Enough has been said about MPs expenses, so the new list of questionable expenses published in the Daily Telegraph is getting tiresome. I will not defend any of them but I’m not going to concentrate on criticising them, either. No, I’d like to focus on comments made by politicians and political bloggers.
Gordon Brown: “MPs have to live in two places. But we need a system that is better than the one we’ve got.” Really? Not all MPs have to live in two places and the controversy surrounds those who claim they do.
Harriet Harman: “MPs believe in the cause of public service and that’s why they’re in public service and I believe our House of Commons is not scarred by corruption on the scale of other political systems.” No, we definitely do not have the scale of corruption found in third-world political systems. As for MPs believing in the cause of public service, why are they so adamant about raising their pay and allowing them their expenses? Not expenses, allowances. Sorry, there is a difference, but I’m not sure MPs realise that. If they care about doing their jobs so much, why did some MPs worry about the flat daily rate? I know some argued that it was not a transparent system. Which is true, but others worried that someone might clock-in and go out golfing. If that’s how they spend their time, I’m not sure they’re doing their job. Some claim they work long hours. How often? What is their work-week time? Are they happy about the opt-out? If they work such long hours, why did Laurence Robertson suggest that if MPs pay or allowances were not adequate, they would need to seek extra work outside parliament. When would they find time to do that?
Harriet Harman refused to give a “gut instinct judgement” on whether MPs breached the parliamentary rules when they claimed certain homes as their “primary residence” when it was clearly not to the public eye. Of course, the parliamentary rules were extremely vague, making it quite easy for any MP to misinterpret it at will. I can only suppose that whoever came up with the rules expected some common sense, but our MPs are out to prove that they do not have such a thing. And, of course, Ms. Harman would not like to criticise her colleagues about their misinterpretations, but I’m sure her “gut instinct” told her that they were wrong. “We’ve already changed the old system and we’re going to change it further”. I still have doubts about that statement. Their vote does not seem to have made much of an impact, because it hardly affected anyone.
Hazel Blears spokesman: “Hazel is honest as the day is long”. Please, cut the cliches. It is quite embarrassing, especially when you couple politicians and honesty. But, to show how honest some politicians are, Gordon Brown repaid for a duplicate claim, which had been done inadvertently. And Jack Straw also repaid his council tax bill when he spotted the mistake. Yeah? Who spotted these “inadvertent mistakes”? If the expenses were not transparent, would the public have ever heard about any of these? Makes you wonder about past expenses that have not been made public. These are small amounts but can rapidly add up if all the MPs are doing it.
Mr Andy Burnham is under fire for his expense claims and tried to justify it by saying that over the past five years he has under-claimed. If MPs under-claim in the past, does that give them the right to claim to the hilt now? Or, more specifically, just because you claim significantly under the maximum allowance, does it mean you can claim willy-nilly, as long as you stay within your limits?
Sir Stuart Bell: “We do respect public opinion and we do respect the need for change – and I think that change is coming, I hope it will come quicker and I hope the public will get the respect for MPs back which we do actually deserve at the end of the day.” No, they do not respect public opinion. They are embarrassed by it. That’s why they are so defensive about their allowances. Yes, I’m sure they’re praying that change will come quickly so they’ll no longer be in the negative limelight. Do MPs deserve respect? Of course, just like everyone else. But they have abused public trust, so respect is at an all-time low. How can we respect them if they lead by such poor examples? At the end of today, will they deserve our respect? How about tomorrow?
Mr. Nick Robinson noted in his blog that MPs would claim that you don’t get rich by going into politics. Well, Tony Blair has done very well for himself. Many other MPs are doing quite well right now with their investments and secret tax havens. Where did they get the money?
Lastly, No 10 insisted that the nature and timing of the leak of information to the Daily Telegraph was politically motivated. Yes, we all know where the Daily Telegraph stand politically, so that statement was unnecessary. But, why did the information have to be leaked? Wasn’t it available through the Freedom of Information act?