I’ve just watched the Question Time special on the MPs’ expenses scandal. My concerns over this affair have been justified.
I have no sympathy for any MP who has either broken the law or milked the system. But my personal experience of being misjudged and labelled according to other people’s prejudices persuade me that the calls for all MPs to fall on their swords are both unreasonable and dangerous. In a difficult economic climate, senior journalists at a “respected” newspaper are deliberately drip-feeding the public with “shock, horror” headlines whilst using phrases such as “the breakdown of our democratic process” and “tarred with the same brush.” This has led to a demand for an immediate general election, regardless of the consequences.
All of the panellists on QT have agreed that the system was faulty, and must be revised. All agreed that an independent investigation must be held. All but Labour called for a general election – but no one wants it now. The public mood is rightly angry, but that is no basis on which to make any serious decision about our future.
The Telegraph’s comparison between MPs and benefit cheats (or any other “ordinary” person) is designed to inflame – but it is clearly nonsense. The necessary lifestyle of a Member of Parliament cannot be compared directly with any other, and as such some legitimate expenses will make no sense to a factory or shop worker – the people who will most likely vote out their MPs. In fact, the whole thing looks like an attempt to bring down the government – which is always risky, even if there are some good reasons for doing it.
From the first, I have seen this as a kind of revenge – and indeed a quick general election will allow the public to take out it’s fury on the “political classes”. But the Bible has strong words about revenge:
Romans 12:19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.
Certainly it’s time the MPs cleaned up their act. It may even be time, as some QT panellists suggested, for major constitutional reform. But let’s see the results of the investigations, so we know who is clean and who we can’t trust. In the meantime, the current MPs should make such reforms as will allow a fresh start for the new parliament. Then we can get on with the business of climbing out of the recession, whilst looking at long term reforms.
(Just discovered this one here! forgot to publish it)