I haven’t blogged about the expenses scandal so far because I am quite literally speechless. I haven’t been able to find a way to articulate my anger.
But I don’t want to be accused of burying my head in the sand and hoping it will go away. It won’t. So this is what I think…
The expenses scandal is so serious and so damaging to the Labour Party and by that token the Government that I believe we are heading to the most crushing electoral defeat that is imaginable.
After this, Labour will be out of power for decades.
It might not be fair but Labour is the governing Party and we will suffer the most.
I also sort of expect Tory grandees to claim for their moats and country estates but not Labour MPs. I expect Labour people to have a higher moral and ethical code. I expect them to be governed by strong values. I expect them to have a better sense of fairness. But the whole affair has just proven how morally bankrupt some Labour MPs are.
I am so disappointed that I just don’t know how to defend the Party at all. I don’t know what to say on the doorstep.
In particular, I feel personally let down by Hazel Blears.
If you have read my blog before, you will know how highly I rate Blears. I think she is a wonderful politician and for a long time she was something of a political hero. I have defended her for years. She is one of the most genuine, authentic politicians on the Labour benches and someone who I think still does care and should be listened to.
But her actions leave me feeling depressed. She will no longer be able to talk about social justice, poverty or a fairer distribution of tax with the same credibility and authenticity that she once had. How can she look her Salford constituents in the eyes anymore? How can she ever have thought her actions were acceptable and above reproach?
She has adopted some sort of ‘masochism’ strategy to try and get through it – appearing on every news channel, hopping on her motorbike, carrying on business as usual – but wouldn’t a bit more contrition be in order? Where is her mea culpa? Where is the mea culpa from any of them?
How can Labour talk about benefit fraud when some Labour MPs have committed fraudulent acts?
How can we talk about fairness and helping ‘hard working families’ through the recession when some of our MPs are claiming hundreds of pounds worth of food each month?
Why should I pay for their groceries from Waitrose?
Why should I pay for David Miliband’s potted plants?
What are they spending the money on that they actually earn?
Until Brown decided to suspend Elliot Morley’s membership of the PLP (quite rightly in my opinion), there was a typical lack of leadership from Number Ten. There was a vacuum at the heart of government about what to do and how to respond. But why should that be surprising?
The only person who came out stronger was David Cameron. He turned what could have been a potentially catastrophic day for the Conservatives into his strongest day yet as leader.
He took quick, decisive action in forcing some of his shadow cabinet members to pay the money back. He looked in control of events and in chime with the mood of the public. It was reminiscent of Tony Blair in his heyday and exactly what Blair would have done.
I think MPs should get a second home and should be able to claim back rent or mortgage, council tax and utilities bills on their second properties. But there a line should be drawn. It isn’t acceptable that we pay for their scatter cushions and bottles of gin.
Some have said that it’s the system which is at fault and to an extent it is. But the rules were very clear, they just weren’t properly enforced. And, anyway, why shouldn’t we trust that Members of Parliament, who decide our laws, will have their own set of ethics to police them?
It is clear that many don’t.
The real tragedy is that cynicism and apathy about politics just increases – as if it wasn’t bad enough to begin with.
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