Friday, 8 May 2009

Appetite for Destruction

I'm not sure why she ever imagined that the rest of us should have to pay for her summer house, shed and pergola, but those are just some of the items Margaret Beckett tried to claim as allowable expenses. They were disallowed, but her fridge, freezer, dishwasher, drier and washing machine apparently sailed through.
Like the rest of the Cabinet, Beckett has apparently been living it up (and then some) at the expense of the rest of us. Hazel Blears claimed for not one, not two but three homes. Alistair Darling did a trolley dash round Ikea and kept changing his second home (four times in total) so that he could keep claiming for it. And so it goes on.
The Cabinet's defence, as voiced repeatedly today by the hapless Harriet Harman, is that the expenses were 'allowable' under the old rules. But the argument that they haven't broken any rules is, really, no defence at all. Because anyone who thought it acceptable to claim for three homes or an LCD TV on the country's balance sheet has shown a staggering lack of regard and respect for the people who voted them in in the first place.
Nor is it really the point that all MPs from all parties have been filing their expenses claims under the same extraordinary rules.

The most important issue is that these particular batch of expenses have been run up by the Cabinet, the men and women entrusted with running the country, and their publication is an unmitigated PR disaster. Now our image of them is not of people we can trust - but of Political Fat Cats no better than the city bankers who broke the economy.
Coming at a time when so many families have been struggling to keep their heads above water and their homes from being repossessed, this will be remembered as the moment when Labour lost the next general election.

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