Friday, May 08, 2009

MP expenses - it isn't just the MPs that should be worried...

The first reports of the weird and wonderful expense claims made by members of the Cabinet have proved that restraint isn't always easy to find.

I'm not going to get carried away at this stage, as there is much still to be revealed. And, until it becomes clear that Liberal Democrat MPs are without sin (if it ever does), it would be foolish to come over all self-righteous. Anyone rushing to tar one party or another will doubtless look very silly if a cohort of their own side are then found to be equally guilty/venal/stupid (delete as appropriate).

There is no doubt, however, that the collective reputation of Members of Parliament will take an absolute battering over the coming days. Perhaps that will prove to be justified, I don't know, but it will provide an opportunity for those without access to the gravy train to use it as a stick to beat the established parties with. Frankly, I'm concerned as to how that will play out in next month's European and County elections.

I'm sure that the BNP and UKIP will run strongly on snouts in the trough - UKIP are big on hypocrisy like that - and the sizeable proportion of the population who are minded to give politicians a 'good kicking' are more likely to do so in an election which doesn't appear to matter that much.

This saga is, in addition, of continued concern to the Parliamentary Fees Office, who must be horrified to discover that they are wholly unable to prevent the leak of information previously kept secret. Whilst it was due to be published in a format which allowed for security concerns to be addressed, the fact that this information, all of it, has either been sold to the highest bidder or even just given to a specific newspaper, will worry management.

Official secrecy and discretion are important in terms of establishing credibility. If information passed on in confidence cannot be kept safely, then individual MPs will be disinclined to provide full and complete declarations, in itself a concern. I would therefore guess that the hunt for the mole will continue.

There is no doubt that the expenses claims should be made public, save for information that might make the claimant vulnerable. However, it might be better if we actually paid MPs a proper rate, rather than using a myriad of allowances to make up the difference...


Richard T said...

I'm not sure UKIP have a great deal of room to shout about expenses. Hasn't one of their MEPs (maybe now a former MEP) been done for fraud and a couple of others censured? If they had any sense (which, looking at Nigel Farage, is a very large assumption) they would keep very quiet on this one.

Anonymous said...

Well I think that they should all be paid back,