Chartists on Kennington Common 1848


The present imbroglio over MPs Expenses and Allowances and, indeed, their salaries, is but a symptom, albeit a substantial one, of a serious disease that is the disjunction between governing and governed. If MPs think that they can bind this one over with Elastoplast and then carry on as before it would be unsurprising but nonetheless a grievous misjudgement.

We know, of course, that the political class has become ever more contemptuous of the people over whom they lord it.

Witness the reaction of the Blair Junto to the online petition concerning road-pricing wherein a massive number of people took the trouble to sign themselves up in support of it. Not long afterwards it became plain as a pikestaff that the relevant government departments were still pushing ahead at full speed with plans to introduce a wider range of road-pricing schemes. The Little People had been given their say, platitudinous utterances about the government ‘listening’ to the message were uttered and the petition was then consigned to the shredder.


Even more contemptuous are they of the desire of the British people to give or to withhold their consent to the EU Constitution. Every poll held on the topic over the last couple of years had demonstrated (to a level far beyond even the most cautious of pollster’s margin of error) that we want to have our say on the Treaty of Lisbon yet they feel free to patronise us with our being too stupid to understand the gobbledygook that is the Treaty (au contraire, the fact of it being in gobbledygook makes us understand it only too well) and, laughably, that the Treaty is somehow different from the Constitution rejected in 2005 by France and the Netherlands.

The problem is that it is the very conceit that they somehow actually do lord it over us that is fast unravelling. With the outbreak of the Expenses scandal fast on the heels of the much more serious ‘Donorgate’ and Hain donations scandals (Conway’s sin has been all about the enrichment of himself and his family whereas Labour’s scandals have been acts of political corruption aimed at sustaining the Labour gerrymander whereby Labour is maintained in political power for ever and a day), the political elite has taken to peering out of the windows of the Palace of Westminster at the angry crown of insurgents that has mysteriously emerged without warning.

Martin Bell, as I recounted, recently went to his former constituency of Tatton and described its denizens as being ‘in a state of insurrection’. They, of course, have had recent experience of serious, grubby sleaze of the self-enrichment variety (Neil Hamilton and the ‘cash for questions scandal of the crepuscular Major years), so they might be forgiven for be even more insurrectionist than the rest of us. But it is possible to detect from every comment section of every article that touches upon the subject online visceral anger at the activities of MPs as this concerning the Goldenballs couple, for example.


The immediate result of all this has been that the three main political parties have been falling over one another in their rush to appease us with fresh measures designed to deliver transparency to the expenses business. The problem is, however, that such efforts are thus far hopelessly inadequate.

Today David Cameron has had another stab at the problem and what he has said his front benchers will now have to do vis-à-vis their expenses is welcome but still hopelessly inadequate; in addition, Mr. Cameron indicated that there is still resistance to any sort of transparency being introduced into the system, which suggests that those who are resisiting have not visited their constituencies recently.

But it was his failure to answer Nick Robinson’s question about the suitability of David Maclean being the Tory representative on Mr. Speaker’s committee that has been appointed to pull the wool over our eyes in the matter of MPs expenses. That spoke volumes concerning the unwillingness of the political elite seriously to address the mess into which they have got themselves. Maclean was, notoriously, the MP who introduced and guided to a Third Reading in the House of Commons the Freedom of Information (Suppression Amendment) Bill, the object of which was to ensure there was no freedom of information whatsoever concerning MPs expenses.

The problem for all MPs now is that one of their number has set a benchmark of openness which will make all their efforts to get out of the ordure look deliberately obfuscatory, Ben Wallace (Con. Lancaster and Wyre) having published his 2006/2007 expenses in the sort of detail that is required for the Scottish Parliament of which he was once a member.


But, as I say, the expenses thing is merely a symptom. The main problem for the political elite is that the electorate is becoming all too aware through argument over the EU Referendum of the fact that MPs no longer do terribly much by way of governing us and legislating for the British people. Now that 80% of all forms of legislation is made in Brussels by unelected foreign bureaucrats, legislation which has to be nodded through the Parliament of the United Kingdom without so much as a comma being added by the legislative Eunuchs we are pleased to elect as MPs.

This, along with all the arguments against ratification of the EU Constitution, is something which we need to ram home at this moment when our electorate is so alive to the notion that they are being cozened by Labour and the Liberal ‘Democrats’ about the true effect of this Treaty.

The question thus arises as to whether Mr. Bell’s ‘insurrection’ is a sign that a very British revolution is taking place the object of which is to force our elected representatives to do the job that we would like them to do: to be the members of a Sovereign Parliament with plenipotentiary powers to act in the interests of the British people.

If so, MPs had best have a care: thus far it is a fairly civilised revolution. But as we have been exhorted to become more European in all things, they must have a care lest we decide to adopt the European mode of revolution: after all there is a convenient space in Parliament Square for a guillotine with no need for any tumbrills as the first victims might be found close at hand……..

I jest, of course, but the point is a serious one. The mood of the people over whom they lord it is febrile and so unlike the British that it is difficult to predict whither it will take us all. The sooner they start to take us seriously, the better for all.


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