It is reported by the BBC today that a comic drama will be released next autumn based on the story of Heather Brooke’s fight to bring the truth about MPs’ expenses to our attention.
Of course it is true that in dark moments one must turn to black humour but it is debatable that anyone will be in the frame of mind to think this subject funny, even in a year from now. Heather Brooke, the American journalist, worked long and hard to unearth this scandal. It is one of the best uses of Freedom of Information legislation since it was passed in the UK in 2005, and the story has had many repercussions, all important but not really very amusing.
Michael Martin became the first Speaker of the House of Commons to resign in over 300 years. According to The Daily Telegraph his successor, John Bercow, does not seem to be doing the job he signed up for earlier this summer. Having asserted that he would do everything to make the issue of MPs’ expenses more transparent, he now seems to have back-tracked on that promise. Instead of leaving no stone unturned, it appears that the Speaker is now stopping any reform to the system in its tracks, and has prevented any inquiry into the practice of flipping, one of the main sources of abuse among MPs. Flipping means that an MP can claim principal private residence for one house whilst claiming an allowance for another under the Westminster regime for allowances. Some MPs have been forced to pay Capital Gains Tax on a retrospective basis following the revelations as to the truth behind the fiction. One of the initial points one learns at taxation lectures is the difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance.
Having taken all the money they could get their hands on, only some of which has been paid back to the government, and having enjoyed all the holiday entitlement that goes with being an MP, now perhaps is the time for some of those responsible to be charged with the crimes which they have undoubtedly committed, but it is not really yet time to laugh about it all.