Sunday, 10 May 2009

Witch hunts don't solve anything....

. Let's be quite clear; there are genuine abuses and genuine scandals in the way MP's claim expenses. However, having said all that the slew of 'revelations' is fast descending into farce itself. The Daily Telegraph has been forced into a humiliating climbdown with regard to it's stories surrounding Gordon Brown.

There has been some quite excellent blogging on this issue from Costigan Quist and Bernard Salmon but sadly, some bloggers seem intent recklessly on fanning the flames. They seem intent on claiming the moral high-ground, complaining loudly about the abuse of 'our money' etc, etc. Again, let's be honest, they have a point but it is a limited point because it is based on judging a complicated story on media hype and hot air. What we are really seeing is the publics frustration primarily with this government and it's inability to remove it from power. Both Costigan and Bernard are rightly alluding to a simple fact here; that there are a great many people in politics, MP's included who are not 'on the make'. These people work hard, long hours for their constituents and deserve every penny of their pay. As has been pointed out alot of MP's expenses claims are directly related to staffing costs who, I am glad to confirm from personal experience, work damn hard for very little relative reward.

None of this is newsworthy of course so you won't be hearing much about it in the coming days or even weeks because well, it just isn't scandalous enough is it? As the bonfires continue to be stoked the chances of a rationally worked through solution to this problem diminish almost by the passing hour; instead we will get reform that further damages the political system that it is meant to save.


John said...

Your missing a vital point - this will reflect in certain constituencies when the `informed middle` look at their own MPs behaviour. It's up to us to demand reform with the Clegg proposals. Just keep saying them again and again.

The other point is that we must put pressure on the most outrageous MPs to stand down and allow their constituency parties to respond.

What does it say about the Labour Party that they won't deselect Cohen? Surely your not telling me that there isn't a decent Labour person willing to fill his shoes?

The whole process has shown in sharp relief our creaking democracy - whether it's the local CLPs or Parliament itself.

Aaron Trevena said...

I think you're missing the main point.

This whole affair shows just how out of touch the westminster bubble is with the real world.

It's a bunch of hypocrites in all parties proclaiming that "efficiencies need to be found" everywhere except in Parliament, where no expense is spared.

Worse still it's also a case of MPs protecting their own, even when they are clearly breaking the flimsiest and most generous of rules.

Standing down isn't enough - those who abused the system need to repay or face prison.

Julian H said...

Darrell, following on from the last post on this, you seem to be referring to any expression of strong disapproval towards certain MPs' expenses as a "witch hunt". This is not a witch hunt. It's holding specific individuals to account for actions that they are quite clearly responsible for. By this logic, any investigation into an area of clear culpability is a "witch hunt". From my albeit scant knowledge of history, I'm pretty sure that persecuted women were not actually witches, and were not responsible at all for ills attributed to them.

Secondly, in that thread you also responded to my comment by noting that some people contribute to politics for little or no money. Had I or anyone else suggested otherwise and assuming not, what is the relevance of this point?

Darrell G said...


Aaron does a perfect job of making my point for me, the mood of this debate has shifted decsively to 'they all guilty' and instead of defending 'democracy' the mood is to 'punish the wicked' and that shows the point has been lost by the mob as it were.

It is a witch hunt.

Darrell G said...


Talk of prison is totally unacceptable; as Costigan rightly pointed MP's are human too you know and there are signs that the public can't even agree on what an acceptable exspenses claim actually is so how are MP's expected to know?

Yes, there must be clearer regulation of what is acceptable and what isnt but that is unlikely to happen in this current climate which is generating more heat than light.

Julian H said...

the mood of this debate has shifted decsively to 'they all guilty'Oh come on - even the first Torygraph edition highlighted the Labour MPs who have claimed very little, like Hilary Benn. Indeed, the sheer difference in expenses claimed is part of the story. In a sense it wouldn't be so bad if they were all claiming £20k for furniture a year - but is it ok that Hazel Blears has essentially been paid £20k more in some years than Hilary Benn?

There are two points from this issue:

1) The system needs changing.
2) Some MPs are culpable of exceptional manipulation of the system for person gain.

Both need addressing, they are not mutually exclusive.

Darrell G said...


Costigan has made some good points about part of the problem being safe seats and reform of the electoral system being part of this.

Darrell G said...


Is that the same Telegraph that has been forced to climbdown over Brown's exspenses because those aspects of it's story were clearly a politically motivated attack?

I'll ask you outright is it acceptable for prison to be talked about? You yourself talked about 'burning being too good' earlier....on the other thread....and to think you think im missing the point. If that doesnt illustrate my point then i dont know what does....

Julian H said...

I don't actually want them burnt to death, Darrell. Not even Conway.

As usual this is going further and further away from my points and the core issue. I don't know who is "talking about prison", and I don't care, because we have independent courts do decide these things. Neither am I interested in defending the Torygraph. Zzzzz, over and out...

Darrell G said...

And incidentally the responses on this thread illustrate perfectly the point im making. People arent interested in balanced argument anymore (which is doubtless why, apart from Julian, they failed to address the central point about not everybody being on the make)...illustrates a certain cast of mind and increaseingly how this debate is being conducted dont you think??

Darrell G said...


Scroll-up...Aaron says MP's should face prison, it's a simple question, do you agree with that or not?

I know you dont but it does illustrate a certain way of thinking about this; one that has now become there haze of anger people are losing any sort of rational bearing...

Agent Orange said...

So Darrell, should Chris Rennard be fired from his job as CEO of the Party for conning his way to secure £41k from the taxpayer to which he was not entitled... yes or no...?

Do you regard him as a fit and proper person to be running our General Election campaign given we've been leading on tackling sleaze... yes or no...?

Should he retain the whip in the Lords... yes or no...?

They are not as you put it 'all guilty', but some it would seem are extremely guilty indeed.

It is not just up to the Lords authorities to deal with this, the party has to act as well. We have our own rules on 'bringing the party into disrepute' and this rather fits the bill don't you think?

Darrell G said...


I have yet to see the substance of the allegations against Rennard and certainly wouldnt rush to convict on the basis of newspaper reports in this climate.

If there is clear evidence of wrongdoing then sanction should be sought yes however, I do repeat that no rush should be made to convict in this witch hunting climate of abject hysteria.

You see this is the problem isnt it? Nobody is interested in a rational discussion about serious reforms that need to happen anymore, you just want blood and that is what makes this climate so wrong.

I repeat again; where are the stories about those people in politics who are tirelessly dedicated; who see precious little reward for what they do? Where are they? It's a simple question, in other words, where is the balance in this madness?

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