Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Are you sitting comfortably?

I have just finished a brilliant book entitled ‘No Expenses Spared’ by Robert Winnants and Gordon Rayner. The authors are Daily Telegraph journalists and tell the story of the expense scandal as it developed last year – the leaking of the data, the SAS middleman, how the paper handled the investigation, and the development and consequences as the story took a life of its own.

It was an interesting insight into how a newspaper deals with such a large scoop, and also the bravery of certain individuals who risked their reputation and, in some cases, their liberty to take on the political establishment.

Above all, it shows how our parliamentary system is in need of reform. It is no co-incidence that some of the worst expense sinners sit in comfortable safe seats – where anyone with a blue/red rosette would win – so they get a seat for life, milk the system, avoid the spotlight, be an MP as long as they wish, and then comfortably retire with a pension and a peerage.

Half of the seats in parliament have had the same party represent them for over 40 years! So the parties concentrate on the 200 seats or so which will decide the election. It is scandalous that the votes of the people in those seats are more important than others. This is the only European country which puts up with this situation.

Last year the two large parties conveniently talked about reform – and then quietly forgot it. They will defend the current system to their last breath. It is up to the rest of us to make sure they don’t.

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