If Esther Rantzen were still hosting That's Life no doubt her sidekicks and her would be kicking around the stories of MPs expenses with glee. The fact that a cabinet minister, married to a Sainsbury heiress, with access to the most expensive Government grace and favour property* is one of five cabinet ministers claiming the full £22,083 would raise a rye smile. The fact that Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward, for it is he, was once a researcher and producer on the consumer and current affairs show makes the latest revelation all the more startling.
It's hardly surprising that will all the media hyperbole that the latest Times poll shows that majority of the public think that most MPs are on the fiddle. The press correctly has been pointing out the mess of London MPs in commutable distance of Westminster. Those claiming second homes allowances which equate to more than the taxi fares that would be able to get them home every night is a mockery. But the headline figures of total expenses has failed to recognise staffing and office costs, required travel and the like. Even our own Irfan Ahmed jumped on the bandwagon without truly understanding just how expensive it is for the far flung Lib Dem MPs to carry out work in Westminster and their constituencies every week. Thankfully Mark Valladares called him on it in a sadly as yet unanswered or acknowledged challenge.
What is needed is clearly a transparency in what our MPs claim on their expenses. That way the public can know that the bulk of what is spent is actually required for them to carry out their work. Also it would mean that MPs who do abuse the system would be shown up by claiming for their caravan, blue movies or whatever when the audit is published in full and others are not tarnished with the same brush by association.
The bulk of our MPs I'm fairly certain do not abuse the system, there are even a great many who are wary of even seeming to break the spirit of the system. But a bulk of what are being branded as expenses are not perks for the individuals in question but allowances to enable to carry out the work that those who elected them expect to be carried out. It's time for the leaders of all parties to listen to the public and make it clearer, more accessible and understandable just what is going on.
As for Mr Woodward is that's life for you now I'll be waiting for the You Tube clip of a dog saying "sleazy Woodward" instead of mere sausages.