There is nothing good so far from the expenses scandal that has overwhelmed politics over the past week. I’ve avoided blogging anything since there have been many many articles and blog posts about it. However, the reaction on the doorstep can’t be ignored.
I’ve been out canvassing most days since I was selected in February. Mostly people have been concerned about what is happening in Ormskirk: the decline of the market town, the local road system, pensioners travel passes, lack of free swimming, the university – and overwhelmingly, I must stress, a majority of people who enjoy living in the town and who are generally happy with the status-quo.
That changed last Friday. People _rightly_ are furious about what has been happening in Parliament. Knocking on the door and introducing myself as Labour’s county candidate for Ormskirk opens the floodgates for people to express clearly what they think of politicians (and believe me, I’ve heard the whole spectrum).
First, to set out what I’ve done in the past… when I was a district councillor, I didn’t claim any expenses. I attended two or three courses over the four years – about taking minutes and dealing with the media. Practical stuff that I hoped would make me a better representative, but not a penny in expenses.
The reaction on the doorstep is very clear: those MP’s who abused the system stole from you and me. I agree with this. When I canvass areas that are what we might call natural labour areas, the anger and hurt is much more intense. Those MP’s, from all parties, who effectively defrauded us deserve no better than common criminals. Regardless of the initial good intentions they might have had when going into politics; to succumb to the corrpution in parliament, is wrong and they ought to pay the price.
Waving cheques on the TV is not good enough. Indeed, paying back tens of thousands of pounds with the stroke of a pen adds insult to injury. At the very least there are MP’s who should lose the whip and others who should resign. It isn’t in the gift of party leaders to sack MP’s from parliament, but if it were, then they should.
I joined the Labour party in the early nineties. After growing up in Abram, close to the Bickershaw Colliery and having known friends who lost their mining jobs and later watching the excesses of Thatchers and Major’s governments. I believed – and still do – that our common endeavour to make our society better can only be achieved through Labour policies. But I’m ashamed by what has been published this week.
We have MP’s who previously claimed that they published all their expenses on their websites, now saying that they’ll publish their receipts – after they’ve gone through them. It’s not good enough. The imminent publication of this information has been known about for the last year. For someone to publish details a few days before parliament, and then try to claim a moral high ground is to assume that the public are morons.
Only total and absolute transparency will work in the future. Every last line of expenses should be published and made available in the easiest possible format. Personally, I think it should be published as an XML feed (I’ll write more about this when it’s not the middle of the night). But regardless of the mechanics, anything less than absolute transparency – on absolutely everything that an MP recieves – would be an insult to all those people so very angry about what has been published.