Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who Guards The Expenses Guardians?

Parliamentary democracy is being torn to shreds in the dying days of a fag-end government with plans for an unelected quango to oversee MPs' expenses. At the heart lies the vexed question: who will guard the guardians in Brown's Big Brother House?

Once again the government has found a neat way of side-stepping responsibility and accountability for its shabby actions, at a stroke sweeping away centuries of constitutional tradition at the centre of our democratic process.

On the surface it all sounds so sensible. MPs can't be trusted, so set up an 'independent' body to keep them in check.

That in itself is a sad indictment of democracy. The checks and balances are already firmly in place. They are called voters who can see through the lies and deceit and boot out the crooks and spivs if only they were given the chance.

But without that election, parliament and democracy is being reduced to a sinister farce. Scratch away at the surface and a rotten underbelly is exposed, threatening the cornerstone of constitutional democracy and parliamentary sovereignty.

For the first time, parliament will have to play second fiddle to a bunch of faceless beaurocrats and cronies. In a complete reverse of the way this country is supposed to be governed, MPs will be answerable to unelected bureaucrats not the electorate.

Time and again when the government gets itself into a mess it digs itself into a deeper hole, wriggling around with another unaccountable and unelected quango to get itself off the hook.

Trust in parliament and MPs is at an all-time low. But proposals set out in the Harman Bill move the constitutional ship of state into unchartered waters. If in doubt, set up another quango. That is not the way to build trust.

As Oborne points out today, the Parliamentary Standards Bill takes this country into "untested constitutional waters, proposing nothing less than subjugating the centuries-old sovereignty of Parliament to an unelected quango."

And to add insult to injury: "This new Bill will be voted on by a House riddled with expenses cheats which has just elected a tax-dodger as Speaker."

The despicable true colours of this smug, vile, arrogant little man propped up by New Labour cronies were vividly laid bare last night in a contemptuous interview with ITV News' political editor, Tom Bradby. The most disgusting display of pompous arrogance by a politician the Orange Party has ever witnessed. In this country.

MPs stuck two fingers up to the electorate with the election of squeaker Bercow showing they don't give a toss about honest decent voters. Bercow stuck two fingers up to Bradby and through him the public.

The rot is set to continue.

The new Parliamentary Standards Bill will set up the “Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority” to administer MPs’ pay and allowances, as well as establishing a "Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations" to probe alleged breaches of the rules.

But there's a rub in the Harman Bill. IPSA members and the commissioner will be approved by a 'Speaker’s Committee', at a stroke handing vast power over to a bunch of political elitists who are not accountable to the electorate.

Just how will these guardians be selected? How can voters be sure they will stay corruption-free?

An elected Parliament, warts and all, is at the heart of democracy. Parliament and its lawmakers are the highest court in the land. As Oborne observes: The Commons is set to be reduced to a farce. Parliamentary government, a national joke.

So who exactly guards the guardians? The answer comes back. No-one.

The Orange Party fears for the future of democracy which is paying the price for the government's stubborn refusal to hold a general election.

The answer isn't more rules and regulators. A 'root and branch' reform of the whole expenses system, clearly setting out who can claim for what, where and when would solve the problem for the future.

Procedures are already in place for a strict enforcement of the rules and laws already there to catch culprits. It didn't work in the past because those with a vested interest turned a blind eye to the scandalous abuse.

If all MPs expenses had been truly out in the open in the first place, the squalid expenses scandal would not have happened. No MP would want would any dirty washing hung out in public.

In a democracy, the electorate is the best regulator. Voters are quite capable of kicking out the crooks, the spivs and the chancers. They're chomping at the bit but denied the chance.

What is not needed is yet another unelected, unaccountable quango or committee. Only a general election can begin to restore public trust in politics and politicians. Some will fall by the wayside and that is exactly why one is not being called for the foreseeable future.

Thanks to the font of all expenses at the Telegraph, voters now have enough information to dig out the truth behind the lies and deceit of the self-serving servants of the public.

But without that election, voters will continue to be treated with contempt. Revenge is a dish best served out of a cold ballot box.

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