Home > Great Britain > “Power without responsibilty” – MPs Expenses & all that.

“Power without responsibilty” – MPs Expenses & all that.


“The papers conducted by Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook are not newspapers in the ordinary acceptance of the term.They are engines of propaganda for the constantly-changing policies, desires, personal wishes, and personal likes and dislikes of two men† What the proprietorship of those papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility of the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages…” Baldwin (of Bewdley), Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl

Rothermere and Beaverbrook are long gone but to a certain extent the quotation is still apt in that our journalists/hacks in the media printed or electronic (with few exceptions) encourage and spread cynicism, gossip, jealousy, envy, sensationalism and manufacture hysteria with irresponsible and immoral abandon.

One of my favourite blogs is Harry’s Place, quite often contributions are superb and the blogs stand against anti-Semitism and racism is first class. I was however struck by an article published yesterday: Two rights, still wrong.

The article discussed the recent door step dialogue between BBC TV  Newsnight’s Michael Crick and Stephen Fry has attracted attention in some blogs in the light of Stephen Fry’s response to the crisis of MPs expenses that it didn’t matter – everyone fiddles expenses he said etc, etc.

David Aaronovitch is a writer for The Times, I admire and I respect his writing very much, he is a real journalist not a cardboard mock up, his article published yesterday is thought provoking, “If we want deomcracy we have to pay for it” as if we don’t already!

Aaronovitch pokes fun at those who text or e-mail TV news programmes with their indignation, he mocks them; so should we condemn “the great unwashed” those “horny handed sons of toil” for communicating their opinions – by text, e-mail or ‘phone – what’s wrong with that?   Yes, of course there is a hysteria over the issue – I think this is one case where media attention is justified. Surely, we would want some participation in politics from “the great unwashed” those “horny handed sons of toil” – why should we leave to the likes of journalists. David Aaronovitch, I liked the apt Macaulay quote though – where else in the printed media would someone quote Macaulay?

As for me, all I know is that when I used to claim expenses in the past and it was public money my claims were monitored and scrutinsed, receipts were expected with VAT numbers etc, I never had the chance to supplement my income. What Fry, Aaronovitch and others overlook is that it’s only recently MPs had to provide receipts, and as to the supplementary point we don’t pay them enough I think we do. £64,000 pa for an MP is quite enough; they also incidently were accustomed in the past to raising their own pay. They will enjoy favourable pensions and many of them when voted out may well find lucrative employment on boards of directors or given work on boring radio and TV programmes.

Some may indeed be happy with corrupt practices but I’m not. How can we  advise countries where corruption is a way of life how to behave whilst we ignore corrupt practices at home.

What I think the crisis has shown is the poverty of Gordon Brown’s leadership or absence there of.    He has the image of a bumbling fool incapable of realizing the seriousness of the crisis and  responding to it – a total failure of leadership and inability to deal with the Parliamentary Labour  Party once again Cameron and Clegg come out this crisis as populists, shining in glory in showing leadership and that with Brown’s inability to act makes me angry.

We expect arrogant and wealthy Tory MPs to find ways of cheating or abusing the allowance system, I  do not expect Labour MPs to do the same – I may be old fashioned, even naive, but I want Labour MPs to show integrity, decency and honesty, to set an example, sadly and clearly a number of Labour MPs have let us down.

MPs who live in the South East don’t need second homes; the transport infrastructure is excellent even the Luton South MP can get to Westminster in less than an hour and doesn’t need to go via Southampton.  Aaronovitch won’t like this but for those that have constituencies far away – Parliament could provide a vacant block of converted and furnished, one bedroomed council flats in Hackney or Peckham which actually would provide some educational value for MPs and the expense claims for the payment of mortgages or council tax could be avoided.

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