Peter Hoskin

Gripped by fear

Alongside the latest, damning revelations – another, ahem, “error” in claiming for interest on an non-existent mortgage – there’s a fascinating article in today’s Times on the current mood inside Parliament.  It sounds very much like a mix of fear and self-loathing – although I suspect the former emotion outweighs the latter, especially as there are seats and votes on the line:

“Until the week-long torrent of revelations, most voters agreed with the statement ‘they’re all as bad as each other’, according to Andrew Cooper, director of Populus. All three main parties are suffering equally, he says, but a new trend is beginning to emerge as voters feel that their long-held suspicions over politicians’ venality are confirmed.

‘There’s a feeling that this crop of MPs need to be punished. If there was an election tomorrow it’s a fair bet that all of the most notable examples of questionable behaviour would lose their seats.’

This underlines one of the lessons of the week: that at the next election MPs will be running not so much on their record as on their expenses claims.

It wouldn’t be the first time that there has been a purge of incumbents. One possible parallel is provided by the 1994 US congressional elections, when voters, revolted by revelations of financial abuses on Capitol Hill, swept away huge numbers of sitting congressmen.”   The corollary of this – as the article points out – is that prospective parliamentary candidates can expect to benefit by running on platforms of equal parts frugality and transparency.  While existing MPs will have to work harder to show that they “get it”; that they’re repentant for either their own actions or those of the collective they belong to, as the case may be.  If nothing else, sheer political self-interest should motivate them to clean up this stinking mess.

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