Labour plummets; polls says publish all expenses


5:30 am - May 10th 2009

by Newswire    


      Share on Tumblr

91% of the public have backed a call for the full uncensored MPs expenses to be published, in a poll published by the News of the World today. 89% said the reputation of Parliament was being tarnished.

More worryingly for Labour, the Mail on Sunday reports a poll today showing Gordon Brown had become Labour’s most unpopular leader ever.

It reported:

If the poll’s findings were repeated in a General Election, Tory leader David Cameron would have a majority of 220 seats, beating Tony Blair’s majority of 179 after his landslide victory in 1997. The Tories would gain 237 seats, of which 200 would come from Labour. The figures make particularly bleak reading for Gordon Brown: even with Michael Foot as its leader, Labour support did not fall below 23.5 per cent.


Business secretary Peter Mandelson said the PM wasn’t going to worry about the furore surrounding MPs expenses, he was concentrating on the recession.

Further embarassing revelations for the Conservatives are also published today by the News of the World.

It exposed the case of Tory MP James Gray who tried to reclaim the cost of Remembrance Day wreaths, and then complained when he was refused.

In a shocking twist on the scandal surrounding MPs’ outrageous expenses claims, onetime Tory whip Gray moaned he was £60 down on the deal after buying three poppy tributes to Britain’s fallen heroes to place at war memorials in his North Wiltshire constituency.

He demanded taxpayers foot the bill and was put out when he got turned down, claiming he’d always got away with it in the past.

Even the normally measured Andrew Rawnsley could not hold back the fury in his Observer column today:

While most of her colleagues have gone into hiding, Harriet Harman has been shoved before the cameras to try to defend the indefensible. She bleats that it was “all within the rules” as if the rules were not of Parliament’s own invention, but had been handed down by God to Moses on Mount Sinai.

No wonder Parliament put up such a protracted and bitter struggle to try to keep all this hidden from the voters. They should stop whingeing about the Daily Telegraph’s drip feed of revelations from a leaked disc. MPs themselves created the black market in the information about their claims by trying to conceal what they had been doing for so long. This will hurt the reputation of all politicians, but the damage is likeliest to be greatest to Labour at the next election.

It also emerged today that cabinet minister James Purnell and Hazel Blears may face investigation by HM Revenue & Customs for not paying Capital Gains Tax on the sale of their properties.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author

· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Our democracy ,Westminster

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


Interestingly even tory bloggers – conservative home and Ian Dale – are calling for the expulsion of James Gray over this. Must be the taste of victory in their mouths and the fear that unreconstructed non-cameroons will snatch it away.

The Telegraph has all the sordid details here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/

Not sure I wanted to know that Phil Woolas has been claiming for panty liners, tampons, ladies’s dresses and ladies’ shoes.

“Must be the taste of victory in their mouths and the fear that unreconstructed non-cameroons will snatch it away.”

Or maybe they just happen to be non-partisan in their hatred of sleaze?

And Mike Smithson of politicalbetting.com thinks the fieldwork for these polls was probably done *before* the Telegraph published the expenses claims…oh dearie me!

The Mail poll on voting intentions that is, obviously not the one directly about expenses.

I know, they’re not being funded by the taxpayer, but is anyone else out there just a bit disturbed by the huge stench of hypocrisy coming from journalists working themselves into a lather over other people’s use of allowances (not ‘expenses’, he notes, rather more carefully than some of the reporting that’s been going-on)?

After all, most of it has been, alas, within the ridiculously over-generous (and vaguely-enough-worded to permit a range of interpretation) ‘rules’ that MP’s voted for themselves.

full details of what they’re “entitled” to can be found here (if you’re very, very bored)

And why are so many people so surprised that a group of human beings who were not pre-selected for personal altruism, took it upon themselves to seize upon an opportunity to, well, “fill their boots”…? Isn’t that being a teensy bit naive?

I’m not saying for a moment that they should have done it, or that they shouldn’t be excoriated and ridiculed (and prosecuted, naturally, if they broke the law) for their actions, but it does bring to mind Macauley’s:

“We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality”

Ho hum.

Not sure I wanted to know that Phil Woolas has been claiming for panty liners, tampons, ladies’s dresses and ladies’ shoes.

Woolas is the last person I want to defend (next to Purnell), but he points out in a video in the ‘other news’ section that he didn’t actually claim for tampons – they happened to be on a receipt where he claimed for something else.

Anyway – if he loses his seat over this I’d be happy!

a group of human beings who were not pre-selected for personal altruism.

Actually, I think they are, at least to a certain extent. David Cameron, for example, must have a lot of schoolfriends who earn more than him now, and can expect to do so in the future. Almost certainly, he could have earned more had he not gone into politics. The same must be true of a lot of MPs. Probably many of them really did go into politics to seek power to do whatever they considered to be right.

But altruism is not enough. Morality is a matter of popular opinion – if half your friends do X, they must think it acceptable. So if it is to your advantage, why not agree with them and do it too? So this sort of conduct always tends to spread, and grow worse, until checked.

one aspect that doesn’t seem to get very much discussion is these allowances are to enable MPs to do their job. How do things like Sky packages, cleaning of a house where you don’t spend very time, etc help an MP do his work?

Also, there is the aspect that MPs get different income tax treatment of their allowances than anyone else in the country. That is fundamentally immoral, especially if the leader of the Government continues to harp on about his Moral Compass.

10. chavscum

“Actually, I think they are, at least to a certain extent. David Cameron, for example, must have a lot of schoolfriends who earn more than him now, and can expect to do so in the future. Almost certainly, he could have earned more had he not gone into politics. The same must be true of a lot of MPs. Probably many of them really did go into politics to seek power to do whatever they considered to be right.”

This applies to some Tories, rather than Labour, the vast majority of whom have done very little outside the public sector gravy train before they became MPs.

one aspect that doesn’t seem to get very much discussion is these allowances are to enable MPs to do their job. How do things like Sky packages, cleaning of a house where you don’t spend very time, etc help an MP do his work?

Peter Oborne made this point well last night on BBC – saying that even their claims of all this being within the rules was rubbish because the rules explicitly say the receipts must be for stuff that help them in their work as an MP.

I don’t buy the “within the rules” argument either – these people are a disgrace on democracy.

Our MP’s snouts are so deep in the expenses trough that their tails have gone curly, so it’s little surpise they can barely come up for air long enough to oink “…we operated within guidelines”

So to save them the trouble (we appreciate they’re very busy people) We’ve gone all creative on their behalf, and this weeks Spotify playlist is all about fiddling expenses.

http://www.riphertoshreds.co.uk/the-beat-goes-on/spotified/the-playlist/

Rip her To Shreds

10. chavscum. Well put . No company I have ever worked for as ever had such elastic rules on expenses. Veryfew MPs have proved themselves before entering the Hof C. Perhaps it is time we expected MPs to have extensive experience before they enter politics for which I blame the local constituencies and the various parties HQs. The reason why Cable is so popular is that he is the only MP to have warned of the debt problems and been honest about the measures which will be required to solve the problem, but then he was Chief Economist of Shell. In reality the board of BP or Shell are probably far more competent to run this country than any cabinet . Do any other MPs have proven management and leadership experience ?

On Woolas: he put in receipts for food claims of £210.31, of which £47.73 were not permitted claims. The amount he claimed is £210.31; however, he did not have to put in reciepts for this type of claim. He is putting forth that he claimed for other items for which he did not put in receipts, which just so happened to add up to £47.73.

I leave the credibility of the Woolas defence to the reader, though it would be fun to see him try his threated day in court!

15. WhatNext?!

@ 14: Yes, the Woolas defence is truly shameless, and it’s amazing that he hasn’t resigned yet.

Does anyone have any ideas on who to vote for come the empending elections?

16. redpesto

A UK ‘clean hands’ campaign, anyone?

Very interesting idea redpesto – how do you think something like this might get off the ground…?

Sunny – dunno: street protestors in white gloves?

But seriously…if the Telegraph is true to its word, and goes after the Tories, then it’ll be completely clear this is a problem with the governing class of MPs, and not just with New Labour (who will get hit hardest because they are in government). It cannot be resolved by conveniently-produced stitch-ups agreed by MPs at short notice, and Parliament cannot be allowed to pick and choose which bits of the independent review they will be allowed to implement. Meanwhile, here’ a few ideas off the top of my head that might be helpful:

– full, audited disclosure of all expenses claims, linked to property addresses

– full investigation by HMRC, the police and the CPS of potentially fraudulent/illegal cases (Hazel Blears, for example, has a lot of explaining to do)

– MPs with above average claims to give evidence before an independent committee (with the possibility of them being barred from standing in a future general election depending on the outcome)

– a ban on paid outside jobs for MPs

Maybe a more punchy set of slogans/demands can be worked up under a heading such as ‘You Work for Us’ (put simply, we need some heads on spikes over this issue)

(The chief problem is that waiting around for an election to sort it all out could take as long as a year, and still relies on the parties to do the right thing by deselecting/disciplining some of the more outrageous practitioners of what I think the Americans might call ‘graft’.)

I’d also suggest a blog with that domain name which could act as a clearing house for all the expenses data and developing news stories (though They Work For You might end up doing the same thing)

Celeb angle: Martin Bell?

Cross-party angle: a group of ‘clean’ MPs from the three major parties who might be able to stand each other’s presence enough to support the broader cause?

Ah the old Mani Pulite, I studied that in Italian Politics a few years ago…

The problem is, this isn’t Tangentopoli a.k.a. Bribesville. That was money-laundering, political corruption and bribery that wasn’t just about complete disconnection with the public but about serious endemic failures of the Italian democratic system to represent anyone other than the shadowy interests who funded them. Expensesgate is big, for sure, but I haven’t heard of any magistrates/investigators attempting to clean up this corruption being issued death threats or assassinated. This is just another scandal that will nail public confidence in mainstream political parties but isn’t enough, say, to get lots of people coming out on demonstrations (someone should organise one, though!).

All of the suggestions that Redpesto makes are important if fairly straightforward changes to the existing system. In early 1990s Italy, the entire political party system was completely falling to bits and needed a total overhaul. Things would have to get as serious as that for any mass popular uprising along the lines of Mani Pulite. Then again, as I’ve said, the situation here isn’t nearly as bad as it was in that scenario. People will still vote, perhaps in even greater numbers than would otherwise have been the case, in the Euro elections and next year’s general election. Expenses will damage the main parties but won’t bring them down entirely.

Don’t think Martin Bell would cut it these days. Joanna Lumley is busy with the Gurkhas, so perhaps we can get Cheryl Cole?

@15, consider voting Green. The only progressive party who haven’t been gaming the system, and whose two MEPs have argued for expenses reform and other public money-saving measures at the EU level.

Rayyan – I knew that, which was why I initially hesitated before making the post (and checking the history via wikipedia). One difficulty is that MPs are trying the ‘this isn’t [insert name of really corrupt country here]; this is Great Britain’ line as a way of playing down the whole affair. It’s also the problem of where all that public anger is going to go. Even if the analogy doesn’t stand up entirely (which I accept), the phrase and the image might indicate the need for change rather than just ‘reform’.

Redpesto, I agree that something needs to be done to harness public anger over this issue, and it shouldn’t just be left to people to vote next month and then have nothing positive happen until the general election next year. There should definitely be a demonstration, but as far as I know there hasn’t been a campaign group set up to challenge and respond to the expenses scandal. One advantage of any such campaign would be that it would get huge cross-public support: practically no one worth listening to would be against it, and people would want something that gives them a sense of “doing something about it”.

I hadn’t picked that up about MPs saying Britain isn’t like a banana republic or wherever else, but it does chime with the pathetic crap I read and heard from many commentators about how British police aren’t as violent or well armed as Italian or French police, and we should be lucky they showed so much restraint to protesters, in those countries the police would use water cannons, we should be lucky we even have the right to protest, blah blah blah blah blah…. Worst defence ever!

Maybe a campaign group should be set up, as you suggest, with the support of MPs who haven’t had their snouts caught in the trough, except I don’t think anyone wants to listen to any MPs right now. I also the “clean” MPs with any kind of public profile will join MPs from other parties to lambast their corrupt-as-fuck leaders: Ed Miliband and Norman Baker double-teaming it against Gordon Cleaner Brown and Nick Home Improvement Clegg, anyone? Perhaps the campaign should be led by figures from the media, as with the Gurkha thing. I’d suggest civil society groups but sadly our media doesn’t give as much prominence to them as it does to unqualified actors or actresses on the one hand, and corrupt/boring politicians on the other.

There is an even wider problem behind all of this, which would affect the likely success of anything approaching our own “mani pulite”: deference to authority in British political culture. People can get pissed off at corruption but Labour’s been corrupt ever since Eccleston and society in general chooses to defer to the politicians. Rather than getting angry, the history of the effect upon the public of most British political scandals is to get pissed off then stop caring.

Voting the current set of bastards out to let another, less tarnished bunch in and then leave them to sort the mess out – that’s the way we tend to deal with this sort of thing. It’s undeniable that interest in and turnout in June’s Euro elections have been boosted by the prospect that the public will be able to punish Labour and politicians in general at the ballot box – whilst the Euros would’ve made the news, they wouldn’t have been so in the public eye were it not for Expensesgate. In 1999 fewer people voted in the Euros in the UK than voted for the final of Big Brother 1 a year later: turnout was hardly up in 2004, IIRC.

Also, the politicians defer far too much to the police, giving them tasers, new laws, massive databases, lots of CCTV, and so on. But conversely, the police and the courts defer far too much to the politicians: you could never see a mass campaign of arrests and trials brought against our own lot as was the case in “mani pulite”. We have to have police that actually want to go after the bastards, as well as courageous magistrates, rather than just let them rip us off, which has been the case in the UK.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    New post: Labour plummets; polls says publish all expenses http://bit.ly/n5dR9





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.