Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The corrosion of politics

I'm with Hopi Sen on the ludicrously overblown 'Jacqui Smith affair' and I also think David Aaronovitch (as ever) gets to the heart of the matter. But I do worry about the corrosive effect all this talk of MPs' expenses has on people's already low opinion of politics and politicians. In part, it is the absurd media reporting which conflates staffing costs with MPs' salaries and expenses, as in some of last night's TV news. In part, it is a side effect of the greater transparency wrought by FoI and other changes. And it also seems as if it may be the result of corrupt dealings and disgraceful leaking by someone close to the Fees Office.

But it is also a product of the way in which the expenses system is constructed as a poor substitute for salaries. Gordon Brown needs to get together with his fellow party leaders to sort this out quickly, whether through single payments that are taxed or through attendance allowances which could cover a hotel bill and meals. One way or another, these needs sorting....and quickly.

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