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15 May 2009updated 17 Jan 2024 5:58am

Snouts in a scandal

MPs' expenses, the great grime renaissance and Canberra's Budget lock-in in our weekly round-up of t

By Paul Evans

Febrile swine

Members shuffle around Westminster with the air of cheating spouses whose indiscretions have finally been exposed. They keep their eyes down. Some look like they’ve slept in their clothes. You’d almost start to pity them… yet it’s difficult to forget the reason they’re in the doghouse.

We’ve been forking out for their chandeliers.

In the case of David Heathcoat-Amory, we have literally been paying for their horseshit.

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Brian Appleyard felt a certain reticence in commenting on the issue, but in a typically insightful post examined the situation with reference to the Milgram Experiment, noting that: “the rules were disobeyed not just by the MPs but, more importantly, by the people accepting their claims”.

He fingered the Fees Office as culpabable, writing: “In that climate, of course people claimed what they could. This is because – read this slowly and repeat – they are human beings”.

By Thursday, the first blood was let as ex-minister Elliot Morley’s baffling claims for an already-paid mortgage led to his suspension from the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Meanwhile, David Cameron’s right-hand man in parliament, Andrew Mackay, was forced to resign his post as parliamentary aide following revelations that he and wife Julie Kirkbride (the member for Bromsgrove) had essentially maintained both of their homes on the public purse.

Lawyer Carl Gardner examined Morley’s possible offences on The Wardman Wire while Bishop Alan felt that it was unhelpful to confuse the cases that are amusing but trivial with those that may amount to serious fraud.

Tory Councillor Tim Dodds thought Mackay’s subsequent TV appearances “showed he didn’t ‘get it’, and failed the integrity test”. Sir Compton was less delicate.

“What they did may be “within the rules” but even an imbecile with the most basic grasp of right and wrong would feel uncomfortable about such an arrangement, surely?” the old buffer wrote on 14 May.

On the TUC’s Touchstone Blog, Brendan Barber issued a warning to those so appalled by the current wave of scandals that they do not intend to vote in the forthcoming elections.

“Refusing to vote will not stop a single councillor or MEP getting elected. Instead it will simply make it much more likely that extremists – particularly those peddling race hate and intolerance – will be elected,” he wrote.

Finally, Mark Vernon’s philosophy blog examined some of the moral lessons that arise from the farrago. My favourite is his interpretation of Aristotle’s maxim Democracy naturally tends towards mob rule:

“What Aristotle’s thought misses out, though, is that in this case the mob turned out to be the rulers, not the ruled.”

I had the sad misfortune to spot one scandal-hit MP in Portcullis House this week, sporting shorts and t-shirt and looking distinctly dewey. How many more are mopping sweaty brows and waiting for their as yet unrevealed hoggish claims to see light?

What have we learned this week?

On the Guardian’s Music Blog, Dan Hancox asks whether Tory MP John Whittingdale has saved grime. So it seems that Tinchy Stryder, British grime supremo, may have another MP to pen a thank you note to

Around the World

In the land down under, Ben Eltham blogs on his experience of Australia’s strange annual budget day tradition, the journalistic “lock up”. In essence, the government lures all the journalists to parliament in Canberra, kidnaps them and over the coming hours forces them to digest both the budget and sandwiches. Every year they fall for it!

Video of the Week

Courtesy of Daily Reckless, it’s Only Pools and Horse Manure.

Quotes of the Week

“When the entire political class has been caught with its hand in the till, we need this power more than ever.”

The Make Votes Count blog argues for the single transferable vote (STV) system, which could give the electorate more power to punish individual MPs, without punishing the party as a whole.

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