David Blackburn

Only the catharsis of a general election can end the expenses saga 

Only the catharsis of a general election can end the expenses saga 
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I've just had a novel and very disturbing experience: I agreed with Harriet Harman. This was no Pauline conversion, but the Leader of the House's suggestion that it is the Commons, not party leaders, that must rescue parliament's reputation and restore public trust is self-evident: only parliament can renew itself. 

Of course party leaders have an input and direct the debate, and have much to gain in being seen to expunge the rot. But the disquiet of backbenchers, even virtuous reformers such as Martin Salter, Ann Widdecombe and Norman Baker, illustrates that only MPs can change the rules that govern them: as they will resist what they see as unfair. That disquiet has inspired understandable public anger and incredulity; this insipid parliament does not have the vigour or authority to convince the public that reform is possible. Whilst parliament must reform itself, this absurd saga of flower pots and trouser presses is irrevocably associated with this parliament; it can do nothing to expiate the mess it has caused. Only a general election can solve the problem.