Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Expenses Clouding Important Issues

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Expenses Clouding Important Issues

Article excerpt

Byline: JOHN ADAMS

WHOEVER said politics is boring could not have anticipated the circus of the last few weeks.

And things will become even more frenzied with the local and European election and the Cabinet reshuffle.

We've seen many moments of political drama over the years, but now nothing is guaranteed and events are utterly unpredictable.

The expenses furore has cast a shadow over the political world, squeezing out what in ordinary times would be major political events.

In fact, in what should be the biggest issue of the day, there are signs that the Government's strategy is mitigating the worst of the recession. The banks seem to be holding steady and some parts of the retail sector report a healthy turnover. Nevertheless, unemployment figures will undoubtedly soar over the next 12 months and some sectors are facing very tough times.

Neither do we see much scrutiny of the Conservative's proposals. I think they've been badly focussed, from opposing the nationalisation of Northern Rock, to arguing for the very cuts in public spending that exacerbated the early 1980s recession.

Yet important as these issues are, it looks as if MPs' expenses will be the key issue in tomorrow's elections.

For a while it looked as if Labour alone would pay the price for the expenses scandal. Although the more high-profile claims came from Tory grandees, it is Labour that is the majority party in Parliament and they are certainly paying a heavy price. Support in the polls has fallen to its lowest ever ratings: on Monday one poll put the party on 18%, lower even than when it was nearly destroyed by the 1983 General Election. Equally dramatically, in the European polls, Labour, the Lib Dems and Ukip are neck and neck in a race for second position.

But the voters also seem to be turning their backs on the Tories. …

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