Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Weekly Public Parliamentary Expenditure Assessments Needed?

On a train back from the picturesque green fields of the Midlands, pleasantly smiling at the beauty of these Isles from the speeding window, I suddenly found myself sighing sadly. I turned and faced the newspaper and read the news on Jacqui Smith’s husband. Whether this was private impropriety is an issue that I did not want to ponder. However, when I read that tax-payer’s money had been spent for her own family’s pleasure, albeit erotica, I wondered whether there was any moral basis left in this Government. How can a senior cabinet Minister hold such a post, yet not keep control of her Parliamentary allowance? Surely, negligence in one, must relate to incompetence in the other? I forgot that the Labour Party plays on the fallibility of human-beings, in the perverse socialist world where there is a search for meaningless equality. These character traits appeal, somehow they are reflective of all of us and thus acceptable. The Prime Minister condones her conduct by not sacking her on this basis. Voters do, fortunately have a choice between the decency and integrity offered by David Cameron’s Conservatives and the continued corruption of New Labour. Such was the cocksureness of New Labour, that it is attempting to pass a motion to permit MP’s to edit their expenses prior to their release to the public. Have you every heard of such a travesty of transparency, and to the notion of 'open and accountable' Government, that is supposed to be at the heart of every democracy?

Here’s another thought that hit me on the train. One cannot ignore that there is a subtle similarity between the complacent and negligent conduct of the Home Secretary, Lord Milners and the FSA. This is a Government that appoints persons that lack that fundamental important value in a politician, the ability to be 'self-critical' in one’s acts, pertaining to the characteristic of 'self-accountability'. That prevents or reduces one’s personal flaws from entering into politics. If one is not accountable to one-self, then one is hardly going to know the margins of accountability (to the electorate) as a politician. The institution of Financial Services that the Labour Government created, mirrored its personalities. The FSA failed to act to extravagant lending, for two key factors attributable to the Government. Firstly, it had no clear powers to do so (in the same-way Brown is limiting accountability for expenditure) and it was not guided to do so by its Directors. The latter was through not enlarging upon the limited discretion given to it, characteristic of the appointing Government's wish to avoid scrutiny. The word ‘accountability’ is not in the New Labour vocabulary book. Only such a Party could revive Lord Mandelson continuously, choosing political exigency over a shameful past record. With a few months of New Labour coming into power, the door of unaccountability was left wide open and the warning signs given by the secretive and disingenuous conduct of Geoffrey Robinson. The same attitude towards ‘accountability’ is why New Labour tried to make so light of the extremely serious Cash for Peerages scandal. It is a Party machine that thinks it is above these fundamentals of democratic Government: openness and accountability. Fortunately, the British electorate knows better. It values accountability, integrity and honesty as having a place in the heart of politics. This is why next year many people will be finally be glad to be casting their vote away from the Party in red.

As far as the ‘unaccounted’ expenditure is concerned there is now a mistrust held by many members of the public towards the elected. It is now important to militate against this mistrust, by edifying the public faith in Government. What is, perhaps, needed is a short weekly, monthly or annual session in the House of Commons where a general summary, or audit, of personal expenses are read-out. This would be true transparent Government. It would also be a better solution than trying to curb expenditure, or to limit it altogether. To do so would make the life of an MP wholly impracticable.

APG Pandya
[Copyright Birkenhead Society]

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