Friday, February 05, 2010

Perfect Timing For Fiddlers Three

Three New Labour MPs and a Tory peer have been charged with fiddling expenses. So why has it taken so long to bring them to book? And why has none had the decency to quit parliament?

The timing and handling could not have been better if it had been planned.

New Labour MPs Morley, Chaytor and Devine along with Tory peer Hanningfield now face a number of expenses charges under the Theft Act, which could see the four face up to seven years behind bars.

Hanningfield has quit his frontbench Tory position in the Lords but hanging onto his ermine. Chaytor and Morley were suspended from the parliamentary Labour party way back in May. The Party has banned the New Labour three from standing as candidates at the election.

But during the whole sordid saga, none of the three have quit forcing sticky by-elections. Mysteriously none were 'arrested' today and all three are set to draw fat MPs' salaries and huge commons 'golden goodbyes'.

Specialist police working with the Legg audit had been investigating expenses abuses since the Telegraph blew the whistle on the greedy MPs' sordid scandal in May last year.

Files on just six lawmakers left in the frame were handed to state prosecutors in November following the police probe, after a two-pronged attack with the Telegraph chasing commons cheats and the Sunday Times in hot pursuit of Lords a-leaping in second homes scams.

The Telegraph reported at the time those facing prosecution were Morley, Chaytor and Devine and peers Uddin, Hanningfield and Clarke.

Announcing the charges today, CPS boss, Starmer, said that "one further case was still being investigated", while there was "insufficient evidence" to bring charges against New Labour peer Clarke. Which kinda leaves New Labour peer Uddin.

Now out of all the crooks, cheats and chancers in the House of Shame, the CPS reckons only four can be brought to book with a 'reasonable' chance of conviction and if it is 'in the public interest' to bring prosecutions.

All four deny any criminal wrongdoing and are due to appear in court next month. But with perfect timing, no criminal trial would be expected to take place this side of the general election. And there are reports of an outrageous bid by the New Labour three to wriggle out of court, claiming parliamentary privilege. Fat chance.

Today's CPS announcement follows yesterday's damning verdict on MPs' expenses with half a house full of greedy MPs named and shamed and ordered to repay more than £1 million swindled from taxpayers.

But Legg's 'crackdown' was dogged with doubt after it emerged dozens of MPs have been allowed to dodge repayment demands, disappearing in a fog of appeals and audits.

Voters were left bothered and bewildered with more knights galloping around than round King Arthur's round table.

The sordid saga of MPs' expenses has disappeared in a muddled mess. A much needed cleansing of the rotten stench of corruption can only now begin with 'root and branch' reform to sweep away the gravy train.

But the expenses racket is set be buried with a watered down Kelly, an unelected cosy crony quango to take away the heat and a criminal trial long after the election dust has settled.

Wannabe MPs, hoping Legg's public punishment would draw a line under the sordid saga, have been sorely disappointed. The stain on the House of Shame was never going to vanish with a spot of Legg remover.

A bitter aftertaste lingers in the throats of voters, angry at a House full of fudge, riddled with expenses cheats hopping on an appeals bandwagon.

Criminal charges are a welcome start to rid the House of the stench of corruption.

But as the Orange Party noted yesterday, until an election, the rotten carcass of MPs' expenses will continue to fester away, leaving angry taxpayers, who footed the bill for their lavish lifestyles, still baying for blood. And the New Labour three laughing all the way to the bank on their way to court.

Top picture: Hanningfield, Chaytor, Devine and Morley face expenses charges

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