Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Monday 11 May 2009

"Pay it back" campaign

The MPs expenses stories keep coming and coming. It has reached the point now where politicians such as David Cameron and Gordon Brown see that they have to apologise for what has happened, although in both cases their statements seem to me to be a little bit hedged and equivocal.

The political classes are in an absolute mess of their own making now. They can argue until they are blue in the face that it was "within the rules" but the rules clearly stink and are obviously going to be radically changed anyway.

It is very dangerous for our political system to be in this sort of state and for the public to hold them all in such low esteem/contempt. There needs to be a strong gesture from MPs to show that they properly understand the depth of public feeling and that they are willing to make amends.

I think the only way for them to do this now is to pay back any money that breaches the spirit of the claim rules. I am not saying they have to pay everything back. Administatively this would be very difficult to adjudge. However each MP will have a good knowledge of what they have claimed for and in the light of the public reaction, they should be able to make a good fist of deciding what should be repaid. A good yardstick would be, if they had known at the time that it would have been made public, would they have claimed it. If not, they should repay it.

I think this should also extend to paying the captial gains tax on any second homes that have been "flipped" in order to avoid this. I know that within the inland revenue rules this is allowed but it looks absolutely dreadful. Law makers and legislators should be setting an example to the rest of us and should pay their fair share of taxes. Especially in the current economic climate.

So, I call upon all MPs of all parties to do the right thing. If MPs start doing this, they would get some credit from the electorate that they were doing the right thing and at least trying to make amends. It may start to drain the poison from the issue. I dread to think what will happen if there is not some strong gesture like this. I also call upon fellow bloggers to start pushing this and hopefully it will gain some traction with the MSM.

When John Prescott launched his "Give up the bonus" campaign against the bankers recently he was widely lauded for it. the message was simple, and so it is with this campaign.

"Pay it back".

UPDATE1: Have also launched it on Twitter (#Payitback). Follow me here: @MarkJThompson

UPDATE2: Constantly Furious has already promoted this campaign on his blog. Thanks to him for creating the image used at the top.

UPDATE3: I can see that more bloggers are also picking up on this theme.

UPDATE4: I have now launched a petition here. New blog post about it here.


Anonymous said...

I think we have to question this a bit more.

Why when we face

a) The collapse of our economy


b) A potential pandemic

are we getting newspaper stories about someone accidentally claiming £4 worth of dog food.

What are we being "misdirected" away from?

Anonymous said...

NO. Sorry, but this is a dangerous diversion and a political distraction.

If they pay it back it will take the sting out of the story and they will argue that they are off the hook.

I think that

1) there should be a full fraud enquiry into claims that fail the 'exclusively in the course of their work as an MP' test;

2) they should all pay income tax on anything that the Revenue would in every other normal walk of life class as a benefit in kind;

3) they should pay capital gains tax on profit made from any additional property sold whilst they are an MP;

4) an independent enquiry led by those not members of any political party should determine in each case whether the conduct of each individual mp was consistent with the high standards required for public office

5) never again should we allow politicians the ability to control and order their own affairs. They have failed the integrity test.

So DON'T just let them 'pay it back'; independently investigate, prosecute, tax and disqualify, just as in any other propely run profession.

Mark Thompson said...

Anonymous 2:

It's a nice idea but the likelihood of all of your steps being followed are minimal (although points 2), 3) and to an extent 5) I think will happen anyway). The MPs themselves would have to assent to an inquiry and I just can't see it happening.

However, paying back the money is something that is very easy for the public to understand and I think it chimes with the gut feeling of the country. It will be difficult, certainly for some of the MPs who have made the most egregious claims to argue against this and once a few start doing it, the others will likely feel duty bound to follow suit.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Can I shamelessly plug my own blog on this topic? I am starting a campaign called GROT - Get Rid of Troughers