This morning I was woken up by the lovely presenters of GMTV, waxing lyrical about some party or another they had attended. They then read the news items (or someone did), and it was from here that I first found out that Alistair Darling (et al) had paid for financial advice.
My first thought on the matter (tired as I was) was, oh bollocks yet another thing. But I realise now that my concern over the current carnivalesque show being put on in Westminster is informed only by how easy it is now for the opposition to point a finger and poke out their tongues.
Certainly this is what most Tory bloggers are doing right now. See Iain Dale’s blog entry for it. He positions YOU as the person funding all this independent advice. But, as I’ve just commented on his page, independent review is the idee de jour, only apprently not when it comes to the bill.
A lot of our MP’s have proven over the last three weeks that they are no longer to be trusted with autonomous financial revieiwing (we’ve heard a lot of ticked-the-wrong-box’s) and that therefore expenses claims need independent review (or public scrutiny by means of tax return publication, see other my entry on the ‘toberlerone affair’).
Alisatiar Darling has sought the advice that parliamnet has always deemed necessary, the only thorn in the side is that he is an unpopular Chancellor. It will make for banter at PMQ’s, but otherwise he has done nothing illegitimate.
Of course it comes at a time when nothing once worthy of oppsition banter is funny anymore. If anything, the expenses scandal might have taken the fun out of PMQ’s (although actually, this clearly happened way before).
Since MP’s are advised to take financial advice (even if your role in Government is finance) then in real politics this need not be as embarrassing as some will twist it to be. The really embarrassing claims are (from the Guardian);
• Ed Balls, the children’s secretary, tried to claim for the costs of two Remembrance Day wreaths. His claim was rejected by the Commons authorities.
• [Jacqui] Smith used her expenses to pay for a £240 Apple iPhone for her husband, who works as her parliamentary assistant.
• [Hazel] Blears and Yvette Cooper, the chief secretary to the Treasury, were among eight ministers who claimed for digital cameras or camcorders using office expenses.
(I make no apologies for leaving out Harriet Harman’s media training)
These claims border silly but within the recent context are rather damning, but Darling’s is less so.
Further, it seems not to have affected Tory defection much, since Cameron is calling on anyone who is upset to stand for them (pretty much…).
These are testing times for us all, eh’.