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27 April 2009

On expenses

MPs' expenses and the South African elections in our weekly round-up of the political blogs

By Paul Evans

The wages of sin

These are grim times indeed. While I’m re-using my tea bags three, sometimes four times, MPs get their tea in golden cups from John Lewis. Their spouses watch movies at my expense, while I have to listen to the radio because my telly is on the blink. It’s not right, is it?

Worry not though – the prime minister has come to the rescue, dramatically pre-empting the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s Inquiry into MPs’ expenses. He wants second home expenses to be replaced by an attendance allowance, though the Tories and Lib Dems aren’t keen to play ball.

And Brown’s YouTube announcement caused bloggers to titter, not on the basis of its content – but because his remaining advisers seemed to have instructed him to grin insincerely every 25 seconds and dance around like a marionette. Whitehall Bob thought it was a “pitiful attempt to appear ‘down wit de Yout’”.

The Orange Party considered the proposals to be “a blatant and disgraceful affront to parliamentary democracy”. They were, he contested: “thinly disguised as a tightening of MPs expenses, with plans to replace the scandalous perk with a lump sum just for doing their job and turning up for work”. Elsewhere, Prodicus believed that the scheme exposed a premier “warped [in] his political vision”. His ideal solution is expenses-only, but with the caveat: “…let’s see some receipts. Plasma TVs and gazebos will not be reimbursed”.

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Blogging Labour MP Kerry McCarthy harbours deep reservations about any daily allowance scheme, but believed that in the short-term, it may provide a solution:

“…I think we’ve reached the stage where the imperative to scrap the second homes allowance is so strong, any alternative would be better. I see the PM’s proposals as an interim measure until the full review is concluded at the end of the year,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, Sir Christopher Kelly, launching the Inquiry, declared rather sensibly that it probably shouldn’t be in the hands of parliamentarians to set their own pay, which cheered Crust of the Grouch, who wrote: “…for a tax payer Sir [Christopher] Kelly’s words are very heartening. He looks set to make a clear distinction between salary and expenses, I hope it isn’t just hot air”.

Also this week, check out’s extensive coverage of the 2009 Budget.

What have we learned this week?

Liberal England picks up on the death of John O’Grady, the ‘Bermondsey Real Labour’ candidate in the infamous 1983 by-election in which Simon Hughes was elected.

Around the World

The polls opened in South Africa, and Khaya Dlanga, a very fine blogger who we have visited before, set off to cast his ballot. A disintegrated voter ID heightened his nerves as he steadied himself to vote for a party other than the ANC.

“I can imagine that some people who may have intended to put their cross next to Cope must have been so overwhelmed with emotion that they just marked by the green, gold and black flag,” he speculated comically, adding that: “…voting for Cope felt right and amazing”.

Though early results suggested the fledgling party had pulled in just 8 per cent, it has clearly had a profound effect on some voters.

Video of the Week

North Norfolk’s Lib Dem MP, Norman Lamb, had a hand in Tinchy Stryder’s Number 1 (feat. N-Dubz), released last week and reaching top spot – having mortgaged his home to help son Archie set up the small record label now representing the artist.

Quote of the Week

“I don’t think the Plaid Cymru MPs were even aware that such a thing as a John Lewis list even existed!”

Plaid candidate and former Westminster staffer Heledd Fychan argues that we shouldn’t include the Nats among the “troughers”.

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