There is an ongoing roar at the moment, certainly it exists within the hallowed halls of Fleet Street in our Oh so unbiased news media, but interestingly – for once – it actually seems to be reflected amongst the people that live in this country as well. The matter is that of the expenses of our MPs. On and on and on this debacle has been going, and countless dozens of headlines have cropped up to expose the abuse of the system; the most recent being the revelation that the Labour peer Baroness Uddin claimed £100’000 of expenses on a flat that she never even furnished, that she claimed was her main residence in order to claim almost £30’000 a year in accommodation expenses from the House of Lords. Her actual main residence was actually 4 miles away from Parliament.
Now, don’t get me wrong, everyone fiddles their expenses when they can (if they’re lucky enough to be permitted expenses). Everyone, now and again, will happily charge something through their company when it doesn’t really have much business being charged there. I have no real beef with MPs doing that. Is it annoying that they’re doing it with my tax dollars? Yeah, I guess it is. But do I really care? No. Because everyone would do it if they could. (We do, in fact, see another example of the empty hearted ‘moral outrage’ that rattles so frequently through our news media, expressing disbelief and outrages at MPs playing fast and loose with their expenses, despite knowing damn well that they would do the same if they were in such a position (and despite many of them already doing so)).
No, what irks me on this issue, what is kind of being skipped over and ignored by the mainstream press, and is thus not being communicated to the (and I use the term loosely as always) ‘great’ British people, is the enquiries that our lame duck Prime Minister is having done into MPs expenses. We are due to see a report into MPs expenses claims and allowances published this summer, and who is writing this report? The Commons Standards Committee. And who makes up this publishing body? Members of Parliament.
So yes, MPs are due to be writing a penetrating report critiquing their use and possible abuse of expenses, the conclusion of which could adversely affect their allowances. They’re being asked to regulate themselves. And, in turn, they are going to be given permission to censor themselves. The MPs are going to be allowed to censor ‘sensitive’ information, such as the names of hotels, destinations of taxis, names of shops and any correspondence with parliamentary officials. Basically, all the really important stuff.
So let’s look this objectively, what we lowly serfs will be allowed to see, is a claim for, say, £1000. We will be able to see the date of the claim, what was claimed for and the identity of suppliers only for office goods. So, in short, we’re being told that there will be total transparency on this, total accountability, and yet the people that will be compiling this report will be the people that it will affect directly, and then they will be given total free reign to cover up that which they don’t want to be known.
Apparently, there have been several MPs on the backbench who were on ‘suicide watch’, recently, because of what might end up being revealed. There have been rumours floating that a pair of MPs are fearful that their extramarital affairs will be exposed by double claims for their hotel rooms. But, thankfully for them, they will be allowed to cover their oily, duplicitous little backsides, because their friends who are compiling this report will allow them to do so.
What is most annoying about this whole debacle is that no one is really that outraged about this. The MPs, while coming under rightful fire for abusing their expenses, are doing every damn thing they can to continue to protect themselves. They have got their hand caught in the cookie jar, and instead of just licking their wounds and taking the punishment they rightly had coming to them, they continue trying to protect themselves and fuck over their employers (US), while at the same time having the nerve to lecture the rest of the country about fiscal and economic responsibility and to lecture bankers that their reckless spending has to stop. Their hypocrisy and two faced double standards shine through again and again and again. And what is most frustrating is that this particular caveat is being overlooked by a lot of people in favour of the more salacious examples of expense abuse. The expense abuse as a headline is all fine and well, but the real news here is that they are getting away with continued abuse of the system. Bankers do not have this luxury, social services do not have this luxury, but no one is calling out the elected Members of the British Parliament on their claiming, nay, snatching of this luxury for themselves. That is what to be outraged about, and that is what the media is sliding away from.
We should be, as usual, demanding and expecting better from both our media and our politicians. But, then again, what’s new.