Beb Brogan has written an interesting article in today's edition of the Telegraph, berating MPs for footdragging in response to the public row over expenses. I don't agree with him. He seems to want MPs to react in an unconsidered kneejerk way to the exposures made by the Telegraph over the last two months. I agree that there should be a reaction, but it should be on the basis of calm and careful consideration. It should not be simply a response designed to get a furious public off politician's backs. Sir Christopher Kelly has been charged with doing this, and bringing forward a report for MP's consideration - as soon as possible, which is likely to be the autumn. Everyone tells me he is a fair and meticulous man. Ben Brogan wants MPs to take instuctions from the Telegraph, and while many of these suggestions may be sensible, it should be left to Sir Christopher.
The National Assembly for Wales did try to do this in a sensible way, but it was overtaken by events that happened at Westminster when the Telegraph published details of individual expenses. Sir Roger Jones was asked to produce recommendations, in much the same way as Sir Christopher. It was delivered this week. But the report, in effect, ceased to be recommendations for AM's consideration, and became instructions not open to discussion. There was a 'show' of the Assembly Commission meeting to decide to accept the report, but the reality was that they were powerless to do anything but accept the whole package. Must admit I felt very uneasy about the way, 60 AMs who all had the 'ba**s' to stand for election, and won the support of the people were bull dosed by a group of people who have never faced the voters at all (except for Dafydd Wigley I suppose). Now I bet there's plenty of people who disagree with that line!!
Personally, I would be surprised if the same thing happens at Westminster. There was a bit of theatrical strutting about how the Assembly was leading the way, and that other Parliaments would automatically follow this lead. A touch of unwarrented self importance perhaps! The truth is that the Assembly's decisions made no impact outside Wales whatsoever. When Sir Christopher Kelly reports, no-one at Westminster will remember the Sir Roger Jones Report - that's if they ever knew about it in the first place.
Now this is what I'd really like to see. Sir Christopher's report being published at the same time as a General Election is called. Every single candidate would have to answer detailed questions from the voters about how they would behave, and what claims they would make. That really would be democracy in action. There would terrific public engagement, well attended public meetings, and a great turn out. A new Parliament elected in such an election would be far better placed to restore authority, respect and dignity to our house of Commons than anything that will be decided by the current discredited Parliament. And it might just happen. I'm sure Sir Christopher Kelly could arrange it.