Peter Hoskin

Worse than the Major era?

Worse than the Major era?
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Here's one for Coffee Housers: is this government sleazier than John Major's?  Asked that question on the BBC News channel's Straight Talk with Andrew Neil this weekend, Martin Bell has no doubts.  "I think this one is worse," he says.

But that's not the end of it.  The former independent MP thinks that the parties need to start looking towards their front benches if they're to properly cleanse the taint left from the expenses scandal:

"But I do think it is going to require the assisted departure of all frontbenchers of both parties who have claimed unreasonable and disproportionate expenses.  And if you look back over the dramas of the last four or five months, not a single frontbencher has been removed.  The Conservatives have used this to get rid of the backwoodsmen; Labour have used it to get rid of Ian Gibson who was a prickly rebel.  Let’s just say it’s a work in progress."

It's revealing that Bell, a respected outsider, should have pretty much the same view on this as many backbenchers from each of the main parties - i.e. that their more exulted colleagues have got off lightly.  Of course, those backbenchers have their own agenda to push.  But the problem comes if the public feel strongly the same way.  If that's the case, then the relatively intact front benches may be causing more anger than most politicians realise.

P.S. Just in case you're wondering, Bell also says that he's "unlikely" to stand at the next election.