Like the mother-in-law joke, the grasping MP has found a place in the British public consciousness. And the caricature is not going anywhere fast.No, clearly not.
The system introduced by Ipsa after the 2010 election has worked: more robust rules, an end to second mortgages funded by the taxpayer, the John Lewis list consigned to history – and with a cumulative saving to the taxpayer of £35m and counting. And all of this backed by transparency: details of every claim published for public scrutiny. The egregious behaviour evident in 2009 has stopped: MPs want to work within the rules.Until they can find a way to bend, rather than break, them, I suppose.
But wait, isn’t this good news?
How much better it would have been if decisive action had been taken before the crisis did lasting damage to our political system. That lesson – the need to take prompt, radical action, ideally in concert with the other parties – has application elsewhere. I would want to urge early action on one front, widely acknowledged to be a problem but as yet unreformed. When Sir Hayden Phillips reported on the funding of our political parties in 2007 the message was clear: they were in decline nationally and locally and looking to make up for the shortfall in their funding by securing large donations.Yeeeeeessss…? And how is that my probl…
Oh. Of course.
The main contours of a solution are now well established: caps on donations; tighter controls on general election spending; tougher regulation of third party expenditure, and greater transparency on the sources of party income. And yes, any solution will require a significant increase in public funding of parties. Of course the taxpayer funding will be unpopular, but surely it is preferable to the next scandal over party donations and the further erosion of trust in our political system.No. No, it isn’t. The new system works. Let’s stick to it.