Sadly, there are also far too many who have been exploiting a woefully inadequate system for dealing with the many challenges and legitimate costs of being an MP. What really shocks me is the inability of many of those in that second category to understand what needs to be done to start the very long process of rebuilding respect and trust among the people who elect them. The complaints about the likely shape of the recommendations from the Independent Committee on Standards in Public Life and row over the refusal to allow MPs to vote on them vividly illustrates this gulf.
From what I have seen of the proposals they largely make sense. I think there could be a legitimate debate about whether MPs from outside London should be allowed to buy or rent in London so long as the scope for making excessive profits on property deals is brought to an end. To me home "flipping" has been one of the most distasteful aspects of the whole scandal because it seems to be a very deliberate attempt to make as much money as possible using the public subsidy they enjoy and, in many case, avoid paying taxes that the rest of us have to pay. I still struggle to understand how that isn't fraud.
The rest of what has been rather clumsily leaked over the last week is reasonable. I especially like the idea that MPs who live no further out of central London than I do will no longer be subsidised for second homes in town. It will be a pleasure to see them join the rest of us commuting on most days - remembering that they don't have to go to Parliament on as many days of the year as you and I have to go to our place of work because they often (rightly) have to work in their constituencies as well. I am afraid I don't buy the late night working argument as I, along with tens of thousands of others, often have to work late or attend functions as part of my job. Last night I got home after midnight having attended a City function but I do not feel I need a second home to do my job.
Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the argument going on at the moment is the feeling that those MPs arguing that they should be able to vote on the committee's proposals next week are trying to have one last hurrah at our expense.
The House of Commons will change dramatically after the next election. With the numbers already standing down and the likelihood of a dramatic shift in electoral fortunes almost half of MPs could be new next year. It will be a great opportunity for Parliament to make a fresh start and it shouldn't be saddled with an expenses system voted in by people who are no longer there. Unfortunately, some of those opposing the reforms are undoubtedly looking to the potential impact on their own pockets and worrying about what they will get in their final few months as an MP and as a severance package when they go or lose.
The government is right to resist all attempts to force a vote on the reform package.
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