Honourable no more?
It is with great sadness that I have to announce the death of the "honourable member".
Let's be clear, I am not arguing that there are no "honourable" men and women left in Parliament. There are many.
I am not saying that every "revelation" in recent days has proved MPs to be "on the take". A number of those stories have simply not stood up to scrutiny. Even the Telegraph was forced to clarify that it wasn't claiming any impropriety in the arrangement Gordon Brown made to share a cleaner with his brother (whose wife writes a revealing piece in the Guardian today).
Nor do I believe that even the worst practices revealed in the past few days justify the corrosive cynicism of the "I told you so... they're all it... they're all the same" crowd. It is now very easy for voters to compare and contrast the behaviour of individual MPs.
My point is simply that for the past 20 years or so MPs have behaved in precisely the way that they have legally prevented other groups from behaving. Trade unionists, doctors, the police and many many others used to argue that they could be trusted to manage their own affairs. Few would argue that now.
Yet the House of Commons has run itself as if Members of Parliament can and should be assumed to be honourable and, by implication, better than those they govern.
It is this idea that underpinned the creation, the exploitation and the attempt to cover up a system of allowances which has now caused such damage to the reputation of all those involved in politics.
It is now clear that parliamentary reform is likely to be imposed on MPs by external pressure from the standards watchdog, auditors and the electorate.
In the short term, many at Westminster fear that voters will react by rewarding smaller or fringe or extreme parties. The elections to the European Parliament are for an institution few voters know or care much about. Voting is done using a system of proportional representation which maximises the chances of smaller parties. In the past the Greens shocked the political establishment with huge gains in 1999 as did UKIP in 2004.
There is, of course, absolutely no guarantee that any politician not yet in Westminster is "honourable". One of those elected to the European Parliament on a UKIP ticket - the MEP Tom Wise - is currently facing charges of false accounting and money laundering which he denies. He is no longer in the party.
Honour in politics is something that, as in the rest of life, will have to earned, proved and upheld and not merely assumed.
No surprise then that the prime minister has finally felt moved to apologise albeit "on behalf of politicians, on behalf of all parties for what has happened in the events of these last few days".