A government beyond satire
Reading today's papers I am finding the antics of the present government beyond a joke. If a popular novelist wrote a work of fiction in which this weekend's headlines had appeared it would be laughed off as too implausible.
All governments make mistakes, including both Conservative and Labour governments. Although the last Conservative government did get many things right, the tories have had to learn some hard lessons about some of the mistakes that were made, which we have done. The extraordinary thing about the way the Brown government is behaving is that they appear to have copied and exceeded all the worst Conservative mistakes, as well as adding more than a few of their own.
And as a result they are fast becoming a laughing stock, trashing the reputation not just of the Labour Party but of British politics, and dragging everyone involved in politics through the mire while they do it.
As a candidate without a private fortune who is contesting a constituency well over three hundred miles from London I find the situation about MPs expenses particularly infuriating. It is impossible to be a good MP for a seat like Copeland without both a home in the constituency and some sort of base within striking distance of Westminster, and the salary package for members of parliament needs to reflect that.
But the expenses system should not be open to abuse by people from any party, and you can hardly be surprised at the electorate getting angry when ridiculous and inappropriate expenses claims are submitted. It is not acceptable when any MP or MEP, let alone a minister, misuses their expenses. That is why David Cameron was right to de-select, and thereby effectively sack, those Conservatives who were clearly guilty of a serious breach of the rules and it is about time Labour did the same.
And when some people are getting away with murder, one result is that other people who have done nothing wrong are tarred with the same brush. The attack in the Mirror on William Hague, who represents a Yorkshire seat two hundred miles from Westminster, for claiming the second home allowance, is a classic example. It amounts to criticising him for claiming for expenditure which he undoubtedly occurred, which was certainly within the rules, and was for precisely the legitimate purpose for which that allowance was set up, because he happens to be a wealthy man.
As the Spectator puts it, governments can recover from anger but not from becoming a laughing stock. You can read the article here. I just hope the political system as a whole can recover from the same ridicule.