Friday, 23 July 2010

More rumblings on expenses

Did I say I got a letter in the Evening Standard under my avatar?

Well it was about the David Laws resignation over his expenses. Here's what was published:
"David Laws' resignation highlights a persisent gap between the aims of government regulation and the regulations as written. What he admitted to was in line with the spirit of the rules, albeit not in complete accordance with the actual rules themselves. Compare this with the dozens of MPs and ministers who escaped censure by arguing they were sticking within the letter of the law, even while flagrantly abusing the generosity of the taxpayer.

The bigger scandal is that the rules don't function as they should. They neither prevent confusion or deter the real criminals, nor do they ensure any trangressions are made good. Catcalls of moral indignation seemingly follow every revelation (petty or otherwise) about our elected representatives or other public figures, yet the true hypocrisy rests unmolested between the system of rules and a public mood which makes few allowances for preconcieved notions of propriety and regularly fails to account for the circumstances of the individuals concerned or the situation society faces.

Now that Laws has paid his price for an attempt at honorable discretion, I hope Cameron and Clegg will see sense and use this episode to move forward with an agreed position for proper reform of the expenses system which makes it about more than a hollow bureaucratic exercise in demonstrating an individual’s commitment to serving the public and actually starts enabling them to do the job they are supposed to do. The result will ironically prove whether the civil service is more interested in serving the public or supporting its own vested interest."

All well and good, but it seems from Channel 4's investigation into the potential abuses of the election expenses system that there are many more questions still to be answered.

And looking at Zac Goldsmith's performance when he was unapologetic in defence of his practice of creative accounting it would seem there is much for the coalition to get to grips with.

As I said elsewhere,
"I feel sorry for poor little Zac, creating such adamant, determined and vociferous enemies so early in his nascent political career is not an indication of a man with upstanding moral or intellectual resolution. Clearly it wasn’t these abilities which enabled him to reach his current position, so he will have to depend on those which did [in order] to stay there – that could turn out to be very expensive!"
Now, parliamentary expenses (the allowances reimbursed for what they do when they get there) are different from electoral expenses (the limit allowed to be spent getting there in the first place), but the excuses given that they are 'within the rules' are the same. It seems not to matter what the spirit of the rules are, just that you are capable of the contortions required to jump through the flaming hoops of compliance.

Frankly, from where I sit, for potential legislators to debase themselves in any manner of ways just to comply with something of popular outcry which their electors hope for them to sort out is a ludicrous reflection of their ability to do what we hope of them - they should not be defending their actions, but articulating how their actions reflect a more proper way of doing business and insodoing prosecute the case for reform.

Zac Goldsmith's indefensible stance in support of abusing the status quo over instituting proper reform undermines his party's mandate for government.


NB. It should be noted the Electoral Commission is investigating.

Michael Crick has a couple of questions to ask.

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