Thomas Mathew writes from France: As I watch, from a chateau in France, how the scandal surrounding the expenses of British members of parliament continues to unravel – with more revelations of MP’s expensive habits surfacing every day – I start to wonder whether anyone in Britain actually believes that their elected representatives are only guilty of bending the rules and abusing the system but not of committing any serious misdemeanours. Let me clarify this: does anyone really believe that a member of parliament who can easily put in a claim for interest on a non-existent mortgage or for furniture that went someplace else would not be involved in other forms of corruption? The expenses scandal is probably just the tip of the iceberg. It is hard to accept that anyone who is dishonest in small matters would never try to get involved in something bigger.
But before going into any sort of depth on that issue let me first deal with the obvious corruption that has been missed by everyone. If you are a British voter and taxpayer ask yourself this: has parliament been effective in passing well thought through laws and generally defending the interests of the people from the onslaught of New Labour commissars? Of course not. The Labour side of the house rubberstamped all the idiotic bills that had been proposed first by Tony Blair’s and later by Gordon Brown’s governments even though they had nothing to do with the welfare and prosperity of the nation. Like poodles, Labour MPs were jumping at the click of the fingers of their masters without giving a second thought to what was it exactly that they were approving. MPs who belong to a party that calls itself ‘Labour’ have been betraying the interests of the very working class that they were supposedly representing. And now that millions of British workers are about to lose their jobs not a single Labour MP is beating the alarm and demanding that their Prime Minister stops bailing out banks and starts helping decent folk. Not one of them found the courage to do that. They were sitting quietly, waiting for the revelations about their expenses to surface, ready to start defending themselves and say that they did nothing wrong and that it was the system that let them down.
Hopeless, the whole lot of them. If they go tomorrow no one would even notice.
Then we have the opposition, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and the loonies like the SNP. Have they been a good opposition in the past 12 years? They have not. They allowed Labour barbarians to damage Britain beyond repair so that it has become the poor relation of Western Europe. It is obscene when countries like Italy are faring better in economic terms than Britain. The British economy is now number six in the world, by some accounts, and number eight, by others. That is a fall from number four. Quite a big fall and it will get worse once the bankruptcy of the nation starts to bite really hard.
So the Tories and Lib Dems and the loonies are guilty of not doing their job properly and letting the ruffians across the floor from them in the chamber cause havoc in the land. Is it corruption? Yes it is. When elected politicians do not fulfil their primary duties it is the worst possible corruption you can imagine.
And now we can return to the money side of things again. Having learnt about the blatant abuses of parliamentary perks in the House of Commons by MPs of all parties and their failure to carry out their duties are we supposed to conclude that in other respects the Right Honourable members are above board? It would be very surprising if that were the case. We can safely assume that some other manipulations were talking place in Westminster, like selling political influence, for example. It would be useful to examine some of the MP’s question, both in the chamber and in written form, and compare them to their outside interests. It would also help to find out which companies have been showing interest in which MPs and which foreign nations have been inviting them to their embassies on more than one occasion. Have some of the MPs been holidaying in places known as tax havens? Because that would tell volumes about them, as people who have anonymous off-shore accounts often take cash from them to avoid paying taxes. And it would also make sense to check some of the family members of MPs who might have prospered for unexplained reasons in recent past. Say, in the past ten, twelve years. Now that would be really interesting.
And another thing: people are now saying that the parliamentary expenses system is in crisis and needs reform. I would like to make a correction here: the whole political system is in crisis. It has nothing to do with expenses. It has all to do with the failure of the British democracy to protect itself from the corrupting influence of New Labour, a party that has done everything to undermine the credibility of parliament. Tony Blair should have already been summoned to appear in front of parliament and explain himself. And as for calls to hold a general election, they are meaningless as we would simply get another set of bent MPs sitting in the chamber. The cleansing has to be of a different nature. The two-party stranglehold on the nation has to end. It is that arrangement that fuels all the corruption in the first place.
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