Corruption Goes Right To The Heart Of The System

There is a range of different ways of making money out of parliamentary expenses – and our politicians have milked them all.

Many of the recent revelations in the expenses scandal are centred around claims relating to housing.

Shahid Malik, the justice minister, resigned last week pending an inquiry into the unusually low level of rent he was paying to a landlord in his constituency in West Yorkshire while claiming £66,000 in allowances for his London home.

Elliot Morley, a senior backbencher, was stripped of the Labour whip after “forgetting” that he had paid off his mortgage and improperly claimed more than £16,000.

David Chaytor, a backbencher, was suspended from the parliamentary Labour party after admitting an “unforgivable error” in claiming £13,000 for a mortgage he had already repaid.

Plasma TV

Most people are outraged at the extravagance of many of the claims – such as those of Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman who claimed £1,851 for a rug imported from a New York antiques centre and had tried to claim £8,865 for a plasma TV.

But to claim expenses for mortgages that don’t exist takes corruption to a new low. Continue reading

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Expenses Scandal: Jail These Corrupt Ministers

The government hammers those most affected by the poverty and misery of Gordon Brown’s Britain with hypocrisy and draconian laws. Every week people are jailed for not paying their council tax or are dragged in front of the courts for not paying their TV licence.

It is a cliché to say that there is one law for the rich and another for the rest of us. But as it turns out there is no law for the politicians – except the rules they set for themselves.

If you are a government minister you can avoid tax, double claim expenses, have your council tax paid for you and even get the bill for a council tax summons paid for by us.

The easiest way to see the depth of the corruption, and it is corruption, is by looking at the New Labour cabinet. Continue reading

MPs’ Expenses – Kick Them All Out. A Look At True Democracy.

As the Commons’ standing falls to a historic low, with news of MPs claiming expenses for everything from piles of manure to tennis court maintenance, from cleaning moats to pruning  wisterias, there are now legitimate calls from all sections of the public for drastic action and change. Is it time to dissolve parliament, kick out all the MPs and for the public to brick by brick to build a new democracy? Let us look at democracy and what it really means:

Democracy: The Idea

Deriving from the Greek, Demos Kratos – People Power – Literally, direct self government and decision making by the people.

Today this idea is widely interpretated as indirect or representative democracy, where voters elect representatives to make decisions on their behalf.

Democracy implies varying degrees of people power, participation, representation, responsible government and consent. Democratic participation may take many forms, from voting and standing for political office to meetings, marches, demonstrations, peaceful lawbreaking and violent political opposition. Even riots and terrorist attacks have democratic claims, since they are ‘people power’ in the literal sense – although all states and governments will deny those democratic claims when such activities are directed against them.

Democracy: The Reality Continue reading

This Is Not True Democracy

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.

The speaker then told her to shut up.

But what is wrong with popular democracy? What is wrong with voters being able to hold those they elect to represent them to direct account? Continue reading

Commons Criminals

by Simon Basketter

Labour is at heart of this corrupt system

“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