Posted by: Paul | February 24, 2010

“On Expenses”

I really wasn’t that keen on watching this. All the “MP’s Expenses” business has left a rather nasty taste in my mouth, and just confirmed what I had long held to be true, that MPs are greedy chancers on the make, who deserve neither trust nor respect. And these are supposed to be the people who are representing us!

Anyway, the one-off drama “On Expenses” aired on BBC4 last night, taking the whole story from the point at which the Freedom of Information Act became law – which is the whole reason we know anything about this – to the release to the press of the unedited, un-redacted records and subsequent resignation of Speaker Michael Martin (played superbly by Brian Cox). It turned a fairly complicated process into an hour of hugely entertaining knockabout comedy with a jaunty soundtrack to match, and if anything, it actually let the culprits off the hook a bit. I mean, these people stole from us. It’s easy to say that now but at the time it was within their ridiculous “allowances” which were so often unquestioned. But in some cases, they are under investigation for, literally, theft from the public purse.

The drama was most interesting in its portrayal of the situation from inside Parliament, the increasingly headless-chicken-like behaviour of members, Martin included, scrambling to at first prevent the release of the information at all, and later to cover the scale of the scandal, before Martin himself finally admitted defeat and argued for full and transparent disclosure. Of course, with most people having over-claimed in some way, some in a very serious and dubious fashion, that went down like a lead balloon and the very MPs he was trying to protect turned on him at once. Of course! Why would they not? They were about to be exposed. Heather Brook, who broke the story, is to be congratulated for her tenaciousness.

But what comes next? It’s a bit of a worry. Having our worst fears about our representatives confirmed has irreparably damaged politics. People were already switched off, and now when all of them are perceived as corrupt, voters believe they have nowhere trustworthy to turn and a great number of people will not vote at all, which makes a mockery of democracy. I predict a record low turnout for May’s General Election – after all, the majority of the “corrupt” are standing down voluntarily so our protest vote to have them removed is useless. I also predict a hung Parliament for the first time in my voting life. Whatever happens, it won’t be pretty – and it won’t give people a reason to be hopeful about the future. That’s gone, for a long, long time.

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