The last week has seen a huge shift in how the people of Britain think of their politicians. The publication of the expenses of every Member of Parliament has understandably caused a lot of public anger.
Some MPs who were caught with their hands in the till had either resigned their ministerial posts or were suspended. Others were made to squirm as they were exposed for claiming thousands of pounds to cover items that never really existed. A few MPs who tried to openly defend their positions were rightly condemned. Many commentators didn’t at first think that this scandal would affect almost everybody from the Prime Minister Gordon Brown down to the most lowly member.
Whatever many peoples’ view of it all, this was a genuine triumph for British journalism. If it hadn’t been for those dogged reporters who fought tirelessly for the expenses disclosure, then the people who were elected to represent us would have continued to get away with it. This scandal has re-enforced the well-worn perception that all politicians are corrupt, money-grabbing scumbags…. and that is putting it politely.
The best bit of the crisis: Labour’s demise
As they say, “Every cloud has a silver lining”, and at the moment, it is the Labour party and government that stands most to lose. The party is in all sorts of trouble. They are facing another drop in their support ahead of the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament. One opinion poll suggest that they could be overtaken and beaten into fifth place by the Eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party. It that happens on election day, Labour has had it. There have also been stories in the media that many wealthy sympathetic people have decided to stop donating to the party this time around. Many of the affiliated trade unions are set to withdraw from supporting them financially. They have paid the political price for abusing their power whilst in office.
Reform… or revolution?
Many commentators are waiting for the day that the downtrodden British citizen, hit by high taxes, imposing of bad laws, and stripping away of their democratic freedoms, will finally take to the streets and demand that Parliament be ‘cleansed of the swamp’. It has been said that the current crisis may lead eventually to the collapse of the old political order, where Labour, Conservative, and even some Liberal Democrat MPs are pushed from power, to be replaced by a collective alliance of independents, who could mostly consist of environmentalists, anarchists, activists from the hard left and right, single-issue campaigners, or even famous celebrities. The biggest barrier to this is whether, in theory, such a coalition would be able to work together long enough to pass through legislation, but there has to be something better than what we have got at the moment.
Why this matters
The expenses row has sent Parliament into a state of paralysis. Democracy cannot function properly if it is ‘suspended’… that’s how it feels at the moment. Every single expense that our MPs applied for must be published and declared in the open, then Parliament should make every effort to start repairing its battered reputation with the British people.