The Other I

May 15, 2009

Parliamentary convulsions

Filed under: Political thoughts,The English — theotheri @ 7:52 pm

I doubt it is making the front pages or top of the news in the U.S., but here in England, Parliament is convulsed with quite possibly the most wide-spread scandal it’s faced in centuries.

This may be hard for the American mind to comprehend, because the individual sums of money involved are relatively small.  I say relatively, although sums between perhaps $5000 and $500,000 are not personally small.  But to discover that a great number of  U.S. Congressmen had fiddled their expenses to the tune of $100,000 would probably not threaten to unseat the government.

Over here it is.

It started some years ago when Parliamentary members thought that they should have a pay increase but that the electorate would not tolerate it.  So they instituted a lavish and covert expense system, whereby MPs (that is, Members of Parliament) could claim tax-free living expenses for a second mortgage, property tax, food, household furnishing and services, taxis, restaurants.  The list of possibilities seems to be limited only by the imagination of MPs, which, in this case, did not appear to be limited by anything.  One MP even claimed for the cleaning of his moat.  (Yes, a moat is that medieval body of water surrounding a castle or manor house to protect it from marauding attackers.)

About a week ago a national newspaper got hold of all the expense claims that have been submitted by every MP in the last five years.  They have been publishing them in a kind of water torture every day since Sunday, and they aren’t finished.  

After the scandal of the bankers’ bonuses paid from money provided by the taxpayer to keep the banks from facing bankruptcy, and with 2.5 million people presently unemployed,  the general public has exploded with a fury that even experienced journalists say they have never seen in their lives.  MPs are paying thousands of dollars back, but people are not satisfied.  The police are investigating whether there is any actual criminal fraud, and the tax authorities are inquiring whether any tax fraud has been perpetrated.  They say it’s so bad that some MPs are on suicide watch, though this might be an exaggeration.

Several MPs have been suspended, and party leaders are scrambling to convince the public that their party is getting a hold.  The Tories have agreed to post every expense claim made from today on-line the day it is submitted.

Nobody thinks it’s over.  We’re watching the news as live entertainment.

2 Comments »

  1. That’s what our news here is “Live entertainment”. Between the Politicians and the Bishops it’s never dull. Have you been following the news here with the President going to Notre Dame. The “pro-life groups never complained about the war or the death penality. Think it’s base is Republican. That’s the only thing right now the Republicans can talk about, after the mess they created.

    Like

    Comment by djc1 — May 16, 2009 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

    • Yes, the Notre Dame story did manage to squeeze out a small corner of news here. Ditto re the Bishops, although there is a fresh supply from church sources over here which is given more prominence. Several priests are serving prison terms, and a lawyer over here has just received a court decision that permits him to sue the Jesuits who abused him during high school. Between the bankers, the bishops, and the politicians, people are furious. They are right to feel betrayed by some of the greedy politicians over here, but I have a ghastly suspicion that some of the self-serving dirty tricks and lies, especially from the Republicans these days, are worse.

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      Comment by theotheri — May 17, 2009 @ 2:51 pm | Reply


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