Blogging from the Murcia region of Spain until early June, when I return to the Highlands of Scotland for a few months
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday, 22 May 2009

"Serious risk of a suicide" in MP expenses scandal

I'm just listening to Nadine Dorries MP (Conservative) on the 'Today' programme whining on about the 'terror in the eyes' of some people around Westminster because of the 'McCarthy-ite witch-hunt' being mounted currently by the Telegraph.

Does this imply that her name may be coming out soon and she's getting a pre-emptive rebuttal in? She's spinning the story that grown MPs were, on induction into the 'club' (i.e. Parliament), given the 'nod and wink' by the fees office that ACAs were not expenses, but 'allowances' and the job of the fees office was to help MPs 'get them out' (the maximum amount of expenses claimable). If this scenario is true, and I accept it may be, this does not mitigate the personal liability of those who 'milked' the system for all it is worth. Not all MPs chose to go down this route. Frankly her story sounds like she wants to portray perhaps herself and some others as 'new boys and girls' being 'shown the ropes' by the 'old lags'.

However honest an MP may have been before his/her election, any that succumbed to this "don't rock the boat" mentality deserve all they get if their own moral compasses didn't give them guidance as to what was right and what was wrong. I know that in the organisation I worked for it was well-known that some of my colleagues exploited expenses claims, whereas others hardly claimed anything; I was certainly very much one of the latter. I recall also on a few occasions when I was on courses/seminars involving personnel from other very well-known companies that 'per diem' allowances were regarded by some as a simple way of boosting one's regular income by spending as little as possible and pocketing the bulk of such allowances, or using the old 'taxi bill' ruse. Sometimes the brazenness of the people who did this was quite surprising.

To summarise, whilst I certainly hope that this necessary clearing out of crooks and cheats from our public life does not result in a suicide I don't think that any of us need feel at all reticent in continuing to press hard for reform or be sorry in any way that the Telegraph is carrying on, at least for the present, with its daily exposures of the facts of what some of our MPs have been up to. There are some MPs in all political parties who have behaved honourably, whether they happen to have personal wealth or not. Let's not be fooled by the 'spin' designed to get the public to lay-off those quite numerous MPs who have been using every ruse their fertile imaginations could come up with to con the public purse out of money that cannot be justified when submitted to objective scrutiny.

4 comments:

  1. I was visiting a friend at lunch time and the television was on in the background. And I heard that statement about suicide and at first laughed and then thought "They think they're upset???? Not as upset as we are!!".

    She needs to get some perspective. If someone in authority commits suicide over something as personally minor (losing their job) then this country really is in trouble with MPs like that about. I know that sounds heartless, and I really hope that no one would ever do something so stupid, but honestly everyone in Parliament needs to get a grip.

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  2. The comments were foolish and will only irritate people even more.
    The only people to blame are those on the fiddle and those that knew it was happening and kept quiet.
    They will have to suffer the consequences of their actions or the lack of them.

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  3. The only danger I suppose is that this whole hysteria will get rid of politicians who are fundamentally sound and supplant them with some [even more] unsavoury characters. Some of the cases I have read about over the past week (from both major political parties and others) have struck me as perfectly acceptable, given the fact that people who must reside in two places because of their jobs should not suffer financially, although neither should they 'profit'; it requires some common sense on the part of MPs as to what they claim for and for how much - what is 'reasonable' in other words. On the other hand some MPs have clearly been out to claim as much as they could get away with. Unfortunately the very strict rules that are likely to flow from this mess will probably be inflexible and mean-spirited. Which of us, for example, can say honestly that we have NEVER taken home a Bic ballpoint pen from the office for private use? In one office I managed (with about 60 staff) our monthly consumption of ballpoint pens and sweetended condensed milk became extraordinarily high until brought under some kind of control; the quanity of sweetened condensed milk in particular was truly heroic - it was common in that country to add it to very strong tea, almost so the teaspoon could stand up. In my own personal lfe, my apparent consumption of fabric softener in one country I lived in was about 12 litres a WEEK for a few weeks until I reviewed the household accounts and discovered what was going on - I think I must have been supplying that commodity for commercial use by a family member of one of my household staff (yes, I had several, so sue me - lol); luckily one of my other staff, responsible for transporting all the stuff bought for my household use (i.e. my personal driver) alerted me to what was going on because he wondered what all this stuff was being used for; I might not have noticed it otherwise as it was only a relatively small amount of money in terms of my total monthly household expenses.

    What all this boils down to is transparency and acocuntability - and MPs submitting their expenses regime to rather more independent scrutiny than has been the case in the past. And publishing details of all their claims for everyone to study. In the cliché of the moment: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant".

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  4. It strikes me that Nadine Dorries is not to be counted amongst the bright lights of intellect - my reason for this is simply that anyone who exaggerates something into a conspiracy theory is usually dim. I beleive she has a track record of being unscrupulous in her handling of information. I won't comment on the specifics of the reason for her blog being off line.

    On the issue of MPs expenses, it seems to me that there are 3 broad groups of abuse - those which are simply greed at public expense; those where if we are to be charitable the MP has overlooked something like a mortgage beoing paid off or the correct level of council tax; those where there is clear bending the rules to braking point - flipping main residence and kitting both out at our expense and the case of Mr and Mrs MacKay who seem to have declared each other's house their home. The last category seems clearly dishonest because it has been done for financial gain and it seems timeous for the police to take an interest. The middle group should betreated inexactly the same way as a benefits claimant who has neglected to notify the benefits office of changed circumstances. I would leave the greedy MPs, including the First Minister, to explain themselves to their constituents.

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