This whole MPs' expenses scandal has been keeping me broadly amused for the last couple of weeks. Jon Stewart on The Daily Show had a nice take on it - I thought using Terry Jones in drag (from The Meaning of Life, I think) as Douglas Hogg's wife was rather inspired.
I've especially been loving all the insincere hand-wringing and contrition in the press - the only thing they're really sorry about is the fact that they got caught. Though the response from one MP about the size of his expense claims was breathtaking in its level of sheer arrogance, and is probably a truer gauge of the feelings MPs have for their constituents. But I'm amazed at just how naive people have been in thinking that the MPs *didn't* have their hands in the pot. Come on, if you've got an expense account that's larger than the average national wage, and you can claim stuff of relatively modest values without even having to provide a receipt, how is that system (which the MPs got to police for themselves) not going to be widely abused?
So now we've got the likes of David Cameron (or Tony Bland, as I like to call him) shouting out that there's got to be a revamp of Parliament and their expenses system, but curiously enough, he doesn't want to change the voting system over from our current first-past-the-post system (which basically means if you live in a constituency that's predominantly inclined to one party, say Labour or Conservative, when you're a Liberal Democrat, you might as well not vote, because there's no way you can affect the outcome) to a system of proportional representation, where every vote has an equal weight. So at the moment, we have a system where governments are decided on a few dozen marginal seats, where only a few hundred thousand votes might be cast. The rest of the population gets absolutely no say at all, because the constituencies are divided historically down party lines and very rarely change sides. Neither Brown or Cameron want to do away with this system, because it means they wouldn't get so many seats in Parliament, compared to a proportional representation system. Politicians clinging desperately onto their power? Surely not! So much for putting real power back into the hands of the people.
Though I have to say that Cameron's idea of putting ordinary people up for election into Parliament isn't what I'd call a good one. Mainly because the average man on the street is an idiot (that's why we define "average" as average). It's bad enough that we get politicians making decisions about how to run the country - put the same decisions in the hands of your average Sun reader and that really would end in chaos. There's a certain irony in the leader of the party that's most flagrantly abused the current system saying "join us to help us clean up politics", too. It takes some chutzpah to stand on a mountain of shit and tell people that you're on the moral high ground. If the Conservatives had been in government right now there would be riots in the streets. It's only because they're seen as the government-in-waiting that they're getting away with it. That and the fact that Gordon Brown is about as charismatic and likeable as a maimed dung beetle in comparison.
The problem isn't that we have a political elite class - it's that this political elite is an untrustworthy, self-serving bunch of incompetents. Maybe that's a little unfair - some politicians do have integrity and do a good job, but as a breed, in touch with normal day-to-day reality they are not. Try getting MPs to file expenses like someone who works for the NHS, or a school, or any large organisation (where you need VAT receipts for absolutely everything you try to claim) and they might understand why people are pissed off about them being able to spend £400 a month on food without even providing so much as a receipt from Waitrose (somehow I don't think many MPs buy their grub from Aldi or Farm Foods).
A little reform certainly won't do the House of Commons any harm, but do I expect any substantive change out of this furore? No, not really. Mainly because my cynicism could power several small towns for a year, but also because while it's relatively easy to get people to accept more power or privilege, trying to get them to relinquish it voluntarily never really works. The politicians will talk a good game for the next couple of months, and then conveniently forget the whole thing by the time the next general election comes round. I think it would have been amusing if Gordon Brown had called a snap election - unfortunately his balls aren't nearly as big as that pathetic excuse for smile he keeps flashing about on Youtube. I used to think Tony Blair had an insincere, Cheshire Cat smile, but Gordy's really takes the biscuit. A piece of advice, Gordon - if you're a miserable git, don't try to hide it with a smile that make's the Joker's look natural. It's painful to look at and doesn't fool anyone. Be yourself - be a dour, miserable Scottish git. You might get more respect for it.