Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Last week, Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin responded to the growing scandal around MPs shamelessly rorting their expenses by abusing those who dared to complain about it. Today he was forced to resign - becoming the first Speaker in over 300 years to be forcibly removed from office.

But its not enough. While Martin, as the enabler and aggressive defender of political corruption, had to go, the public understand very well that the problem is with the whole Westminster culture. And there is now a determined push for change. MPs guilty of rorting their expenses face calls for "prosecution, de-selection, dismissal, defeat and defenestration", "clean hands" candidates are springing up, and there is even a real push for electoral reform. New Zealand had a similar feeling of disillusionment and outrage in the early 90's in response to both parties betraying the voters to pursue a neo-liberal Revolution - and it gave us MMP. Hopefully something similar will come of the current outrage in the UK.

Meanwhile, Steven Price points out that this has only happened because in the UK Parliamentary expenses are subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Which both demonstrates perfectly the value of that transparency, and raises the question: isn't it time we imposed similar transparency on our Parliament? While I don't think our politicians come even remotely close to the level of systematic corruption demonstrated in the UK (for a start, they're properly paid, so there's less pressure), that's not the sort of thing we should have to take on faith. If we cant a clean, accountable Parliament, we need transparency. And if the politicians oppose it, we have to get new ones. It is that simple.