Read pretty much any Sunday newspaper today and you’ll come across stories of politicians making expenses claim that, to put it mildly, stretch the spirit of the regulations. The Jacqui Smith story has prompted the press to go digging and they have come up with a lot of stuff. The MPs involved are not all from one party and so all this strengthens the public’s sense that they are all at it, that the political class is fundamentally corrupt.
The tax-paying public, who in many cases are desperately worried about their own finances because of the recession, look at the gravy train which exists at local, national and European levels of government and are understandably disgusted. These are the circumstances that demagogues and extremists crave.
When MPs make their claims for expenses and allowance, they must think not just about whether they are technically acceptable under the current regulations but about what they do to the reputation of politics. For the small fraction of MPs who tilt the system in their favour are helping the BNP and other unsavoury extremist groups.