Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Monday, 1 June 2009

General Election. Now. Please.

Whilst on holiday I did a few things that I don't normally have time for (stop it !) such as reading the newspapers. And while playing with my son's balls on the beach (that should get Social Services round) I started thinking a bit more about this expenses malarkey. The results of my ruminations aren't exactly earth-shattering, but I thought I'd share them even so. A few things have become clear to me.

  1. A huge number of MPs, perhaps even the majority, deliberately supplemented their salary by claiming for expenses that weren't necessarily incurred through the performance of their duties.
  2. They were encouraged to do so by the Fees Office, and a culture which said "Get what you can".
  3. This state of affairs was allowed to prevail because there was a consensus that MPs' salaries were not commensurate with their responsibilities - i.e. they believed that they were underpaid.
  4. A surprisingly small number of MPs were alive to the danger that expense claims might be publicised under the FOI Act.
  5. Given that release of data under the FOI was always a possibility, those who claimed what they now admit they should not have claimed showed a quite phenomenal lack of political nous.
  6. It is utterly obvious now why so many MPs fought so hard against publication of expenses, and their fight for secrecy, now it has been lost, makes them look all the worse.
  7. Those who claimed what they now admit they should not have claimed have thereby sacrificed any legitimate qualification to decide how taxpayers' money is spent. On anything.
  8. It is just not credible for our leaders (and by that I mean the likes of Clegg & Dave as well as all of Brown's mob) to pretend that they didn't know what was going on, or that they weren't aware of the extent of it. MPs do talk to each other. It is simply not believable that the party leaders did not get wind of the sorts of behaviour that we all now know about.
  9. The fact that, from each of the parties, we got a whole set of proposals hacked together after the story broke, and put together on the hoof, is itself a desperate indictment of our politicians. They appear incapable of any sort of proactive thinking.
  10. For all the posturing, the supposed self-flagellation and acceptance of blame, no one has put together a really coherent plan to deal with the problem in future.

Collectively these guys have shown that they are not fit to govern us. They have shown a lack of openness and probity that demonstrates we should not trust them. They have shown a lack of judgement that demonstrates we should have no faith in them. They have demonstrated a lack of care in the use of taxpayers' money that demonstrates they are not fit to decree how it is spent.

In a way, what disappoints me the most is that so few of them are now prepared to stand up and defend the system that they benefited from; they quite obviously thought it was fine to claim expenses all over the place because the £64K basic salary wasn't deemed good enough for them. And yet of all those I've heard, only Nadine Dorries has actually had the guts to stand up and say so. I've got a bit of admiration for her because at least she's attempted to explain the prevailing mood among MPs. Other than that, they have actually failed to engage the public in proper debate. Their performance, start to finish, has been abysmal.

Only one thing can even begin to fix this now, and that's a General Election. When Dave called for one a couple of weeks ago I thought that it simply smacked of opportunism, and indeed it does. But there is a greater, more noble principle at play here now; the need to regain the people's trust. The public hold their rulers in complete contempt.

Those MPs who thing they've done no wring can stand up and defend themselves in the "Court of Public Opinion" which Harriet was so keen to talk about only a few short months ago, and find out what their constituents really think. Those that aren't can go and find something else to do. We, and only we, should judge who stays and who goes. And we should do it now.

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