Almost three years ago I was selected by Montgomeryshire Conservatives as their candidate for the General Election we expect on May 6th. It was one of the first selections in Britain by 'open primary'. I had just (surprisingly - to me anyway) lost my position as a member of the National Assembly for Wales, after eight enjoyable years. Proportional representation can sometimes be akin to roulette. Whatever, the point I want to make is that, at the time, I had felt sufficiently valued and respected by the people I'd represented, to be keen to stand as a candidate for election to the House of Commons.
And then a young American journalist named Heather Brooke started asking questions about the expenses being claimed by some of our MPs. Her story was printed in today's Mail on Sunday. Her full story will be published on April 1st by William Heinemann in a book called 'The Silent State'. The full horror of what had been going on was eventually made public by the Daily Telegraph. If you think you can stand it, the Telegraph reporters, Robert Winnett and Gordon Rayner published their book, called 'No Expenses Spared' last year. No issue has ever done such damage to the reputation of the British Parliament. It is entirely understandable that many of the British people hold politicians in utter contempt. Many of the culprits are not contesting the coming General Election. But many of them are. The future of British democracy depends on the voters not having forgotten.
You really would have thought that MPs would have learned the lesson. But No. I personally know of a non-declaration of income/benefit - that should have been declared. And of a six day 'freebie' trip on a luxury cruise when Parliament was sitting. These things have become so commonplace that they are not even reported on. And then today, we have another full-blown scandal. Just listen to this from Stephen Byers. And read this in today's Sunday Times. And here by Iain Dale. And here on Guido's blog. Its mind-numbing stuff. How can Stephen Byers, exposed by words emanating from his own mouth, ever again enter through the portals of the House of Commons without shame. And is it possible to believe this is an isolated incident? After watching the sheer casualness with which he perpetrated such outrageous behaviour, is it possible to believe that 'payment for access' is not common? I note that David Cameron has called for a Commons Inquiry. It needs to be carried out in the next two weeks. How can voters have confidence in MPs after this. 'Lobbygate' is as bad as the Expensesgate'. Please don't let it pollute the next Parliament as well. Decent people are just going to walk away.