Monday, 11 May 2009

Pay more, end expenses

Gordon Brown is right to join David Cameron in apologising over expenses. But I see little point in adding to the synthetic outrage of newspapers over the whole saga. I trust no journalist who has written or pontificated on the issue has ever fiddled their expenses (and, in consequence, the taxman) in the past, and that the proprietors of newspapers filling acres of space on the subject wouldn't dream of finding ways to avoid paying taxes in the UK.

That said, the whole thing is an utter mess for MPs and very bad for the image of parliamentary politics. Like state funding of political parties, it is an example of where fear of a day or two's bad headlines has led politicians foolishly to opt for the worst possible solutions. MPs should be better paid - £100,000 a year, fully taxed, would be about what a GP earns - and get no living expenses beyond travel costs (through a railcard for all).

Political parties, already heavily funded by the taxpayer, should be largely funded by them with donations above £1000 banned. Those two simple measures might cause a day or two of synthetic outrage. But it would do more to clean up politics - and its public image - than any of the absurdly complicated alternatives being bandied about at the moment.

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