the paper is not good for the democratic process. What hasn't been mentioned yet is whether the DT will go on with the story right through the first week of June i.e. the week of the elections. What they might reveal that week could be even more controversial in the sense that really bad stories about Tory or Labour MPs on election day for example could be interpreted as showing huge bias toward a particular party. So maybe that week the DT might just keep researching the perceived misdemeanours of our MPs with a view to publication at a later date. At the end of the day when every MP has been investigated perhaps they will issue a supplement with the Sunday Telegraph listing all the MPs so that we can compare and contrast.
These then are just a few of my thoughts on this business.

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