There's a curious disconnect between the erstwhile writings of some national newspaper columnists over parliamentary accountability & their current reluctance to throw the leeches thus far exposed into the Thames.
Take Joan Smith. Normally a shrewd, decidedly liberal writer, Smith suddenly has cold feet about commenting on Parliament's parasites (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/25/mps-expenses-democracy ):
"In this uniquely poisonous atmosphere, years of conscientious public service count for nothing; decent people are being terrorised out of public life and the perverse consequence is likely to be their replacement by a motley collection of minor celebrities, attention-seekers and outright fascists. Democracy itself is under threat, not because a handful of MPs have behaved greedily but because the public reaction has been (and continues to be) hysterical. The spectacle of a House of Commons populated by TV celebrities, obsessives who blame the EU for everything, and members of the BNP, fills me with horror. So does the prospect of MPs being driven to breakdown or suicide, which the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries was right to raise."
If anything, it is Smith's piece which borders on the hysterical. There's nothing for "decent people" to be terrified by if they've acted ethically & responsibly all along. Yes, a fair number of protest votes will be cast in favour of the wacky, the wierd & the bigoted; the BNP will, sadly, benefit to some degree in next week's European elections. However, such a squalid scenario wouldn't have come to pass if the MPs Smith defends had acted in the right manner. Moreover, her contention that only "a handful" of MPs have been greedy looks increasingly risible by the day. As for her claim that democracy "is under threat", I suggest she take a reality check.
Smith mentions that her partner is an MP, but doesn't name him. The partner is Denis MacShane, formerly Europe Minister in the New Labour circus. MacShane, it seems, has been something less than full & forthcoming about his own expenses (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1183548/The-MP-claimed--125k-garage-used-constituency-office-paint-peeling.html ).
Yes, I know it's a link to the Mail, but the substance of what's alleged doesn't seem to be disputed.
Another columnist throwing her hands up in horror at the exposure of hitherto accepted corruption is Anne Perkins (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/28/politics-mps-expenses ).
Her argument: rebuilding trust & confidence in politics & those active in it can't begin while the Telegraph's daily revelations continue. With the paper's coverage, she says, "the rest of us are wondering why the House of Commons, which must somewhere have exactly the same information in just the same format, doesn't just put it out into the public domain."
Perkins either deliberately omits to mention, or doesn't realise that the details which the Commons intended to release later this summer were heavily redacted; none of the killer facts contained in the Telegraph would have appeared in the sanitised version.
Perkins goes on to complain that "watching Julie Kirkbride and Margaret Moran dangling in the media wind is a kind of blood sport, unedifying for the onlooker and inhumane for the victim, however much taxpayers' money they have erroneously or wickedly siphoned off into home improvements."
Both Kirkbride & Moran have since said they'll step down at the next election. For their constituents, it hasn't been a blood sport, rather a call for some sort of accountability & justice.
Perkins apologia for the corrupt set-up eventually leads her down the alleyway of hysteria & dodgy historical parallels: "At the moment, it feels like the French revolutionary Terror. Reading about the years around 1789, it is hard not to feel sympathy for the revolutionaries' hatred of their greedy and corrupt aristocracy. But guillotining the lot of them, and then some, didn't help construct a new France in the long run.
"We may look back on this extended media frenzy and feel the same."
You could, of course, muse that all these revelations are fine for the chattering classes to discuss at dinner parties. For the rest of us, life goes on as normal. It doesn't. We are in the grip of a global recession which, despite the shrieks of the demented shills in the City & on Wall Street, will deteriorate even further over the next twelve months, at least. The human fall-out will mirror that of the last major recession in the late 70s & early 80s. In this context, it's necessary to highlight the people behind the statistics (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/20/redundancy-benefits-welfare-state ).
Jenni Russell relates an anecdote about "Dave", newly redundant in "a northern city". With a wife working part-time & two children to bring up, the drop from a £30,000 annual salary to a Job Seekers' Allowance (JSA) of £64.30 a week has been a sheer one:
"Dave had never been unemployed. When made redundant, with just three weeks' redundancy pay, he assumed that the national insurance he had been paying all his life would provide a financial cushion until he could find work. Instead he's been staggered to find out that, because his wife is earning at a low level, all he's entitled to is £64.30 a week.
"Overnight, the family's take-home income dropped by about £1,500 a month. There's still a mortgage and bills to pay, but the state won't offer any help unless Dave's wife also loses her job. Then it will pay the full mortgage after 13 weeks, housing benefit if necessary, free school meals, and a host of other benefits. But while Dave's wife is working, he won't get a penny more -- and in practice, considerably less -- than someone who has never worked. And that discovery has left him feeling he's standing on the verge of a financial precipice, scared that the family may lose their house, embittered and betrayed."
Does anybody still think that the Telegraph's revelations are unnecessary?