The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Take The Money And Run

My frustration with this whole interminable MP’s caught-fiddling-their-expenses business is that it could have – should have – been the best thing that could have ever happened to the Labour Party. A year before the election, “Conservative MPs are discovered to have basically stolen tax-payers’ money to spend on their own moats, duck-palaces and so forth.” That’s the ideal story. It would remind voters that the Conservative party are a bunch of opportunistic shysters, greedy and corrupt in the way that only those born into over-privilege can achieve. It would show up David Cameron for the ineffectual leader that he is – sanctimonious and glib, with policies about as robust and tangible as a hologram of a cloud.

But – and this is what makes me livid – a small but not small enough bunch of Labour MPs were also caught red-handed with their fingers in the House of Commons communal money bucket. Now, clearly their money-grubbing lacks the sheer audacity and imagination of the Conservatives’, and it’s always for niggling borderline things like declaring the VAT on the fees of accountants giving advice on deferring interest payments on mortgages – but it creates the impression that they’re all as bad as each other. With Labour coming off worse, because while you expect this sort of licentious behaviour from the Toffies, you expect better of Socialists.

The reason why this happened is because of this small but not small enough bunch of Labour MPs who are, basically, ideological opportunists. Labour should be about representing and empowering the underprivileged and wiping all social inequality from the face of the Earth. That’s what should get them up in the morning. But instead you have a generation of career politicians – people who go into politics just because they want the power, the prestige and the money.


  1. To quote the inimitable Douglas Adams: "People are a problem".

  2. I think the difference is this - with the Tories, it is kind of what you expect. Silly things in a point-and-laugh-at-the-toffs way. It's incompetent rather than criminal.
    With Labour, it is *calculated*. Far more of them have been caught flipping, or other enriching dodges. Flipping is actually stealing from the tax payer twice; once for the expenses to do-up a property then again for the tax-dodge on selling it. That appears far less stupid and far more deliberate and on the take.

  3. I can't believe the crass political generalisations I'm reading here. A number of individuals (the key word), from most political walks, have acted illegally or immorally. The Tories are no more a tribe of monocle-weilding toffs than Labour a workforce of 'salt of the earth' Arthur Scargills. The Tories are no more likely as a group to indulge in theft.

    Please at least try to un-sling that chip from your shoulder when you type, it's undermining your ability to think for yourself: just because you work in the field of media does not mean you have to sink your nose into the rear of a (supposedly) left wing party at any given opportunity.

    Had you simply pointed out that it's grotesque for a party that sells itself on its social policy to indulge in the pockets of the public, you'd have made a good and interesting point. You fell down when you couldn't resist the chance to perpetuate old stereotypes. That kind of attitude is exactly what we don't need if political progress and reform is going to happen.

  4. *ETA 'individuals within' should be between 'for' and 'a party' in the first line of the 3rd paragraph.

  5. The Toffs thing isn't such an exaggeration:

    My point was basically that (rightly or wrongly) we expect this sort of thing from the Tories and that it is worse coming from Labour - rather than sinking any noses, it's about how let down those of us who support Labour feel by what's happened.

  6. And Tony Blair went to a private school... does that mean all members of the Labour party must be over privileged? Of course it doesn't. It means that Tony Blair went to a private school. Some members of the Conservative party were in the (appalling, I agree) Bullingdon Club, not the entire party.

    What I was getting at was the presumption that Tory MPs would, by virtue of being in the Conservative party, be expected to be criminal. That's clearly ridiculous and very counter-productive. Just as you feel betrayed by Labour, Tory supporters will feel betrayed by the Tories. That doesn't mean either side has some kind of existential morality that creates a propensity towards theft.

    But yes, political differences aside, I share your despair at the whole situation.