One of the things that I don’t want to do with this blog is to be another place that reports and discusses the expenses scandal in more detail. There are lots of people already discussing all of that in plenty of detail (you can see some of them here). In particular I don’t want to focus on individual MPs and the details of whether their claims were justified or not.
I think that the expenses scandal is symptomatic of the some of the failings of the current political system and so in some ways it’s a good thing that it has happened and been exposed in the way it has.
However, a lot of reporting has, as usual, focused on the personal and ignored the bigger picture. If it has been deemed that MPs need a second home, then they also need a second bathplug or loo brush – great headlines though they are, that is not where the problems are.
The problems are much bigger than that:
1 – The system was defined by MPs for MPs with MPs regulating it. It seems that ‘expenses’ has become synonymous with ‘extra salary that we all feel entitled too but can’t vote for ourselves for political reasons so we’ll take a backhander instead’. Even those MPs that were acting well within the rules have done things through the expenses system that many voters would find morally reprehensible (and in the outside world probably get sacked for).
2 – Even with such a questionable system in place certain MPs feel that they were able to go above and beyond it (and possibly act illegally too) and get away with it. There weren’t enough checks in place and until now people getting caught were given a slapped wrist. Some (and admittedly not all) MPs seemed to feel that the very fact that they were an MP meant that they were in some way ‘entitled’ to act in this way.
It seems clear that the system is corrupt and it has corrupted people. So continuing to focus on the individuals is missing the point.
My own personal view is that any MP that has acted illegally should be prosecuted as anyone else would be. If they have acted outside of the parliamentary rules they should resign (but would be able restand if they chose to). Yet if they acted within the rules we should just move on.
This now needs to be about bigger issues than the individuals involved.