There has been only one major story in the UK over the past week or so: MPs’ expenses. Ever since Telegraph broke the news, it has been a slow torture of the parliamentarians. A dark cloud hangs over Westminster, and perhaps there is more, something more explosive to come out of the Telegraph presses in the weekend edition.
Some have reacted with contrition, some have acted decisively, where others are still in denial or dithering: in any case, the whole saga so far has been unedifying and undignified. Parliament and its members seem to have lost their moral compass.
These revelations have come a very bad time: in midst of a deep recession when people are naturally censorious of profligacy. Never mind that much of the expenses claimed date from the good boom years, it is shocking. Perhaps power always corrupts and one should not have expected any better from politicians.
Politicians are not going to be let off easily, for the simple reason that many people understand how claiming for expenses works and can relate to the amount of money claimed. Quantitative easing and other economic measures are somewhat esoteric, and the figures quoted in billions are unimaginable. However, many people have claimed for expenses for business trips. Receipts are required and forms properly filled. They will be scrutinized and any false claims will lead to disciplinary procedure. Many poeple must be feeling ‘I’d get fired if I were to claim that’. £20,000 is something many people can relate to: perhaps it’s the annual salary. For many people, accommodation and transport costs must come from the salary, whereas the MPs can just claim them as expenses.
People are right to be angry and disillusioned that politicans have claimed so much money with such ease. Politicians must become more open to scrutiny, and must be willing to do as their conscience dictates, not as the system tells them to do. Trust and respect can only be gained gradually and can be lost in an instance. It’s now up to them to restore the faith in the Parliament and its members by what they do, not what they preach.