We are currently a single-concept country. It is still MPs’ expenses – although Susan Boyle has also embedded herself in our psyche, providing very welcome relief from the ridicule and vilification of our Parliamentary representatives.
The most disturbing thing though is not the range and volume (and ingenuity) of our Members of Parliament but the inertia of all our political leaders. It is now dawning on Joe Taxpayer that there isn’t a single political leader who has any idea how to attack the problem.
David Cameron favours kangaroo courts and a General Election. Gordon Brown favours the grand gesture of Parliamentary Reform (whatever that is) and an enquiry or two. The Liberal bloke….whassisname…Clegg is trying hard to capture the non-existent middle ground and is wheeled out occasionally for an insignificantly ineffectual bleat.
If you have got into the habit of listening very carefully to Gordon Brown, you will have noticed that he keeps making vague promises but there are no “doing” verbs in his lexicon. David Cameron is like Wily Coyote. Trouble is, it’s too easy. Gordon “Roadrunner ” Brown is mentally-stationary and not really providing any sport for the increasingly frustrated Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. Vince Cable throws out the occasional soundbite but that’s about all.
This is also a time for opportunists to slither onto the political stage. Where are the intellectuals, the industrial leaders, the economists? They are not that stupid. Instead we have Esther Rantzen and David Van Day. Perhaps that is all that we deserve. After all, politicians are OUR representatives, they reflect our beliefs and behaviours – so one could argue that we have the politicians that we deserve.
Maybe the next stage for politics is another negative quantum leap to synchronise with what we have become in 2009. We are a skint has-been nation which finds its solace in the pursuit and worship of celebrity. Perhaps a future Cabinet which consisted of Esther Rantzen, David Van Day, Jordan, Kerry Catona, Biggins, a (any) footballer’s wife and Stan Collymore is what we deserve.
So, I hear you say – “If you’re so smart sunshine, what is the solution?”
The problem of MPs’ expenses has been caused by a total lack of management within Westminster. Gorbals Mick has the brief is to provide Speaker-type leadership and a nominal amount of management. The “nominal” bit was OK in the good old days when Members were an honourable lot but not today. ( I have to admit that I am not sure quite when the “honourable” period was but please bear with me on this one.)
Comparison with the “good old days” is important because up until as recently as ten years ago, we the Brits had a healthy fear and respect for authority. We used to be fed RESPECT with our Cow & Gate plus we have a class system which helps us along the way, with our “They’re the same as us really” attitude.
MPS are “the same as us” in all senses of the phrase. Therefore, they need as much management and control in their day-to-day jobs as the rest of us.
For instance, let’s look at the management of Parliamentary expenses. Simple measures such as giving senior MPs a group of others to “look after” and sign-off their expenses BEFORE they go to the Westminster Finance Office. A simple “signing off” system would stop most naughtiness and would certainly stop a bunch of lowly finance civil servants from being bullied by loud-mouthed MPs. “Accountability” will have been introduced.
I would also consider allowing the Government to sign-off the Oppositions expenses and vice versa. That would have an immediate impact. That’s what I would call REAL transparency.
Nowadays, we actually believe that they (the politicians) are the “same as us”, that is to say, disrespectful, self-serving, celebrity-worshipping, selfish scumbags. Just think who people such as Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Fred the Shred and others like to be seen with. Do they respect us, their “clients”? What is more important to them than their big houses, mortgages, pensions and expense accounts? Nothing, it seems.
These attitudes and behaviours have killed not-only our banking system and possibly our economy but have exposed “New” Labour as “Pretend Socialism”. Orwell was not only right but he was more right than others.
Then there’s Conservatism. “Nice” Conservatism should be about encouraging the individual and giving him the tools to be able to look after himself and his family without looking to the State for charity whereas at the same time providing proper support for the weak.
That is where our best chances lie – within the gentle conservatism of the Major/Blair days.
Finally, there are two other negative contributory factors – namely, bad candidate selection and nepotism. There are too many “hereditary” Members of Parliament – especially within the Conservative Party.
Candidate selection should be done more scientifically. I once attended a selection interview and was surprised to see about ten “crumblies” sitting round a table, without a plan and obviously not having a clue which questions to ask. They did not stand a chance. That has to stop. What is needed is rigorous, tested selection. Filter-out the bandits way before their mugshot appears on a campaign poster.
So as you can see, a few gentle tweaks will do the trick. Not the procrastination of “Constitutional change”, nor the prevarication of Commissions and Enquiries or the chaos of a General Election. Those approaches may all be good solutions but not to the current problem.
Just a few tweaks and normal service will be resumed.