Expense Account

By Massie, Alex | The American Conservative, August 2009 | Go to article overview

Expense Account


Massie, Alex, The American Conservative


London's reform plan: copy Congress

MOST BRITONS have favorite moments from the Great Parliamentary Expenses Scandal of 2009. For some, it was discovering that one Member of Parliament had forwarded the cost of dredging a moat around his country house, or the spectacle of another MP putting in a claim for an ornamental duck house. For yet others, the pornographic films billed by the home secretary's husband took the biscuit.

Day after day, the Daily Telegraph published details of the abuse of parliamentary expenses that MP's, it became clear, had been sensible to keep hidden. Members of Gordon Brown's own cabinet refurbished second and even third homes at taxpayers' expense. Others billed nonexistent mortgage payments or claimed expenses as mundane as bath plugs and pet food.

Each revelation served to corifirm the public's suspicion that Britain was governed by charlatans. MP's protested that they were "within the rules," oblivious to the fact that the people were appalled by the rules themselves.

For me, two examples summed up the scandal. When the Conservative MP Stewart Jackson was revealed to have made a £300 claim for maintenance of his swimming pool, he responded, "The pool came with the house and I needed to know how to run it. Once I was shown that one time, there were no more claims. I take care of the pool myself. I believe this represents Value for money' for the taxpayer."

Then, confirming the parliamentarians' sense of entitlement, when a Labour MP's attempt to bill taxpayers for the cost of a cot for his infant was surprisingly in view of what was permitted - refused, he appealed: "I object to your decision not to reimburse me for the costs of purchasing a baby's cot for use in my London home. ... Perhaps you might write to me explaining where my son should sleep next time he visits me in London?"

The affair has ended dozens of careers, including that of Michael Martin, the first speaker of the House of Commons to be forced from office in 300 years. For a few days, it looked as though the prime minister himself would step down.

In the end, Brown survived. His party won just 15 percent of the vote in the recent European parliament elections, and if Labour were as ruthless in dealing with damaged leaders as the Tories have been, Brown would have been unceremoniously defenestrated. As it is, the wounded prime minister now limps, crippled, toward electoral disaster next year.

Brown's weakness - only the vacillation of senior cabinet ministers preserved his position - has exacerbated the sense that Something Must Be Done. While the public mood is so sour that a proposal to garrison parliamentarians in a prison ship moored on the Thames would win widespread support, the media has been just as quick to embrace any idea that would supposedly "transform" British politics.

Terrified by looming electoral catastrophe, the Left has rediscovered its enthusiasm for voting reform. The introduction of proportional representation, first considered during the long years of Tory ascendancy - but subsequently forgotten in the aftermath of Labour's landslide victory in 1997 - has been excavated and repainted as means by which British politics can be "renewed."

Brown has proposed a referendum on electoral reform, hoping that this will assuage public anger. Abandoning the first-past-the-post principle might benefit the Labour Party. But it would frustrate the accountability its enthusiasts claim to support. Whatever its other merits, proportional representation would increase the power of political parties at the expense of the electorate, making the formation of a government subject to backroom deals in the aftermath of elections, which would do little more than set the parameters for negotiations.

Voting reform will likely be stillborn, so pundits are looking to the U.S. for answers. If only, they suggest, British politics were more like the American system, this would be a better governed country. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Expense Account
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.