Change, can we believe in?

In Sweden its known as the “Toblerone affair“. In October 2005, the social-democrat Mona-Sahlin – the country’s youngest MP – was looking to replace Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson, who had announced his resignation. Only these hopes were dashed when it emerged that Sahlin had used her government credit card to purchase a delightful chocolate snack.

In Sweden tax returns are transparent, and due to Sahlin not paying the money back, her petit crime was revealed (not to mention the private cars, unpaid fines etc etc).

So when apologies are being thrown about left, right and centre – Gordon Brown’s cross-party apology, David Cameron’s umbrella apology, Richard Timney’s porn apology (that cringeworthy video again) – and calls for system change are a symbol of repent, what is it that can change the expenses system?

(I don’t suppose it matters that they may be released early, does it?)

Do we really have to have everything out in the open. Do politicians’ tax returns need to be published?

One thing is for sure, if the tories win the apology game (today the Royal College of Nursing, tomorrow youtube, Wednesday Eastenders – provided its shown on a Wednesday, I don’t know, who cares) and the next General Election, they are still not “pure“, as Michael White in his Guardian blog noted, and the expenses system will still have to change.

As Jeremy Seabrook noted in a recent article,”You don’t have to agree with the British National party to see the legitimacy of its claim to represent those written off by Labour”. Something that “those written off by Labour”, by whom he means the white working class, should not expect to draw great influence from is the class differences in those things MP’s have made expenses claims on. As good as fraudualent claims have been made by both Labour and tory. But if I could for a moment point out that the excessive uses of taxpayer money to pay mortgages on houses that would be sold months after was a tactic used more by tories than Labour MP’s. Some Labour MP’s expenses crimes were rather more trivial than offensive; tampons, porn and 2 toilet seats.

Not to mention that among the lowest claimants were both Labour MP’s and sons of leading socialists; Ed Miliband whose Father was the left wing academic Ralph Miliband, author of The State in a Capitalist Society, and Hilary Benn whose Father needs no introduction. Its class War!

But apologies aside, the situation has escalated calls by many for Brown to either start a new popular war or the more realistic call of leadership change if (or, again realistically, when) the European elections nosedive for Labour. Nowhere has this latter message been more cutting than in Polly Toynbee’s comment today in the Guardian calling for Alan Johnson to take leadership unopposed.

In her knife wielding diatribe she told the world;

“It’s all over for Brown and Labour. The abyss awaits.”

and that

“He may be the best-read prime minister in decades, but his learning seems to hamper instead of illuminate his path [...] But then the decisions he takes are too often tactical, not purposeful or strategic. Trident, the third runway or post office privatisation are mere positioning in some illusory business-pleasing ploy, their long-term damage far outweighing one day’s headlines.”

But then there will be those faithful’s that come out in support of pre-election unity, and one of those voices will be the ever grateful Peter Mandelson, who in a recent article, also from the Guardian, asked the electorate to concentrate more on imaganing for a moment how a tory government would have handled the events of the last year.

He elaborates;

“Northern Rock would have been allowed to fail, regardless of the potential costs in lost deposits and financial panic.

There would have been no fiscal stimulus. No VAT cut to generate £8bn-£9bn in retail sales that would not otherwise have occurred. No frontloaded government capital spending to boost construction. No lift for hard-hit car manufacturers. And as for the G20, David Cameron can hardly bear to go near Europe, let alone find his way in the rest of the world.

Instead, a Tory government would have stood aside, seeing the recession, as some shadow ministers have admitted in unguarded moments, as something that must just be allowed to take its course.”

To add to the list of clear advantages Brown’s government has acheived is the new proposals of locally usable criminal assets, allowing local communities to use £4million of criminal assets to pay for local projects.

Also the new deal with China’s stock exchange will help secure some political weight on an international level, but this could all become deadweight if the 4th of June sends a scathing message.

Will Polly Tyonbee be proved right about leadership change on the 5th of June, who will come to Brown’s support and who will come out yelling. Watch this space.

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