“Altogether rather grubby”

March 23, 2010

That was the quote from Peter Mandelson regarding the ‘cash for influence’ scandal that has hit Parliament. I think that it is a rather neat phrase – and not just for this incident, but for nearly all current MPs by the sounds of it.

First of all we had the expenses scandal; now this ‘cash for influence‘ scandal; and on top of all that, the BBC is reporting this morning that the rules regarding foreign trips have been breached on numerous occasions by multiple MPs.

It seems to be yet another case when you just want to bang your head against a brick wall and just scream – “do these people just not get it??!!

With all of these cases I’m sure that the media has taken a few things out of context and has happily created extra indignation (it’s what the tabloid media does best). However, the fact is that our MPs should just be beyond reproach, they just have the appearance of being beyond reproach.

The expenses scandal was, to my mind at least, a simple case of the rules of the club being broken and outdated and the fact that it was a ‘club’. Members had been brought up to believe that this was the way the club behaved and anyway, the members policed themselves. It was the expenses scandal that made me want to start this blog and support the concept of independent MPs as I thought that it highlighted that the system of selecting MPs – career politicians and party patronage – was broken. I purposely avoided pointing fingers at individuals as, apart from a few exceptional incidents, I felt that it was the system that the individuals worked within that was mainly at fault.

However, the latest incidents show that it is more than the rules of the club that are broken. Many of the individuals that choose to enter Parliament seem to be broken to start with – at least in moral terms.

I think a post from Ewan MacLeod sums it up well – Ewan isn’t known for commenting on politics (he writes the excellent Mobile Industry Review). But when he is moved to comment as an average voter – calling it “Simply ridiculous. Absolutely 100% ridiculous” then that shows the depths to which the current batch of MPs has sunk in the minds of the electorate.

Gordon, let’s call the election quickly and flush out this lot shall we?

Is 2010 the year you stand for Parliament?

January 4, 2010

So, did you set some resolutions at New Year? Was one of them along the lines of “Make a difference”? If so, then you should consider standing as an independent parliamentary candidate.

We know that there’s going to be an election this year and we also know that there has been much more public acceptance of the concept of independent parliamentary candidates.

Now is the time that as an electorate we have to make a stand and try to make a difference – and what greater cause could there be than trying to improve the way democracy works in this country?

So many people are still angry about the MPs’ expenses scandal and see that as indicative of a deeper sore in our political system that there is goodwill being shown to independent candidates. That doesn’t mean that an independent will automatically be elected, even in the constituencies that have standing MPs that have been embarrassed by the expenses scandal. However, it does mean that the door has been opened.

So, do you want to stand?

If you do, it will require hard work, determination and possibly a bit of luck to get elected, but this blog will support you as much as it can to help you raise your profile and get votes.

Let’s try to make 2010 the year that independent MPs became a political reality.

Fewer Or Greater Numbers Of MPs?

November 24, 2009

I’m delighted to have a guest post from Sonny.

– – –

Since the whole debate about MPs expenses two arguments surrounding the matter have arisen:

A) The suitability of Party Politics to represent public opinion (and the birth of Independent MPs)

B) The number of MPs we have in parliament.

Both heavily interlinked I feel. The vast majority of suggestions at the moment point toward fewer MPs, but I don’t think that helps the fight for greater number of Independent MPs… or democracy.

With devolution in Scotland and Wales over the past years, the trend has been pointing toward greater numbers of MPs and giving power back to local government… until the issue of expenses came about. Then the consensus shifted in favour of few. “Let’s get rid of the dead wood and cut expenses”, but are we confusing “how our money is spent” with “how many people our money is spent on”?

I believe a reduction in the number of MPs would be detrimental to a more democratic government and to the ability to elect Independent MPs. The idea of IMPs is to give power back to the people by making them more willing to vote, regain a face to politics and introduce variety. This would be hard if one IMP were to represent a bigger constituency, unable to really represent all opinions and make Party Politics more attractive. We should be working towards “A local face for local people.”

We need to engage the voter more by showing them their vote counts toward something close to their homes and their hearts. Give power back to the local authorities whilst reforming the system so that more independent MPs can come together in Parliament and govern our collective needs.

It’s like any form of sampling whether be polls, quality control or something like frames in a second of film; only by taking more samples can you get a more accurate representation of the overall picture. A large number of MPs and a proper system that allows them to work out their differences is the only way forward.

– – –

Thanks Sonny. So what are your thoughts on whether we should cut the number of MPs have even more?

And if you want to write a guest post – I’d love to receive it, send it over to independent.mps@googlemail.com.

New speed limits – tickets for all

October 22, 2009

I don’t know if you’ve heard … but the speed limits in the UK are about to change. The new limit on the motorway is being reduce to 65 mile per hour and anyone who has ever travelled at 70 mph in the past is going to get a retrospective ticket. They will be sent out in the post and it’s expected that nearly everyone will be asked to pay a fine.

Doesn’t seem fair does it.

I think we should complain about it. I mean we were following the rules when we drove at 70. How dare they change them on us afterwards and more to the point how dare they fine us for it.

Of course I just made that up. But that is what is effectively happening to MPs at the moment after Sir Thomas Legg wrote to many of them asking them to pay back money they had legitimately been allowed to claim previously.

I’m not trying to defend the most ridiculous claims and I think there should be a robust system for reviewing all claims and ensuring that they passed both the letter and the spirit of the previous rules, that people ‘flipping‘ for profit, or  have underclaimed on the tax they owe are caught and effectively punished – which in some cases could mean a criminal prosecution.

But I think changing the rules retrospectively like this is just not fair.

Instead it should be about changing the system to make it effective, fair and transparent. Let’s see what Sir Christopher Kelly has to say in his report due out in early November.

The Expenses Scandal

June 4, 2009

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.