The stench of corruption surrounds the House of Commons. “Clear them all out,” is the popular sentiment.
Newspaper editorials and “constitutional experts” have responded by saying that, despite its flaws, the system is the best on offer and needs to be reformed rather than replaced.
Westminster is a gentleman’s club. It has been forced to admit women and a few black and Asian MPs, but it operates as a private club, with its own rules. It looks after its own.
It can vote to go to war, in defiance of overwhelming popular opinion, as it did over Iraq in 2003.
Whenever there is any questioning of how the parliamentary system or the state operates, those in charge kick dissent into the long grass with inquiries and reports carried out by people with a commitment to the system.
Former Labour minister Patricia Hewitt’s suggestion that citizens’ juries could decide on how MPs’ expenses are paid was met with laughter from the rest of parliament.
“I want to apologise on behalf of politicians of all parties for what has happened in the events of the past few days,” Gordon Brown said this week. “We must show that we have the highest standards for our profession.”
Notice that Brown apologised only for the events of the last few days.
He said nothing about the years of MPs scamming millions in expenses.
He did not apologise for the lobbyists and business interests who swarm around parliament and decide government policy over lunch, nor for the millionaires who donate to political parties and, apparently, get nothing in return.
And most importantly he did not apologise for the repeated attacks on workers’ rights and living standards. Continue reading →