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Is Gord’s expense plan going to make it worse?

April 22nd, 2009

Will he regret not consulting first?

I have a very cynical view of allowances and payments to elected politicians. When I became a county councillor twenty years ago we got a minimal basic amount but for every half day meeting we attended there was a £9.50 to be pocketed which was doubled plus a meal allowance if it went on after lunch. The result was that there was an incentive for meetings to to be prolonged.

This was, of course, small beer compared with what councillors get now and the amounts that MPs and MEPs receive. But the lesson is clear – if many of those we elect are given the opportunity to feather their own nest then they will.

So what are we to make of the Brown plan announced by the Number 10 video yesterday? Will it deal with the inevitable stories that are coming when all the expense documentation for all 646 of them is made available – or will it just add to the problem?

I can’t help but think that Brown might regret pushing forward without consulting Clegg and Cameron which would at least have given him cover if things went wrong. He’s made it into a party issue and he hasn’t got a good record when that has been the main criteria.

The idea of £150 or £200 payment just for turning up is fraught with dangers as the Daily Express front page this morning demonstrates. You can envisage MPs just popping into the Palace of Westminster for a few minutes so they qualify and there’ll be plenty of material for investigative journalists and enterprising bloggers.

As the recession starts to pinch any cash that’s paid to individuals from the public purse is likely to be subject to extra scrutiny and politicians need to tread warily.

And so to the first post-Smeargate PMQs and the budget. It’s back to normal.






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