Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Circus Rolls On

I am starting to wonder how long this story can keep running. The Telegraph are certainly squeezing every last penny from the presumably rather costly information they have bought about MPs' expenses. And they've now secured a couple of scalps - nicely balanced too, with one Labour (Elliot Morley suspended by Brown) and one Conservative, Andrew MacKay (told to resign as an aide by Cameron). MacKay may have further problems, though, as grassroots Tory members overwhelmingly voted in an online Conservative Home poll for his de-selection as an MP. It would not be surprising if some of the worst offenders didn't face a backlash in their constituencies, either from their own grassroots members desperate to de-select the albatross now occupying their seat, or later from the voters who will choose to vote for an opponent to register their disgust. That's if they all remember this a year from now, mind you.

The cheque-book waving isn't necessarily a good thing either, as the Economist's Bagehot also observes. I don't know many people who could readily stump up six or seven thousand pounds, never mind the thirteen thousand being merrily waved by Hazel Blears yesterday. Does rather add to the impression that public service has given quite a few MPs quite a lot of disposable income!

But, to cut to the quick, we've surely done about as much hand-wringing as we can, with Parliament apparently becoming a much grimmer, depressing place at present. Jeremy Paxman interviewed some would-be MPs on Newsnight last night, and couldn't quite remove from his face the look of cynical bemusement that they still want to go into politics. For all their attempted freshness, of course, they are all political hacks who have been at the political game in a voluntary capacity for years, whatever they will trumpet now about being new brooms. Paxman rather neatly trumped the Labour candidate by comparing her high-blown words about a change, a new morality etc. with an almost identical set uttered by, er, Hazel Blears when she was elected for the first time.

The time has come now, I think, for a bit of a rest from the hysteria - which the media are going to struggle to sustain, for all their expertise at this - and some reflection about how we might best alter the body politic such that it does not produce this sort of endemic amorality and lack of judgement. We as electors cannot, after all, take much pleasure from the sight of such a demeaned collection of representatives, whose judgement and legislative capacity we still need. Let the media beasts take a rest, and allow parliament and democracy to resume their fractious relationship over the course of the next year. Oh, and please let the Speaker go. Now.

Meanwhile, in other news, Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's long-suffering opposition leader, is once again in police custody as the ferocious generals look to presumably extend her house arrest. There indeed is a story of grit and heroism in the face of one of the most morally decrepit regimes in the world.

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