This whole expenses thing

June 4, 2009

I’m kind of all for the self destruction of politics as normal, transparency and accountability with politicians but…I think much of the criticism levelled at them is going a bit too far now.

Its true that using the allowance system to top up your salary is morally wrong and socially detached and has no place in a developed country. Its true that ministers shouldnt have a conflict of interest when considering capital gains tax. And for sure, thousands of pounds on TVs is ridiculous.

I even wouldn’t agree that they need a second home. I don’t have a second home at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. They should build blocks of luxury accommodation suitable for families, or use hotels if theyre on their own. This is what they do for scientists. 

“Within the rules” when its said by politicians sounds insidious. But it sounds the same when its used by journalists now too, and at some point the public have to settle on a subset of the rules which they consider fair. 

I have no problems with people claiming for bath plugs, toilet seats etc. Its fine to claim for small claims. They shouldn’t incur any expense – and isnt the criticism that theyre using the system for their profit? Surely its not this in the case of a 20p bathplug.

Gordon Brown has actually produced some good proposals for sorting the system out. He has actually finally done the right thing on this. Ten years and he didn’t – well, 18 and neither did the conservatives. And Clegg and Cameron aren’t too shoddy on it either although I disagree with some of the detail. 

Its getting ridiculous. In publically funded science now they are abolishing the per dium allowance for trips to foreign labs, which we must do all the time in particle physics. Everything will be receipted. You can actually claim more this way, potentially. The desire of course is not to save money but to have the appearance of accountability in order to appease the public. Who will soon become incredibly incensed at the BBC et al instead (well played Gordon). 

I don’t see newspapers reporting on MPs who give large donations to charity.
Thats fine, their shout. But I think we should just stop getting angry about this. British people are way too much of a shouty sweary mob, makes you wonder who pulls the strings. OH LOOK AN ECONOMIC MIGRANT! CAW!


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