MP's expenses are in the news again. This time it was Sir Thomas Legg’s report, ordering roughly half of all MPs to repay expenses that had been wrongly claimed. For a few days, the golden phrase in Westminster was ‘no issues’ – Sir Thomas’s words for those of us who, like me, were clean and had nothing to repay.
But that won’t be the end of it. The police are, rightly, starting to bring criminal charges against a very small number of MPs and Lords. They’ve started with four cases and say there may be more. We can expect months of lurid headlines as the cases are played out in court.
The problem is, the scandal has been going on for so long that people are getting tired of it. It doesn’t mean we accept or approve – far from it – but that we’re fed up with the whole sordid business. We know the system was rotten; that too many MPs were rotten; that some MPs may have been criminals. Now we need to move on.
And that means we need an election, to renew and refresh a thoroughly disreputable fag-end Parliament. It’s no good waiting for fresh reports into the scandal, or for the court cases. They will grind slowly on, but the country can’t wait. The people need to render their verdict at the ballot box.
Then we will have a fresh Parliament, with MPs who have been judged to be clean by their constituents. And we will need a new, transparent expenses system too. Ever since I was first elected I’ve put details of my expenses on my website, precisely because you all have a right to know what I’m spending your money on. If you’d like to know more details, they’re all there at www.johnpenrose.org. The website has just been improved and re-launched too. Enjoy!