On day 8 of the Profligate MP Expenses scandal, public anger seems to be increasing rather than subsiding as more and more revelations are being made public, and as the numbness by the public subsides and a real hurt and anger becomes present.
It is still unlikely, at this minute, with all that has been revealed, that Gordon Brown will be overwhelmed by public opinion into calling a General Election. I would wager more than half of us would like an election now, and would be glad to know if this question was being polled on.
However, in the hypothetical situation where an election was called, I would ask if this alone solve the problems and heal the anger that is being felt? I certainly think it would help, but it will not cut to the bone of the issue.
For starters, as the Grimsby audience of Question Time made very vocal on all of our behalf's, we simply do not, and cannot trust the current crop of MPs to resolve this problem. They can't, because they are deeply involved, they have profited, there is ZERO TRUST left.
For a lot of the 646 seats, the sitting MP will be contesting the seat and seeking re-election. But wouldn't it be better, if before the General Election, the local parties were allowed not only to have a vote on not only whether they want their MP to stand again, but additionally who they want to stand? Yes, I am talking about Primaries.
Through the blogs and the news there are a lot of constituencies that may swing because of distrust in the candidate, especially because of the current scandal. How would politics not be better served by allowing everyone who is a member of a political party the chance to kick out the candidate instead of the party? This would increase the level of accountability we hold in our MPs as they would be subject to an additional level of scrutiny. If you are involved enough in politics to want to join a party then I would argue that should be rewarded with a greater say in selecting who runs.
If for example the main parties called for open primaries and called an election for July or August, there would be a period of time in which you, could petition all candidates who wish to run for your chosen party, ask questions, see what they want to do, maybe get a sense of if they will rebel from party lines or rigidly vote as per the whip. Who wouldn't like the opportunity to ask within the party what candidates expect their expenses to be, and how they intend to claim?
There are a lot of unhappy constituents out there, who will not be voting with their politics at the next election to be sure that their MP gets kicked out. Why should decent people get stuck with rotten candidates that they do not support?
There are more concerns. If an election was called for the summer, the Speaker would probably be allowed to stand down, this would be good as we are already holding our noses, a few more weeks would save a constitutional battle. We need a new speaker, and soon, I think only a General Election can make that happen. The replacement speaker absolutely must restore honour to the House and must be absolutely seen to put his or her duties above their party's and personal advancements. Any reforms implemented by Speaker Martin now will be roundly rejected the the court of public opinion.
The question on everybody's mind is, what else are they hiding? You can not break the system and then expect the chance to be the one to rebuild it.
This expenses scandal cannot be swept away with soundbites, and it cannot be explained away with protestations about having followed the rules. If you already had a house in London, you did not need tax payers money to buy you a new one. If MPs are to be trusted with high office, they should not need a guideline to tell them this.
If you write the rules it is easy to hide behind them, they seem to ordinary people to have been designed to allow MPs to get rich whilst hiding their activities from tax payers. There is no argument, none whatsoever that can be advanced to explain away this whole situation.
If I stole from a shop and was caught years later, it would be deemed unacceptable for me to simply declare that I will hand it (or a proportion of it) back and expect that to be the end of it. MPs I have seen on TV are quick to use the term "Full Responsibility" but few seem to understand what it actually means. To MPs I would say shut your mouths, engage you brains and start doing right by your constituents; that is your job, it is your duty and it is the right thing to do.
There needs to be a cull of the current house, a few token MPs simply will not do. There needs to be a cleansed and refreshed feel to a new house that can get on with the job of rebuilding the fabric of society in the UK, regenerating a vibrant economy and restoring civil liberties. We absolutely need to know who it is we are asking us to govern and what they intend to do. Criminals belong in gaol, not Parliament.
Until that election happens we have a lame-duck Parliament that has lost any mandate to govern for us.