Did no-one learn anything from the expenses scandal?

Julie Kirkbride, the disgraced Conservative MP forced to stand down for pocketing staggering sums of money by fiddling her expenses, has decided that actually she’d like to stay. So far, it looks like the Conservative leadership are going to let her give it a shot.

To recap, Ms Kirkbride took £50,000 to fund an extension to one of her houses, specifically so her brother could live in it. In case you can’t understand what’s wrong this this, it’s because she was claiming a massive amount of public money to spend on her brother – her allowance was to help her do her job, not make her family more comfortable.

Ms Kirkbride also, yes there’s more, she also took £170,000 of expenses with her husband by both claiming different homes as their primary residence. Now this is wrong because her husband and her lived together yet were claiming different houses as primary residences, specifically so they could pocket as much public money as possible.

This photoshoot was charged on expenses (£1,000)

The idea that after this, Ms Kirkbride could say ‘whoops, not a big deal’ is farcical. Does she think that politics is a game, or that ordinary people’s opinions aren’t important? Ms Kirkbride was totally and utterly in the wrong, that other MPs also cheated the taxpayer is no defence – this is old ground, we’ve already covered it.

Yet Ms Kirkbride clearly feels that it is her God-given right to be an MP, and she obviously hasn’t acknowledged the scale of her actions. A resignation should be precisely that.

You’d think that David Cameron wouldn’t want to risk her coming back, his tough stance has helped the public’s perception of him. But reportedly when he told his Commons ally Andrew McKay to stand down for his expenses claims, he promised to help Ms Kirkbride remain.

If the Tories have her on the ticket at the next election, they’ll fritter away a massive amount of capital they gained by promising to be open about their intentions and transparent in their dealings. Because Mrs Kirkbride wasn’t, and not even the resignation was real.


2 Responses to “Did no-one learn anything from the expenses scandal?”

  1. Anon Says:

    “You’d think that David Cameron wouldn’t want to risk her coming back, his tough stance has helped the public’s perception of him.”

    As we’ve witnessed in the case of Europe (choice of allies, the Referendum that never shall be), David Cameron is perhaps not quite as adept as he appeared. Lack of long-term vision perhaps – he’s willing to take stances or make decisions in the short-term that are to his advantage, but he shows himself too easily foxed or reacting when unexpected long-term consequences begin to develop (he’s beginning to look at the mercy of the whims of his party over Europe, expenses, and now the selection issues over both Kirkbride and Elizabeth Truss; and I don’t think he really wanted the coming election to revolve around Tory associations with (ex-)Fascists or the potential of losing influence in Europe, both of which Labour are now grimly seizing on).

    As for Kirkbride herself, I think it’s appalling, but hardly surprising. MPs really do seem to believe themselves grossly underpaid and grossly underappreciated – remember Menzies Campbell on QT earlier this year, wailing that these days headteachers and GPs are paid so much more than MPs? Or the claim from one recently that he’s ‘practically on the minimum wage’? The response to the Legg and Kelly reports has been a reversion to self-righteous indignation, and a casting away of the sack-cloth and ashes; in that sort of environment, any genuine contrition Kirkbride had experienced would be forgotten as she became buoyed up by what she probably views as ‘a return to common sense’.

    So, in short, I think you’re wrong in suggesting “Ms Kirkbride clearly feels that it is her God-given right to be an MP”. She probably never believed she had made any serious misdemeanours over the expenses issue, and is probably convinced that she was a capable and beloved MP who has been cruelly misused. Which doesn’t say much for her grasp of implicit or unwritten rules (as a legislator in a country with an unwritten constitution!), let alone her moral compass or grasp of reality – but then the same could be said for many of her colleagues.

    Other than the above points, though, agree very much with what you said.

  2. Anon Says:

    Also, for more self-righteous drivel by an MP who hasn’t got it, see David Blunkett’s comment piece in Thursday gone’s Guardian. He says he “gets it” – and is therefore best qualified to judge on the matter of expenses – before bemoaning Kelly’s ‘London-centric view’ (thinking that MPs should return to their constituencies at night is somehow London-centric?), claiming that forcing commutes on his fellow MPs is a ‘punishment’, lamenting that spouses will no longer be able to travel first-class, and pithily (not to mention wildly inaccurately) comparing the benighted lot of MPs to the pampered lifestyle of Civil Servants.

    So, it is in general looking as though no-one learned anything.

    Comment piece: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/nov/05/mps-expenses-kelly-review

    Criticised here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/nov/06/mps-expenses-kelly-report-blunkett

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