Lurking in the shadows

HMRC’s rule is that “an employee or office holder may deduct expenses incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily in performing the its duties” (sic).

Easy enough you might think (apart, that is, from the proofing error), but that is before this simple rule collides with a Parliamentary culture that is long past its sell-by date.   Some, like Norman Baker, have been fighting  to change it but too many MPs, ignobly led by Speaker Martin have used every trick in the book to preserve their cosy sinecure.  It’s long past time to drag Parliament into the 20th century; the rest of us have already moved on to the 21st!

What would Speaker Martin care to say to the three policemen arrested yesterday in connection with a number of offences including misconduct in a public office a.k.a. fiddling their expenses?   We all depend on Parliament to do a good job yet we now have an unconscionable situation where there is one law for them and another for the rest of us.  It is hard to imagine anything so offensive as this.

Yet beyond all the brouhaha about MPs expenses there is an even more serious issue lurking in the shadows; namely that it exposes a quite startling degree of complacency in ALL the party leaderships.

That this was going on they all certainly knew;that it would eventually detonate catastrophically became highly likely once the FoI Bill was passed and a racing certainty many months ago.  Any one of the Party leaders could have put his lot in the clear (at least as far as the more recent years are concerned) by unilaterally instituting a clear party policy on it.  Yet despite some gestures none managed to institute an effective policy leaving them all in an unseemly scramble to react to developments after the event.

I don’t want, and Britain can’t afford, leadership whose highest ambition is to hold office, that thinks it’s adequate to react after the event and whose habitual response it to spin and wriggle its way out of the mess that inevitably results.  We need leadership that is knows where it wants to go, is proactive in this and can analyse and plan accordingly.

There are many good and honest MPs in all parties but they can do little if the culture is against them.  So, before the Lib Dem leadership starts consoling itself with the thought that they got off relatively lightly, they might like to reflect not just on how it is that they failed to dodge this particular bullet but rather on how it is that they still languish in third place in the polls even after Labour has contrived to wreck the economy.

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