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Honourable no more?

Nick Robinson | 10:50 UK time, Monday, 11 May 2009

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.

Houses of Parliament

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".


Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.


    An apology is due from you too for reporting over many years that only a very few MPs fiddled their expenses when it was widespread and Guido Fawkes and others were pointing it out all along.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    You are in danger of sounding like a kid who just found out his dad is not working abroad like mum said but is in fact in prison.

    You should know very well that parliamentary history is replete with tales and scandal and corruption, none of which meant the death of honour

    Stick to reporting the facts and let us decide who deserves to be thought of as hnourable or otherwise. It is your job to leave your hurt feelings out of it.

  • Comment number 4.

    If there were an ounce of decency left in parliament then they should call an election an let the voters decide if they have behaved in a morally acceptable manner. But that would mean democracy......will never happen

  • Comment number 5.

    David cameron needs to show clear water with Gordon Brown - the "system broke" line too similar

    Dave should ask tory mps to pay back any overclaims.

    Dave should highlight how many nurses can be funded from the overpayments to cabinet ministers....

    Is a socialst someone who avoids tax ?

    The greatest opinion poll is in three weeks

    dont vote for the government!

  • Comment number 6.

    The dissapointing thing is the attitude of so many of them.
    They think that they havent done anything wrong.
    They have been all high and mighty with us.
    The Nanny state has told us to do this and not do that. all the while pretending to be on the moral high ground.
    Now this exposure shows that they werent on moral high ground at all.
    There are large numbers of these people that have no morals at all.
    Margaret Moran was immoral in the extreme fliping her second home 3 times finally fixing her husbands dry rot.
    Lord Naseby has it correct.
    They have No Moral right to govern any more and Parliament should be dissolved

  • Comment number 7.

    We are told the tory front bench is millionaires row...

    Is the truth not that Parliament is now the millionaires club ?

    With Jacuie smith pulling in £300,000 this year in total, is the new labour front bench not a set of champayne millionaire socialists.

    Why is nick not highlighting this hipocracy ?

    GB says his raising children out of poverty.... how many more could be done if the labour ministers were frugal ?

  • Comment number 8.

    There is now only one honourable thing left for the moral compass and his honourable members to do...

    Dissolve parliament.

    Nothing less will restore the honour of parlaiment.

    He knows it.

  • Comment number 9.

    As for Gordon's "sorry" on behalf of all More Pleasers.....:

    Is it just me thinking this? "Was he the bloke who last week on youtube just wanted to hand it over as cash in hand for turning up? (In order to avoid showing the punters what they use our money for)"

    If enough of the other useless pigs had backed him, this is the "new system" we would now have.... thanks to his wonderful leadership.

    The man is, literally incredible.

  • Comment number 10.

    At the end of last week, Joanna Lumley was hailed a hero in much of the media. It was well deserved. But there were two heroes last week. The other one didn't seem to get much of a mention. Heather Brooke should get credit for tirelessly campaigning, for the last five years to get MP's expenses brought out in the open.

    Using the Freedom of Information Act she won her 'Information Tribunal' case in February 2008, which ordered the expense details be disclosed. Success you might think. No. The Speaker of the House rejected the ruling, hired an expensive legal team, at our expense BTW, and appealed to the High Court. Escalating the case from a Tribunal to a High Court was expected to 'see off' Ms Brooke. It didn't. She met them in the High Court, set out her case all over again, and won. In May 2008, the High Court judges ruled disclosure of expenses and second homes. The House of Commons, obliged to follow the order, stated they would release the information in October 2008. This time success? No. October came and went. When pressed, they revised the date to December 2008. December came and went. When MP's returned in the New year, they attempted to pervert the ruling by claiming MP's shouldn't be subject to Freedom Of Information Act! A similar attempt was made again in March 2009.

    Eventually, it was stated the information would be published inJuly 2009. In the interim, the information has leaked. What has been the response? That they've called the Police to investigate the leak of information that should have been released last October says it all.

    I didn't know much about Heather Brooke until looking at her website over the weekend, but five years ago it seems she smelled a rat, and after much digging, has found a whole colony.

  • Comment number 11.

    Nick, I disagree with you that there are honourable members left in parliament. They are all tainted because they all stood by and let it continue with a nod and a wink. It is also lamentable that we have to put up with the faux moral indignation of journalists and newspaper barons that inhabit far murkier moral environs than the fiddling MPs. Those calling for elections are also wrong because electing new people to find different ways of screwing the public purse is not the answer. We need a different democracy, that is not based solely on electing a ruling elite who know best. If you put someone above you, dont be surprised if the **** on you.

  • Comment number 12.

    "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". "

    Gordon Brown has apologised for "the events of these last few days"?

    Shouldn't he be apologising for the events of these last few years?

    It seems to me he is simply sorry that the details have come out.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think it has gone too far and I beleive the only soltuion is for the goverment to disolve parliment and call an general election.

  • Comment number 14.

    When trust is betrayed it is seldom restored.

    This country is in need of serious political reform...or a revolution!

  • Comment number 15.

    David Cameron and Nick Clegg were very quick to join Joanna Lumley in the photo-opportunities recently. Why weren't they so keen to stand alongside Heather Brooke?

  • Comment number 16.

    Just listening to Radio 5 Live and a discussion between Peter Oborne, Alex Bell and others.

    The 'audit' which is being put in place could, if MP's decide, mean that information of MP's expenses would not be available under the Freedom of Information Act. The result - no more public scrutiny of MP's expense accounts. If the audit is carried out by an outside contractor (it's already in the bag for C(r)apita!, the FoI becomes irrelevant.

    During the converstaion Oborne suggested the following: -

    Those member's 'caught in the act' resigning their seats

    Criminal preosecutions where proof can be found. Something I would suggest was not that diffciult.

    The resignation of the Speaker, Michael Martin

    Where do I vote for Peter Oborne?

  • Comment number 17.

    stuart bell has been doing the rounds explaining that in the future all expenses will be above board and open.He also says that once an outside body starts auditing the expenses that the expenses will fall outside of the FOI act covering parliament.Call me dumb but how open is that?

  • Comment number 18.

    Interesting that Gordon didn't apologise for the fact that MPs were claiming every penny they could get there sweaty hands on, but for 'mistakes'.

    I always thought that a mistake was something you did accidently?

  • Comment number 19.

    Dear Nick

    This whole Parliamentary expenses issue highlights the need for checks and balances from political party constituency level down to the House of Commons.

    As a member of Labour's National Executive Committee, recently elected in the constituency section, I am taking soundings about what we should be doing when we meet next on 19 May. Labour Party members suggestions range from deselection of sitting MPs alleged to be on the make, repayment of expenses deemed to be for personal gain, to the need for a Code of Ethics for all Labour candidates standing at the next General Election.

    These ideas are in addition to those currently under consideration by Parliament. Nevertheless, they are seen as part of the process of encouraging ethical behaviour on the part of Labour's elected representatives in line with Labour values.

    Peter Kenyon

  • Comment number 20.

    Nick, why is it "honourable" that the "Right Honourable" Gordon Brown can earn GBP194,000 and have two London properties provided "grace & favour" by us, 10 Downing Street and Chequers, and yet we have to pay his cleaning bill for a third London property?

    What is honourable about that?

    What is honourable about legislating a set of tax rules for the general population and then living under a completely seperate set of rules themselves?

    Nick, you still don't get it at all, do you?

  • Comment number 21.

    7. At 11:30am on 11 May 2009, awooga99 wrote:

    GB says his raising children out of poverty.... how many more could be done if the labour ministers were frugal ?


    He means the children of Labour MPs only.

  • Comment number 22.

    A nice peice from Gordans Sister in law, but she dosnt say why it took the cleaner 5 hours a week to clean Gordans wifes flat during a period when it was not regually used and only 3 hours to do theirs, none does she tell us why Sarah did not pay a penny towards the cleaning bill dispite being the sole owner of the flat.

    I go back to my main point why was the PM allowed to claim expenses on a flat that for Tax/Investment reasions he had transfered full owner ship to his wife before moving into Number 10/11.

  • Comment number 23.

    The accomodation expenses claimed by most MP's seems to be 23000 pounds. Does anybody know, incl Nick Robinson, how many nights they're required to be at Westminster.

    How many weeks does Parliament sit each year - 25 weeks or so? So they just need somewhere to stay Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, and occasionally Thursday night. About 90 nights a year?

  • Comment number 24.

    Our MPs snouts are so deep in the expenses trough that their tails have gone curly. Its little surpise they can barely come up for air long enough to oink "we operated within guidelines"

    So to save them the trouble (we appreciate they're very busy people) Rip Her To Shreds has gone all creative on their behalf, and this week on our Spotify playlist - following in the hallowed footsteps of Jarvis Cocker
    We want to live like Common's People....

    Rip her To Shreds

  • Comment number 25.

    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".

    I think he may have been moved by the fact that Cameron had beaten him to it again.

    Is your latest brief to persuade Labour supporters not to vote for the fringe parties?
    And do all Brown's claims really stand up to scrutiny?

  • Comment number 26.

    "Let's be clear, I am not arguing that there are no "honourable" men and women left in Parliament. There are many."

    Simply making a statement like this does not make it so. Who are these "honourable" politicians (even typing those words makes me laugh)? We need names and examples of their supposedly honourable behaviour (and simply saying they didn't exploit the expenses system as badly as others is not good enough). No one "honourable" person would be part of the racket MPs have clearly been running for years getting even their most trivial home expenses bad by the tax payer (when we can't even get tax relief on the season tickets we need to get into work).

    Sorry, but statements that we can't tar all politicians with the same brush without any attempt to support that statement and in the absence of any supporting evidence just make me really angry at the moment.

  • Comment number 27.

    Today, on BBC Radio 4, Mr Robinson seems to have implied that The Telegraph is biased.

    I can not remember Mr Robinson questioning The Guardian's political stance. Neither that of the BBC, which very well knows that the conservatives will fund it less generously than any other main stream political party.

    I can't wait for Mr Robinson producing a feature about labour purchasing favourable reports and comments in The Guardian through channeling many public sector jobs adds to that paper and its website. This has been a very clever scheme indeed. Campbell deserves praise for this one.

    PS The expenses gravy train does not exist - it was reported in The Telegraph!

    PS2 Illegally generating income from subletting your constituency office, as Brown did, is perhaps even worse than milking the expense system, since it is, em, illegal. Now that HMRC is looking into MPs' tax returns, we can expect Brown's returns to be examined for income from subletting his constituency office. It would be nice to hear Brown say that he always declared the rental income.

  • Comment number 28.

    I had a row with my wife a few weeks ago saying that in my limited experience - as someone who worked in local government - MPs were not venal and utterly flawed. Today I had to say that she was right and I was wrong.

    Nothing short of mass resignations is going to go any way to restoring public confidence; no MP who 'switched' the designation of 'second home' to get more public money for re-furbishments and can remain. None of them. Only MPs with a 'clean' expenses history can go forward.

    Why this has to happen was clear to me when I read The Guardian this morning, where MPs like Vaz and ministers like Blears were quoted, and it occurred to me that I did not trust a single thing they said, nor felt they had the moral authority necessary to be part of government.

    We need to purge Parliament. God only knows where this might end, but our elected representatives only have themselves to blame.

  • Comment number 29.

    The problem for Brown, Nick, is that he has had the chance to act. He could have acted by sacking Jacqui Smith when her arrangements became public - declaring her sister's bedroom as her "main residence" was clearly milking the taxpayer and the system. He could have acted to sack Tony McNulty when his dubious arrangements became public. Brown could have apologised for such behaviour weeks ago, but he did not! Brown could have entered into meaningful negotiations with other party leaders on how to clean the system up weeks ago, but he did not.

    The problem for Brown is that he cannot think outside the box of narrow party political advantage. He is simply not up to the job of being Prime Minister! Call an election now!

  • Comment number 30.

    Nick - please get a buzzer to be used everytime you hear an MP saying "I did nothing outside the rules" or "My claims were approved, because I got paid."

  • Comment number 31.

    What a thoroughly depressing episode. Just when we need inspirational leadership from our politicians, we get confirmation that they are indeed motivated by the lowest common deniminator - greed. One wonders how some have the effrontery to be seen in public.

    Given that the Crashmeister has 'apologised', no doubt he will feel he can now move on. In reality, I doubt that this parliament can now achieve anything meaningful. There is clearly no prospect that Crash will do the decent thing, so perhaps the other parties should agree, en masse, to resign their seats and force a few hundred by-elections, taking the opportunity to drop the worst offending troughers while they are at it.

    It would certainly put the Labour Party in a bit of a spot and may encourage some of the more honourable members to follow their lead.

  • Comment number 32.

    There is a point that the "Westminster Village" has missed in all of this.
    How can the Great British public trust their politicans to run the country in a thrifty manner (which is long overdue) if they can't even spend and claim on expenses in a thrifty manner. Why should we be surprised that billions have been wasted over the last number of years when they are so profilgate with our money for their expenses.

    And another thing, It seems to me that all weekend the media have been itching to get the low down on Tory expenses. This is an indication that the tory stuff is a bigger news story, further showing that Labour are finished. Also note how Gordon Brown was again shamed into apologising only after Cameron had again taken the lead by doing so last night. Are the tories now the power but not in power?

  • Comment number 33.

    The most obnoxious aspect is the claim that so long as they abide by the rules (set by MPs) they have done no wrong and are absolved from any personal responsibility to act reasonably and in accordance with the spirit of the intention of the allowances.

    They can no longer point the finger at Fred Goodwin - only the sums are different; the principle is the same.

  • Comment number 34.


    Could you put together a forensic analysis of the MP expenses fiasco for us with a more objective view. What about a league table of expenses claims, total amount and broken down by category? This could also include distance to parliament and the time the MP spent in London. Then, instead of having the highest claimants at the top of these leagues lets have the lowest. They are the examplars that show what can be done on an MP wage and allowances. Champion their cause to shame the rest. Difficult I know without all the expenses information yet.

  • Comment number 35.

    I am very sorry to say, but I will now be voting BNP

  • Comment number 36.

    Is anybody watching the Army? A coup d'etat is quite possible.

  • Comment number 37.

    They just do not appreciate what they have done - and are totally failing to answer the issues. Hazel Blears stands there beaming all over saying how she has "broken no rules" and "done nothing wrong" but totally failes to answer why the taxpayer needs to buy her two TVs in a single year. At least Prescott has gone quite, but he really should be explaining why or hard earnt cash went to pay for his mock Tudor beams (ignoring "the bad rules"). Broad sweeping comments on the rules they set are not enough - there are specific problems that need answers.

    When pensioners are "heating or eating", why are we paying for MPs to own a house, whilst at the same time they are getting rental income from the same property (or e.g. parents living in it) and also paying for a "grace and favour" home to be provided. When they just go quite and make statements about "acting within the rules" it just makes everything worse.

    This country is run by rules (sometimes called Laws). These rules (or Laws) are set by Parliament. We need to know that this body can set sensible rules. If they cannot, we need people who can. Browns last minute attempt to change the system for an already discredited system just so he can say "we've changed it" is just a joke. Labour, the party in power, have has many years to sort these "bad rules" out and done nothing.

  • Comment number 38.

    Nick - PLEASE stop spinning ZanuLabour guff for once and for all - we, the taxpayers, pay your wages, do not forget it. As for Hon Members - do not make me laugh anymore, it hurts.
    As another HYS contributor said -report the FACTS for once and get a REAL story sometime - look at Guido for help.

  • Comment number 39.

    Yes, I said on the other blog: Brown apologising for what has happened during the last "few days" is not enough. He needs to apologise for the years of moral and economic bankruptcy he has imposed upon us.

    As regards the European Elections they are a huge chance for us to seriously vote in people of integrity and honesty with the conviction that they are acting for the greater good of us all. We need to be able to TRUST them and the next government (can we wait until next year for a GENERAL election?).

  • Comment number 40.

    I agree with your point that the presumption of being honourable for an MP is now in tatters.

    The lurch to minor or even extreme parties you mention is a threat to the major parties which they don't like.

    However, is this not just democracy in action - sending a signal to our current rulers that the voters have been taken for granted for too long and indeed not even properly listened to on many issues.

    Surely this is a healthy thing and will lead over time to the renewal of confidence in our elected representatives.

  • Comment number 41.

    I wish to make a contribution to the debate over the expenses claimed by Members of Parliament. There is a great variety in the housing and the types of expenses they claim for. Make it an even playing field. After the Olympics, redesign the competitors' accommodation to give every MP a London base. If they decide not to use it, then give them an equivalent allowance towards their own choice.

  • Comment number 42.

    Nick, by implication you are saying that those MPs who, while not having their hands in the till themselves, but must have known and ignored their colleagues dodgy dealings, should still be credited with the term 'honourable'.
    Sorry Nick, but the whole House is tainted and will remain so until it is dissolved.

  • Comment number 43.

    Grandantidote and Fredalo on the blog recently closed agrreing to visit a plague on all the MPs houses:(sorry but it was closed before I had time to make my point).
    #565 and 584:

    Very convenient to lump all the parties together as a bad lot and not worth electing just because of The MPs expenses. These issues although they currently loom large in the publics image of politicians is only a small part of the bigger picture. The woeful policies on immigration, the mismanagement of the economy, the spin and lies at every turn, the lack of leadership and plain old fashioned judgement are far greater issues when all this has died down and decent, fully transparent rules are in place. Tar all parties with the same brush on expenses certainly but in the larger scheme of things we still have to deal with a financial shambles partially created by the current Government. Let's get back to what really matters.

  • Comment number 44.

    The people of the UK do not want an appology they want it put right:
    All MP expenses errors corrected
    All MP expenses excessive claims repaid
    All MP expenses fraud investigated and prosecuted
    All MP's that have made unreasonable claims to stand down at the next election
    All MP's expenses that would normaly be taxable taxed
    All MP's capital Gains to be treated properly and taxed.
    All MP's that have fraudulently avoided capital gains tax prosecuted.
    A replacement expenses system that applies rules such that all future expenses are wholly, necessarily and exclusively in support of their role as MP's and fits the ethos that we all expect.

  • Comment number 45.

    Is Gordon really sorry or only sorry they got found out?

    I was intending to make a comment about the Speaker - Michael Martin - but then realised I could not do it without using language that would never pass the moderators.

  • Comment number 46.

    I believe the Michel Gove situation this morning has clearly shown that this Parliament cannot and will not, ever gain enough credibility to enforce laws and the necessary hardship that will be required to turn this country around.

    On the face of it Gove is bang to rights. If this is not the case and he has a perfectly reasonable argument to re-designate his primary residence it does not matter because all MPs credibility has now be shattered so there is nothing he or anyone else can say to rectify that.

    This current collection of MP's can no long form an Honourable Parliament and need to renew their mandates. This is the only way we can move forward.
    I think Cameron and Clegg should force all of their MPs to resign and force hundreds of by elections.
    This would leave Brown with a fate a comply. Call an election or be seen to be acting out self-interest hanging on to power.
    Then was need a root and branch reform of Parliament and it workings to take away the elected dictatorship we suffer.
    We need MP's to have secret ballots so that bad laws cannot be whipped through.

  • Comment number 47.

    It may not have been 'improper' the arrangement between Gordon Brown and his brother, but why do we have to pay his cleaner? Surely out of his salary of £194,000 he can pay for something. Or do all politicians now think that the salary is just a perk and any expenses they have for whatever reason the taxpayer should be obliged to foot the bill?

  • Comment number 48.

    What is really sickening is how many of them are trying to hide behind the rules, when it's stated at least twice in the rule book that MPs are themselves responsible for the nature of their expenses. Not the fees office, not any regulator or parliamentary body, the buck stops with them. There can be no trust in MPs if they have their hands in the cookie jar every time the electorate turns its back for a second. At the same time, they also want us to give increasing power to the police, curtail our civil liberties, hold obscene amounts of data on us and tax us until we have no choices whatsoever about how we lead our lives.

    The one thing that this has shown overall is that if a system is open to abuse, the government will abuse it.

  • Comment number 49.

    I take no sides in apportioning who is on the take or not. I'm not going to blame Gordy for this, its a red herring, they are all at it. I dont want to see anyone attempt to take the moral high ground and try and distance themselves from this, ie Cameron saying sorry, then Brown. It was the whole of parliament that said no to Browns proposal a few weeks ago, rightly or wrongly, this still told us that Parliament at that point had no thoughts on their wrong doing. Only now when caught with their hands in the cookie jar, are they trying to wriggle and worm their way out of it.

    Bottom line country is in a mess, corruption is rife, time to do away with the whole damn lot of them, and start again with a new improved system of government, there will never be a better time to do it.

    And to prove that there is real reform, and to act as a warning to future government, we need to see some prison time handed out to various members
    T Blair, G Brown to start the list , but you can add more here, that IS the only way to say sorry.

  • Comment number 50.

    'within the rules' sounds more and more like 'only following orders' to me - its no excuse.

  • Comment number 51.

    What leave the significant bit to the last paragraph of your post Nick?

    This has turned into a day of two apologies, two Browns and too late!

    After hiding away for days in the bunker while the flippin' New Labour expenses scam exploded in his face, Brown suddenly pops up to say 'sorry', sort of.

    But interestingly only after the Tories were exposed and Cameron got in quick with an apology for his lot. I can't get my head round exactly which bits Brown is apologising for. What a joke.

    Whatever your political colours, it's all a tad too little too late.

    More interesting is the highly unusual move of Tory peers who usually keep their noses out of commons affairs now calling for a general election to clear the air.

    I would suggest that's the political story Nick and anything else is a smokescreen.

  • Comment number 52.

    Labour's scheme of buying favourable reporting in The Guardian through placing public sector jobs adds illustrated:

    From The Guardian's website a few minutes ago:

    Senior Practitioners
    hampshire county council. hampshire. £29,598 - £33,315 per annum.

    Library Assistant
    tfpl. our client is looking for a saturday library assis. £8 per hour.

    Senior Teacher (Ethnic and Language Minority Suppo
    surrey county council. surrey area office (to be agreed). UPS TLR 2.2.

  • Comment number 53.

    Just been listening to both Brown and Cameron saying SORRY, and boy how HOLLOW this "WORD" now sounds after the events of the past 3 Days in Wasteminster Politics.

    If, by ANY MEASURE of a chance they have any honour left in them, then there is but ONLY one thing left for ALL M.P.s' to really do, and that thing is to RESIGN on Mass so that the People can now decide whom they want to re-elect to Parliament in the future, and thus will be more ACCOUNTABLE in Terms of being worthy of their trust.

    So being SORRY is NOT the Answer: RESIGNING IS. SO CALL A GENERAL ELECTION. NOW, and test the water in the Court of Public Opinion.

  • Comment number 54.

    I quote the Archbishop of York who said
    "Parties once had a principal belonging to them absurd perhaps and indefensible, but still carrying a notion of duty, by which honest minds might easily be caught.
    But they are now combinations of individuals, who, instead of being the sons and servants of the community, make a league for advancing their private interests. It is their business to hold high the notion of political honour. I believe and trust, it is not injurious to say, that such a bond is no better than that by which the lowest and wickedest combinations are held together; and that denotes the last stage of political depravity."
    It was, I believe, William Markham who said this in 1777. No much has changed in almost 250 years -

  • Comment number 55.

    We all need to calm down and try to solve the problem pragmatically. Yes, the idea that the men and women elected to represent us are fiddling in the till is just repulsive and brings shame on our country and our Parliament. But GB is right to a certain extent because the 'rules', such as they are, are woolly, and simply invite creative interpretation. It's been going on so long that expense claiming has become institutionalised and it's quite possible that many MPs simply thought that that's how the game was played.

    As with children, if there are no boundaries then chaos reigns, with each MP pushing at the boundaries to see how far they can go. They should not behave like this of course, but it's human nature to try it on, and a decent corporate organisation should realise that rules have to be set in stone. There has been a gross failure of the management system, and this needs to be put right. Where clear breaches of the rules can be proven then disciplinary action must be taken, but I suspect that there are so many omissions and loopholes that this will prove impossible. All the screaming for a general election, revenge, and MPs blood won't prevent this happening again unless the rules are changed some clarity is brought in. This is a serious matter, requiring serious thought, not shouting and witch-hunting.

  • Comment number 56.


    Thank you for sharing your epiphany with us, but as part of the Westminster lobby did you not have any prior suspicions, any inkling, that some of these politicians you've shared the occasional drink with, had off-the-record conversations with, just maybe were not all 100% above board and pure as the driven snow?

    608. yellowbelly1959 on previous blog:
    I think he was using irony, and quoting from "Animal Farm".

    I got that, thanks yellow, but I was also doing irony, not well enough by the looks of it.

  • Comment number 57.

    The whole philosophy of government needs to change from the "current do as we say not as we do" to leadership by example. The nations leaders must take the high ground and show moral integrity which the nation can follow. How can a ruler expect people on the average wage who cannot afford one home let alone two or more to accept the living standards demanded by MP's paid for out of their taxes?

  • Comment number 58.

    The issues around the public's perception of MPs won't be resolved simply by fixing the expenses system. In addition the main offenders must be fired from the cabinet and shadow cabinet by their respective party leaders. Only punitive measures of this sort will demonstrate that Brown and Cameron are truly committed to the improvement process.

  • Comment number 59.

    · 5. At 11:27am on 11 May 2009, awooga99 wrote:
    David cameron needs to show clear water with Gordon Brown - the "system broke" line too similar.

    Theres no clear water to be seen here because the system is the same one that has been in force for a long time & (ab)used by all of the Political Parties.
    Camerons a smart cookie & he knows that the further he takes this, the further he digs himself, & his party, into the same hole as Brown.
    Notice how quiet Cameron became when he realised that the Telegraph was about to print some of the Tory expenses a couple of days later.
    All MPs are brothers in arms when it boils down to their own existence.
    You also wrote:

    Dave should highlight how many nurses can be funded from the overpayments to cabinet ministers.

    Or he could highlight how many auditors jobs the savings will create as well since this is a far more likely scenario.

    Im afraid that all of this is small fry compared with the economic melt down that is taking place before our eyes.
    Don't let the smoke screen cloud your vision.

  • Comment number 60.

    Utterley disgraceful action by all MPs. They all knew it was going on yet did nothing. The Speaker should be sacked as he is totally in on all the scamming and trying to prevent the informtion going public is criminal. Thank goodness for GOOD journalists.

    you have tended to shy away from this subject ever since the MPs asked about your expenses; are you hiding something too?

    Can I submit a FOI application for your expenses being a public funded body?

  • Comment number 61.

    A Brown "apology" - but this is the man who had nothing to do with McBride and the email smears. McBride "cannot be found" to talk to the HoC.

    Doubtless the honourable members of the Labour Party are trying to pressure the HoC members?

    But in the end the truth about Iraq and McBride and the economic fiasco will come out and hopefully all before the next general election.

  • Comment number 62.

    Read the opinion polls and see what the people really think about this .. our 'dear leader' has the lowest party poll record since they began in the 1940's - just about says it all really..
    I remmevr John Redwood's sense of humour about the 1997 wipeout on election night - please can I request that McNulty is the Labour spokeperson in 2010 - I'd like to see that ..

  • Comment number 63.

    So Nick, how about some views an what you think is unacceptable behaviour?

    Is claiming a second home allowance fraud when the person is already provided with a grace & favour home?

    Is "flipping" addresses to claim on both houses acceptable?

    Is "flipping" addresses to evade capital gains tax illegal?

    Is claiming expenses on your seaside home acceptable?

    What should happen to those who engage in the above?

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 65.

    All together now, to the tune of the Red Flag

    "The working class can kiss my ....(you know how it goes)
    I`ve got my M.P.`s job at last".

    Not to mention the pension, the directorships, the second careers.

    Get rid of them and their dishonoured system. They could all become authors, they have enough imagination, good at creating works of fiction, and they don`t seem to suffer from writer`s block.

    Can`t wait for the next thrilling episode.

  • Comment number 66.

    I could have sworn that David Cameron apologised yesterday.

    Why no mention of that on your blog? Is it

    a) You forgot.
    b) It doesn't matter
    c) It makes your blogg look as Mr brown is sincere when to all and sundry he is merely catching up?

  • Comment number 67.

    The thing that worries me is that so much of our MPs remuneration is coming from playing the housing market using their expenses and overgenerous pensions.

    This has to have an effect on public policy - if the housing price bubble had been 'pricked' early by the Bank of England raising interest rates it would have cost our property sepeculating MPs a lot of money. It is no coincidence the measures to deal with the credit crunch were designed to protect the property market and banks. The pension system obviously needs reformed because the promises made are unfundable given increased life expectancy, a population bulge in those approaching retirement and reduced yields on investments. However, MPs as a major beneficiary of public sector pensions have a vested interest in protecting them. Billions are going to be sucked from productive industry to bail out public sector pension funds e.g. £6 to £12Bn for Royal Mail depending on who you believe.

    The cost of MPs expenses and pensions is small compared with the structural damage to the economy from distorting MPs compensation. How can reforms succeed when our MPs own finances are dependent on property prices and public sector pensions.

  • Comment number 68.

    Of course you're making excuses for them, so eager to suggest it's only a tiny minority who are thieves and scam artists - you're part of the same cabal of metropolitan liberal-left media-politico elites. Sneaky leaks from the government and other MPs are your bread and butter. The BBC would defend them to the ends of the earth.

  • Comment number 69.

    If you look beyond the froth and self righteous indignation, no-one has exactly made a fortune, have they? If we keep on pillorying our MP's with often slanted and distorted claims of wrong doing, what will we risk eventually getting? MP's who can afford the expenses from their substantial private means,so having little connection with the lives of the rest of us, or, even worse, the extremist ideologue who pursues their objectives with little regard for themselves-the Party is all. Do we really want a Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot type in charge. I don't mitigate the tax "avoidance" aspects, or the seemingly petty claims, but I do worry about constant media denigration of politicians of all parties.
    Can we see journalists and editors expenses please as well as their salaries, pensions funding and bonuses? Or will pigs fly first?

  • Comment number 70.

    Don't forget, all we've seen so far are the expense claims of cabinet and shadow cabinet members - there's still all the backbenchers to come... bound to be some juicy stuff there.

    Here's a prediction - there will be at least one MP claiming expenses for a 'second home' in London that his wife doesn't know about.

  • Comment number 71.

    17. At 11:39am on 11 May 2009, digitalabingdonian wrote:
    stuart bell has been doing the rounds explaining that in the future all expenses will be above board and open.He also says that once an outside body starts auditing the expenses that the expenses will fall outside of the FOI act covering parliament.Call me dumb but how open is that?

    Very good point, and a most worrying one.
    As I said on the previous blog, it would appear that rather than trying to clean up their act, the Parliamentarians are desperately seeking another way of concealing their dirty deeds.
    No wonder the public think they are a load of crooks.

  • Comment number 72.

    Come on Nick, all this talk of a 'bygone era' in which politicians were considered virtuous and Parliament an honourable institution, doesn't really ring true does it?

    Certainly since the eighteenth-century, the term 'politician' was a slippery one and, as your recent Radio 4 programme on Walpole made clear, a trade that revolved around MONEY.

    And would Machiavelli have been surprised at the Commons' 'startling' money-grabbing expenses?

    Let's be clear. Politics is NOT and has never really been a morally pure, 'honourable' profession; a scrupulously honest politician is a short-lived one. But let us not despair. Within this framework of slipperiness, the British political system is *not* corrupt. Cash-for-questions, cash-for-honours, and fiddled travel expenses look like a children's tea-party compared with, say, mafia-run Italian politics or the corrupt Croatian (or even French) systems.

    Should journalists not amplify this message a little more? More European context please.

  • Comment number 73.

    Now let's see : an unnecessary , highly destructive and damaging war . Destruction of Britain's reputation . Massive attacks on the freedoms of the British . Bad culture . Economic slump 2002 , economic disaster 2007 , 8 , 9 +++ . Rorting the system - snouts well and truly in the troughs both in parliament and for their mates . Relying on spin rather than actuality - avoiding the responsibilities . Massive government overspend . Many mismanaged government department improvement projects - inefficiency and wastage built in rather than taken out . Destruction of Britain's competitiveness . Destruction of Britain . ... and the list goes on and on ... And the opposition is no better . No wonder the politicians do not have any credibility . They are supposed to know what they are doing . And they are supposed to be professional , moral and responsible people . We would have been far better off if we had elected a set of shop keepers - at least the economy would have been managed properly . Now we have parliament fiddling and rorting while Britain burns !!! What does it take to sort out these people ? In previous times it was a revolution - hopefully it won't get to that . These politicians just don't seem to get to grips with the gravity of the situation they have created . People - sort it ! And quick !!!!

  • Comment number 74.

    I Agree Nick, The term honorable is dead and gone. The expense row and the Gurka issue, are only a few to mention. I have lost all trust in MP's, and have decided not to vote at the next election because MP's are not there for the country, but are there for themselves.

  • Comment number 75.

    Always the Creedy never the needy. I would love a 68k job and these people have the nerve to not only take the cash but bump it up with a load of 'expensies'. Doesnt suprise me that Nick robinson writes with some sympthy as Im sure there are many media types at the BBC that claim very simliar 'expensies' at cost to the tax payer.

  • Comment number 76.

    In all this handwringing I do not see te costs of all the PM's trips around the world and expenses incurred there. Are they all within bounds of acceptability ?

  • Comment number 77.

    I think there is a difference between expenditure that looks excessive but was nonetheless money the MP actually spent, and things which if done by "an ordinary person" would possibly result in jail time.

    If someone on benefits claimed twice the rent they actually paid over an extended period, they would have a visit from the police and face prosecution even if they offered to pay the money back, as the ad says, No IFs No BUTs.

    I also hope that HMRC is able to take retrospective action against all those MPs who did up properties using their second home allowance, and then avoided Capital Gains Tax when they subsequently sold those properties.

  • Comment number 78.

    Just to throw in an aspect that seems not be covered.

    Under what circumstances can the monarch step in and desolve Parliment ?

    Does the monarch have such authority ? If so, this must surely be a case where such authority should be used. The credibily of Parliment has been shedded. Trust has gone. The democratic system has been corrupted and the country should be given the opportunity to remove those MPs who have so abused our trust.

  • Comment number 79.

    This parliament needs to be dissolved and a general election called.

    There are 4 issues which justify this:

    1. MP's and ministers have been abusing expenses

    2. There has been an attack / smear unit operating inside Downing Street

    3. The PM has knowingly mis-led parliament according to Labours former general secretary.

    4. We have an unelected PM committing the country to billions of expenditure debt and he has also reneged on manifesto commitments.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 80.

    Well, just heard Nick Griffin on Daily Politics and my feelings are justified. I will definitely vote BNP. The others have discredited themselves and the Labour Government are responsible for eleven years of hell and mess and niavity. They have let this country become overrun with people who want to call themselves British and, as Nick Griffin says, if we go to Pakistan would we become Pakistanis? Of course not. Before you criticise me come and see where I live and others in the country live, in ghettos overrun by foreigners trying (and succeeding) to take over our country, customs and laws.

    There it is. Simple and unadorned. Mad, niave, do-gooder, politically correct Labour stinks. Conservatives have a few rotten apples too many too.

    I am voting for change but not for the established incompents. Watch the European elections. Big eye opener. Huge.

  • Comment number 81.

    The Key Question: How many politicians complained about it before the system they created/profited from was exposed? ... The next Key Question: How many politicians tried to stop it being exposed?

    With regard to honor, a phrase used by Chaucer to Adhemar (in the film a Knight's Tale) comes to mind and can be used for any politicians who did not complain about it earlier ...

    "You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting".

    A new breed of politician is now needed - where values are demonstrated and not simply espoused. A new form of 'economics' is also required - one not based on "Poweromics" *

    Let's hope we have not long to wait before hard-working people wish it so and are given more meaningful forms of democracy to make it so. One vote every 5 years hardly does this, especially as most votes count for very little as it's only marginal constituencies that normally determines who Governs - proportional representation would arguably be a start - but we don't even have that ... more Poweromics I'm afraid!

    David Clift, a Future 500 leader, founder of Leanomics** and a Poweromics* blogger

    * Poweromics = People use position and power for their own personal gain, based on poor moral values, self interest and greed.

    ** Leanomics = People take responsibility for adding value and continuously improving the situation for others (e.g. customers, communities, overall environment), based upon fundamental values such as trust, honor, responsibility and respect.

    The internet has changed the rules and will transform everything, including 'politics' and 'economics'. Google's mantra is "Do no harm". The Leanomics mantra is "Do good".

  • Comment number 82.

    Once again Cameron leads and Brown follows.

    Also, I notice that Brown does not say sorry for himself - but sweeps the world and his wife up in the apology - thereby tying to act as a spokesman rather than telling the truth - that he is one of those with the biggest snouts in the taxpayers pocket.

    I would like to think that in 3 weeks Brown might get the message when he is wiped out at the polls - and decide to go by summer. But that would be the act of an HONOURABLE man.

    So it's a Winter of despair to look forward to then.

  • Comment number 83.

    In the outside world, if you bring your place of employment into disrepute then you would lose your job and all entitlements

    I would suggest as a first step, all monies not defendable are paid back straight away to the public purse, and all expenses stopped until such time as a new system is in place (this should concentrate people's minds)

    The Police and Tax man investigates all these expenses for possible law breaking or tax avoidance, and then prosecutions undertaken. All such MP's to be disbarred from their pensions

    The house to be dissolved at the first opportunity, and a new mandate sought

    Otherwise Nick I'm not quite sure what you intend in the article. Seems quite poor and probably needs many more words...I suggest you think about writing an essay discussing the options

  • Comment number 84.

    Regrettably,I differ. MPs in Parliament are there to represent and protect the interests of the people but what these episodes and others over the years show is the opposite. What now needs to be asked are these questions:

    What is Parliament for and does it fulfill that purpose?

    If not, how do we reform it root and branch?

    How do we ensure that the wishes of the electorate rather than vested interests here and abroad are paramount?

    Who (not auditors) should be ensuring that MPs act with propriety, honesty and integrity?

    Only when a meaningful public duscussion takes place on these issues will meaningful reform be possible.

  • Comment number 85.

    Having now read the green book on allowances and how and in what spirit they should be claimed many of the people have totally ignored the rules knowing that they cannot lose their employment for breach's so they have taken the chance to line there own pockets.

    It is now blatantly obvious why they also wanted to make sure that we weren't allowed to find out about it through the freedom of information act and the delays in publishing the results should be investigated why have we had to wait and in who's interest was it.

    When reform comes an apology will not be enough i'm afraid and breach's of the rules should result in a by election.

    Lets be fair about this there should be criminal prosecutions in many of these cases many that have been mentioned are nothing less than systematic fraud.The "saying the rules are wrong line" from messers Blears and company just doesnt cut the mustard because until they were outed they hadnt mentioned once how wrong they were,whilst still lining there own pockets.

    Only an election will decide if the public believe them ,let us decide who we think has been giving value for money.

    What also needs to be done is to go through all the Euro MP's claims too and quickly because i am certain we will find worse happening there.

  • Comment number 86.

    So now Brown has apologised about these "mistakes". For goodness sake, does he really expect us to believe that these were mistakes? "Oops, I accidentally made a claim for an antique fireplace at the taxpayers expense?" It's laughable. What makes this situation even worse is that they cannot stand up and admit they have done anything wrong. They have routinely abused their privileges and in some cases clearly enriched themselves at the taxpayers expense; and they did everything within their power to stop us finding out. But now we are supposed to accept that these were all mistakes? Who do you vote for now?

  • Comment number 87.

    Oh please, don't treat us as one short of the dozen. Whenever there is money involved honour tends to come a very close second last. This has and will still continue to be norm either if you have so called democracy or being governed by someone with an alleged divine right! Simply when a thief is caught with their hands in the till, if it were a Muslim I'm pretty sure the offending hand is cut off. Only then will you see a return to the Honourable status be assured!

  • Comment number 88.

    I was only thinking the other day of the way Mark Anthony managed to turn the crowd so that, to their ears, the phrase "honourable men" meant the exact opposite. Now, thanks to its use by our politicians, the phrase "within the rules" also means its total opposite.

    It's time to totally modernise our political system to a post Enlightenment style system, like most of Europe and the US, not this feudal-based system that has no written constitution and is so open to abuse.

  • Comment number 89.

    In case anyone doubts Gordon's sorry, take a look at the way he would have already solved the problem if it wasn't for his own pesky MPs..... and Cam and Clegg....

    Flate rate.... cash in hand.... that will learn them to ask what we spend it on.


  • Comment number 90.

    Apologising for the events of the last few days is contemptible. The events of the last few years is what we want apologies for and where appropriate people should lose the whip/be sacked etc.

    Tax avoidance is something the PM has lectured about over recent months to such an extent that some in the public eye have suggested they would leave the country. Personally I am not in that position but were I to be I would be very sorely tempted to leave, as it seems one rule for MPs and one rule for the rest of us. Capital Gains Tax being avoided in such a manner as Hazel Blears would be a major investigation by Inland revenue and a prosecution - I fail to see how this cannot be the case with her!

  • Comment number 91.

    There is a distinct parallel between MP's expenses and the recent banking crisis. It is called greed. It was sustained by the idea that money was easy.

    As anyone who has had to produce a pay cheque each month knows money does not come easy. It has to be worked for and sometimes it doesn't go right so you take the consequences. This is life, this is how it is and so why is it that those in Westminster and the City took the alternative view and insulated themselves from reality with other people's money?

    We are now living in the aftermath of the biggest bender in the history of Britain. There is an annual budget deficit of GBP 225 billion. It is going to take years to rebuild the banks and our economy. The people who should be taking the lead in resolving these issues are proven to be functionally immoral.

    We have a big problem yet it is down to us, the little people to deal with it. Yes, we need a General Election but we need it to be an angry one and MPs voted for not on the basis of party but on the basis of integrity. We need independent candidates to run against the biggest swindlers to point out their moral deficiencies at every turn of the campaign.

    We must make sure the swindlers, whoever they are, are held to account and made to drink bitter and angry waters.

  • Comment number 92.

    I beleive Mr Brown has today apologised on behalf of all politicians for the 'mistakes' that have been made with regard to expenses claims. Although many have defended their claims by responding that they acted within the rules it was obvious to them then and to us now that they knew it was morally wrong and they were cheating the system. The fact that these people have stood solidly behind the word 'honourable'for all of these years leaves me speechless. However, let them begin to restore trust ... the government admitted some time ago that they had made 'mistakes' with peoples tax credits and then forced these poor people who didnt know they had been overpaid, to fully pay back those amounts. They were given no choice. Now let an independant commitee look at all those expenses claims and decide which are legitimate and those that are not. Those that are not should be forced to pay back all of that money in exactly the same way the public were given no choice in the matter - then watch them squirm!

  • Comment number 93.

    Gordon Brown has just apologised at the RCN for the problems of the "Last few days" and there you have it. The problem for MP's is that they have been found out, which has happened over the last few days and not with their practices, which have been going on for years. Far from being contrite, they are just upset at having been found out, and Browns Freudian slip proves it. I agree that they should have the Rt Hon, removed and that it should be reinstated, on an individual basis when earned. What amazes me is not just that these MP's have misjudged the public mood, by their trite "It was within the rules" bleatings, they further indicate that they are actually INCAPABLE of interpreting the public mood. and a politician who cannot judge the public mood is about as much use as a handbrake on a canoe. I really do think that this Parliament should be dissolved

  • Comment number 94.

    #55 LippyLippo: Nice to see a bit of common sense.

    While I agree with your basic argument entirely, I have to say that my previously expressed confidence in the essential probity of MPs has been badly shaken (and that probably is an understatement). The fact is that not all MPs have been acting in this disreputable way - I think for example (based on hearsay, I admit) that Hillary Benn's total claim amounted to £147. If he and others were not conditioned by decades of following the herd then people like Gove and Blears should have been able to resist as well

  • Comment number 95.

    The UK has a vast history of political distrust and satire, why on earth would someone claiming £100 for a load of lightbulbs suddenly have people walking the streets with pitchfork and flaming torch declaring their faith is shattered beyond anything that's gone before?

    People practically expect politicians to be dishonest and distrustful and we like a good moan when they're found out. The horrified reaction from some sections of the media at such things is not only amusing, it's also pretty telling that they never uncovered it themselves. Or perhaps, turned a blind eye to it as well.

  • Comment number 96.

    I won't be voting on June 4th. No party deserves my endorsement. I hope that many other citizens will take a similar decision so that the turn out is profoundly low and serves a severe and chilling rebuke to the politicians.

  • Comment number 97.

    Kentspur #28 - yes, I had much the same discussion with my wife with, it has to be said, much the same result!

    Gordont10 #69 - maybe, maybe not. But why are they allowed to claim £400 per month for food. Does their salaray not allow them to be able to afford to eat? One person can only eat so much, no matter where they live. Is it right that someone can claim for dog food? How is that wholly in pursuit of their job as an MP? Is it right that on a basic salary significantly above what the average joe earns they cannot manage to buy two sets of coat hangers? I'm lucky that I earn a good wage by many standards, and I'm incensed. I hate to think what people much less fortunate than me muct be feeling.

    When do we get the "none of the above" option on the ballot paper?

  • Comment number 98.

    23 Richard
    Parliament is due to sit for 128 days this session, so your estimate of 90 nights is about right.

    The time has come not to bury the facts as the PM is now suggesting but to open them to public scrutiny. We don't need outside auditors we need to have all the expenses on the internet where Joe Public can audit them.

    Add to that a reduction in MP's at Parliament and we will be moving in the right direction.

  • Comment number 99.

    Nick - despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary you still try to defend the indefensible. It is clearly the view of the public that "they are all at it" and trying to say anything else is laughable. What's worse is that they all know they have been "at it" for years and if it had not been for people asking questions they would never have been found out.

    I agree with a previous poster - anyone who utters the words "I acted in accordance with the rules" should be forced to call a by-election.

  • Comment number 100.

    'I am not saying that every "revelation" in recent days has proved MPs to be "on the take"'

    Good grief! Just would would it take to convince you that MPs are "on the take"? I think that that's been proven beyond reasonable doubt in The Court Of Public Opinion.


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