Wednesday, May 20, 2009

JP talks expenses

I find myself this afternoon sitting very comfortably on a train as I
speed across the country. We all know what this means-I am finally in
a position to break the recent silence in this corner of the
blogosphere.

The topic of the moment is the expenses scandal which is currently
gripping Parliament, and it would be rude for me not to pass comment.
Like most people, it would seem, I am not impressed with the way MPs
appear to have abused the system. Sorry if that disappoints you,
Alasdair.

As many have already pointed out, all this 'within the rules' malarky
is actually missing the point. As public servants, MPs have a duty to
behave morally and fairly and it is questionable as to whether or not
some of the MPs embroiled in this scandal have done that. There must
be many examples of people in government who have been openly critical
about those who have sought to use loopholes in the law to their
advantage; shouldn't MPs be leading by example?

Of course, there is also the question of who made the rules in the
first place. To defend one's behaviour on the basis of it being
within a set of rules influenced by one's self seems highly dubious to
me. This is why I think that the expenses reforms being debated at the
moment should possibly have a delayed introduction. That way, the
thoughts of how it might impact the individuals concerned today might
be of a little less concern and we might be able to hold out more hope
for an unbiased and transparent system in the future.

We've also had the bizarre revelations this week that at least one
Labour MP continued to claim on a mortgage because "he'd forgotten
he'd paid it off." Such people should be removed from their positions
of responsibility immediately. If those of us who are cynical about
the excuse this gentleman made are right to be so, then we're talking
about someone who hasn't got the balls to admit they got it wrong, and
who thinks he can bend the truth and pull the wool over our eyes. The
title of 'honourable' is certainly undeserved, and I would prefer not
to have such a slimy, gutless, cheating person making decisions about
the way this country is run.

On the other hand, let us assume that his wife was right when she
insisted rather emotionally to the press that it was all a genuine
mistake. Let us assume that he did genuinely forget he had paid off
his mortgage. I'm not sure I'd even employ someone this incompetent to
make my tea, and it would be very foolish indeed to trust him to vote
wisely in parliamentary debate.

Amongst the furore though, I can't help wondering how many of those
expressing outrage are more than a little hypocritcal. How many of
those who have written self-righteouss letters in to newspapers have
themselves ordered the most expensive item on the menu just because
their company was paying? How many of these evidently perfect citizens
would actually resist the temptations placed before MPs at the moment?
Everyone is capable of conjecturing from the comfort of an armchair,
but until they've proven that they would do better in the same
situation, those who criticise loudly are only spouting hot air like
their representatives in government.

4 comments:

Chuck Revel said...

You have a point there Jim - it's the old adage of "casting the first stone" once again...

Simon said...

Interesting reading James, you make a couple of good points. I particularly like your idea of delaying the introduction of new expenses reforms currently being debated. Alternatively, could a committee not be drawn up consisting of people who will not be affected by such reforms regardless of when they are introduced? Such a committee could surely hold a much fairer debate, due to a complete lack of any vested interest in the matter.

Simon

P.S. Not that it's a major problem, but the odd-length lines are slightly annoying...

Alasdair said...

I see that, like Labour MP Elliot Morley, Cameron is repaying money that he overclaimed for mortgage interest payments. JP, will you join me in declaring him unfit to make a cup of tea?

I accept your point about casting stones, but I think the story of Jesus and the money changers is more appropriate. Parliament has become a den of thieves.

To be honest, the amounts of money involved in the expenses row are pretty small in the grand scheme of things. Making claims for skinflicks or duck islands is distasteful, but the revolving door between government and the private sector is much dodgier. It's similar to people obsessing over Goodwin's pension, which may be outrageous, but it's peanuts compared to the sums of money the taxpayer is paying to prop up the banks.

However I think it's good that expenses row has made people examine their assumptions of Westminster being the Mother of all Parliaments. If the result is constitutional reform I think that's a good thing.

Gareth P said...

My biggest problem with the expenses issue is this:

The Janjaweed are raping and pilaging there way throught the Sudan and nobody cares.

Robert Mugabe is starving Zimbabwe where 90% of the population is unemployed and 12 year old girls are prostituting themselves for a packet of biscuits and the western world can hardly bestir itself from it's apathy long enough to report this tragedy let alone do anything about it.

But someone gets the public to pay for an inappropriate trouser press and all holy hell breaks loose.

It's about time we got our priorities straight.