What are all these rumours that are floating around?
Is Gordon Brown preparing for a reshuffle in his cabinet? Rumours are that Alistair Darling will be replaced by Ed Balls, Education Secretary. Considering that education and education reform has not been very spectacular, is Mr. Balls equipped to be Chancellor?
What about the injunction that Mr. Balls and his wife, Yvette Cooper, have against public inquiry into their expenses? Why? If the courts allow these injunctions, why didn’t all the politicians do the same? That way, the Telegraph can’t print up any more incriminations. Isn’t this, in some way, an obstruction to FOI? What’s the point of FOI if injunctions can block the public right to know?
The furore is not over, but the expenses revealed in the Telegraph have dwindled into silly, irrelevant revelations. Take, for example, the church donation that was denied. Some, rightly, say that that’s not news like non-existent mortgages and moats. But, we need to remember that although the moat was on the list, it was not a claim, and it was not reimbursed, so why does everyone still harp on that? And Mr. Cameron’s mortgage interest? Some argue that he should have paid off some of his second home mortgage rather than his first home mortgage. He explained that he claimed for less interest than he actually paid, so even had he reduced his second home mortgage, his claims would not have altered. Furthermore, when he managed to reduce his mortgage, and his interest had decreased, he used the remainder of his expenses to claim for maintenance bills. So, in the end, his expense claims were justified, in my opinion, so why question that? At least he paid down his mortgage, rather than just take out an interest only mortgage.
Mr. Cameron paid back the wisteria claim, Mr. Clegg has acknowledged that he may profit from the sale of his home and will hand back any profits. Mr. Brown has not acknowledged anything. People do not want to hear the same old excuses, so Gordon Brown is not making any. As to the “spirit of the rules”, it’s hard to say who abided by them and who outright abused them. But I will say that anyone who has access to grace-and-favour homes need not claim any expenses for second homes, regardless of how many homes they have and which one they designate as primary and which secondary. Mr. Darling cannot be forgiven for “flipping” four times in four years. He and Mr. Brown both have grace-and-favour homes, so, therefore, their other home should be well provided for with their incomes.
People claim that they cannot trust their MPs or the PM because of expenses fiddling. Is this necessarily true? I agree that many of them have serious moral issues to contend with, but each MP needs to address their constituents. It is quite cowardly for many of them to say they’ll stand down at the next election without giving their constituents any say. Perhaps, if they explain themselves well, their constituents might forgive them. Who’s to say? On the other hand, if their constituents cannot be appeased and insist that they step down immediately, then they need to call a by-election now. (Bye-bye ‘golden good-byes’.) They cannot serve their constituents well if their constituents don’t want them. It would be very interesting to know how individual constituencies feel about their MPs. The public furore is against all MPs as a group, but if that MP is not working for you, it shouldn’t be a matter for you to decide. Unfortunately, the government is a separate issue, as they work for the entire kingdom.
But will the furore die down when Mr. Brown reshuffles his cabinet again in order to dismiss ministers who have had bad press? The supposed appointment of Mr. Balls could not be a good move if said Balls has anything to hide from the public. Which an injunction seems to imply.