Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Is a firestorm about to engulf Britain's parliamentary democracy?

I speak of course of the MP expenses controversy. I've written about it only once so far, last week when the main focus of the Telegraph's revelations was on the governing Labour Party.

Last Sunday the focus shifted to the main opposition Conservative Party, although the LibDems and a few other political parties received 'honourable' mentions too. What struck me about most of the Conservative cases was their sheer pettiness - relatively small amounts in many cases (not all) with the claimant MPs in many of those cases being extremely wealthy people. Yes, it did cause a little mirth in the media when their expenses faux pas included claims for tennis court repairs or to clear something so aristocratic as a moat, but these are no more really meriting of mirth than is a claim for a very costly television or home cinema system. One of the biggest 'try-ons' I heard about just yesterday (or perhaps the day before) concerned the former 'Father of the House' Labour MP Tom Dalziel (he of the 'West Lothian Question' fame) who claimed GBP18,000 if you please(!) for bookcases to hold his copies of Hansard (so we are told), just a few weeks before he was due to step down as an MP upon his retirement; it's that last detail that astounds me. Having visited his home as a member of a bus tour a few years ago, I must say I can't think where he would have fitted these bookcases in what is a rather cramped home, albeit the home of a minor aristocrat in a very grand setting - it seems to me it was obviously just an attempt to get us to pay for the upkeep of his 'stately home', just like Hogg the moat-repair merchant! An honourable mention must also go to Andrew Mackay and Julie Kirkbride, a couple (or should that be a 'brace') of Conservative MPs who each claimed one of their two homes as a 'second home' (not the same one of course!) so they were able to claim for both their homes on MPs expenses. If that's not actual fraud, it must surely come pretty close to it as it certainly seems to me to bend the spirit of the rules beyond breaking point, if not necessarily the letter of the rules; I'm not an expert.

Anyway in the last week things have moved on rapidly - now I read (again in the valiant Telegraph) that the police are setting up a special panel to look at whether criminal prosescutions should follow; I'm sure that in a number of cases they should.

Although the 'Dear Leader' seems finally to be waking up to the seriousness of the situation (politically and socially), it is the leader of the Conservative Party who is still taking the lead - basically it is he who is behaving much more like a Prime Minister than the actual Prime Minister. It is a clear demonstration of the differences in the personal qualities of the two men.

Finally Speaker Michael Martin - now here is a man there is really no excuse for. He has to go voluntarily, or be dragged kicking and screaming out of the Speaker's chair (by tradtion Speakers-elect are dragged toward the chair).

Now I move on to more pleasurable matters - the Eurovision Song Contest will start in 20 minutes or so! Please forgive my haste ...

1 comment:

  1. It certainly has made for interesting viewing as the MPs try to explain themselves. It was be entertaining if it wasn't so bloody depressing, especially so close to the European election.

    Hadn't heard that one about Tam! The number of decent MPs, past or present, seems to dwindle every day!

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