Monday, March 30, 2009

It just gets worse.

I've just watched Labour MP, Sir Stuart Bell on Newsnight, informing us that details of MP's expenses are for sale at a cost of £300,00. This is very bad. If its true, the best approach would be for MPs and Lords to publish everything themselves as soon as possible. Its just like the problem of restoring our banks. Until all the toxic stuff is out in the open, there can be no fresh start on rebuilding trust. When you think things are so bad that they cannot get any worse, they do. Tonight's news, on top of whats been in the media for the last few days, is very depressing. Everyone knows something must be done. Respect for politics and politicians is dropping like a stone - from an already low position. But will the right things be done. I do not think so. Please don't believe that some new regulatory system will deliver. It won't on its own. The only way to restore respect to our political system is full disclosure of all use of public money claimed by politicians. Nothing else will do the job. Its all gone too far. Transparency is the most effective disinfectant.


CambriaPolitico said...

So are you going to lead the way then, Glyn?

Glyn Davies said...

Cambria - I think there will be many who will act unilaterally now - just as Dan Hannan has been doing in the European Parliament. I certainly would. I think I did lead the way to some extent when I was an AM in that I was always prepared to be interviewed. The downside was that I was always the one being interviewed on these sort of things - because I believed it was my responsibility to do so.

Jeff Jones said...

The problem that we have is that we have a system designed for the 19th century operating in a 21st century world. Before looking at expenses we have to decide what we want our MPs and in Wales our AMs and Councillors to achieve. Historically the primary role of MPs was seen as legislators who also held the government of the day to account. As far as constituency work was concerned they were expected to represent the general interests of constituents not take up individual cases. My constituency Ogmore was represented between 1950 and 1970 by someone who lived in Highgate London for most of the time. Hugh Gaitskell who never had a house in his constituency in Leeds often felt sorry for the Welsh Labour MPs who were often teetotal and lived in B and B in Paddington whilst Parliament sat. All of this changed in the 1970s. MPs were now expected to have a home in their constituency. In the economic climate of the 1970s and in an age before the FOI Act everyone also turned a blind eye as income was supplemented by some by creative accounting. Increasingly they also became social workers expected to take up every problem brought to them by constituents even if that problem did not have anything to do with the UK Parliament. Whereas Walter Padley would have told a constituent with a housing problem to go to his or her local councillor now councils can expect to receive possibly 6 letters from the MP,local AM and the regional AMs on the same issue. All of these letters are not written by the MP or AM but by their researcher or case worker. The replies from the local council and they expect replies all cost money. UK governments of all political persuasions welcomed this change. Together with tighter party discipline it meant that there was less chance of an MP holding the government to account. The days were long gone when MPs rushed into the Chamber when the names of Bevan or Powell appeared on the screen to show who was speaking.Despite all the evidence that diligent constituency work is only worth about 1000 votes woe be tide the MP who tells a constituent that the problem has nothing to do with them.I was always amused to see people informing me that they were now going to see the local MP or AM on a planning issue when I had given them the honest answer they didn't want to hear. Decide what we want our politicians to do at all levels and then we can argue about the salary and support required.In my opinion British political life wasn't any worse off when Denis Healey sat in a corridor of the House of Commons producing hand written replies to the very few constituents from Leeds who wrote to him or writing the article which supplemented his income via a column for a Norwegian Socialist newspapers.

Anonymous said...

how could you lead the way when your not an MP?

Glyn Davies said...

Jeff - You are quite right. As a nation we should decide what we want our politicians to do - and we should decide what they should be paid - and if we think they are being paid too much, reduce it.

Anon - I did say 'would' - and I think Clive was commenting with his tongue in his cheek anyway.

Welsh mouse in DC said...

I’m certainly with Jeff and Glyn on this one.

Imho, looks like the level of personal enrichment, though on paper often legal, has so grown that it has taken on the form of institutional corruption in the eyes of the people. If not curtailed and as Glyn puts it rendered transparent, the downside for the nation will be severe.

Once corruption (in whatever form) is at the top, gravity seems to take over and like mice ‘output’, rolls down hill.

Gary Price said...

Glyn, Todays Western Mail Page 3 What they cost us.
3. Lembit Opik ( Liberal Democrat Montgomeryshire) £164,406.

33. Roger Williams ( Liberal Democrat Brecon & Radnorshire) £141,625

This is a list of the expenses claims of the 40 MPs for wales for 2007 - 08 including staff cost and travel costs, (Oops that should mean the gravy train!)

Anonymous said...

My God Lembit claims more than Jacqui, wonder if he claims for his DVDs

Welsh flea in "DC" said...

Tomorrow being what it is, I've heard it from a gardener, who heard it from a bird, who heard it from a spider, who heard it from Ms. Mopbucket's best friend that Glyn Davies will be up for Secretary of State for Wales whereupon Dr. Christopher Wood will be offered special adviser for Welsh Intellectual Property and Job/Wealth Creation; in the alternative the hot seat on the HEFCW board. Needs some fresh flesh - Wales can't go on for another 10 years failing to harness the world-class IP goldmine for Wales. High paid jobs for Welsh families, a higher than average GVA economy in place of the below average GVA economy that Wales is currently saddled with. What day is it tomorrow?

Glyn Davies said...

Welsh mouse - 'Corruption' is too strong a word - unless it is corruption of course. I'm not going to criticise politicians expenses, just becvause I think they are unjustified. Plenty of people will have thought my expenses unjustified - though I do say in my defence that I was always prepared to face the cameras and justify them. All these issues would be swept away if all expenses were published, and voters could judge accordingly.

Gary and VM - Its not how much you spend, but what you spend it on. For example, its easy to cut back, if you don't employ anyone to do the work. The time to judge will be when the expenses are published - supposedly before the summer. Though I'll believe that when it happens.

Christopher - Let tomorrow be a day to dream. In fact there's no reason why every day shouldn't be a day to dream. Woops there goes another rubber tree plant.

Rubber bubber from DC said...

In honour of April 1st ...

Yes rubber yes Glyn. Actually, a law student (a fellow Brit) who was in my class in DePaul, Chicago. Actually a professor in Kellstadt's Graduate Business School in Chicago. I once got her into an annual dinner of the Economic Club in Chicago where then PM Tony Blair gave a speech. I also took a senior partner of the law firm where I worked full time (I went to law school after work), I actually introduced the partner to the PM - he was so chuffed, he did military service in "England".

Anyway, this Prof (who I fancied like crazy) told me of 'her moment'. It went something like this: she had an exam with multiple choice paper - she needed some pencil supplies. Off she scuttled to a store nearby where she ran around, up and down the aisles she ran, but couldn't find the rubber she was looking for. So she asked an 'associate" (shop assistant) for help to find some rubbers (this is a true story) who looked at her and seeing how anxious she was took her to the condom aisle.

Perplexed law student said she was looking for rubbers, equally perplexed associate pointed out said condoms. Law student said, "Look, I have a guy outside on a yellow line waiting for me, I need to find a rubber fast."

Needless to say law student did find her rubber whereupon she was informed that said rubber is called an erasure/erasure.

PS Similar thing happened to me at DC airport (actually Dulles in Virginia, near DC). I often tell the story at dinners to easily humoured lawyers. But I prefer lawyer jokes, I collect them.

What's the difference between a dead lawyer and a dead skunk?

What looks good on a lawyer?

What do you throw to a drowning lawyer?

skid marks in front of the dead skunk

a doberman

his partners (I suppose that should read "his/her" partners)

Matt Wardman said...

Hi Glyn

I think you are spot on here.

I'm looking for the publication of everything and a set of reforms that will make the current system as obviously obsolete as MPs for Old Sarum appointed by the Duke of Newcastle.

Some of the more systematic abuse - and I don't know the exact number of MPs but I hope it is small - seems to be at least "fiddling" and effectively somewhere between cynical manipulation and fraud, but I won't mention names on your site. If properties are deliberately sold to third parties in order that they can be rented back to the previous owner at taxpayer expenses, or allowances available for one thing used for something entirely different, I really don't know what else to call it. These cases seem to me to need to have monies recovered.

Personally, I'm just glad that the public seem to be waking up sufficiently that this will all stop at the next election if not before, but by God it's taken a long time to happen.

Have offences of "misconduct in public office" been committed? The key element is "abuse of the public's trust in the office holder." It's a fine line.