The matter of politician's expenses has been much aired over the last couple of months. Following last week's issue of the Dover Express (pictured here and a full scan is to be found in the Press Cuttings section of this site for those who are interested), a lot of people have asked me where I stand on this matter.
Over a decade ago, I served on Lambeth Council in London. Corruption and conflicts of interest was a way of life there. The result was that people who should have known better forgot who they were and what they were for. The quality of services crashed and large sums of money went missing. The end result was that the least well off who most needed public services suffered terribly. I represented the third most deprived ward in what was and is one of the most deprived areas of the country. It made me incredibly angry and determined to do the best for public life and the least well off in our communities. I write all this as that experience shapes my views on this matter. My views are absolute. There can and must be no grey areas. People in public life should lead by example. This is why I say that to serve is an honour and a vocation, not a living and a trough. This is why I take a very firm line.
Hard pressed families facing hard times in this recession do ask me how Mr Prosser (or any MP) could claim for knives, forks, food, house plants, toasters, washing machines, flashy TVs and armchairs etc etc. Yet rather than simply criticise Mr Prosser, it's more important now to talk about the change we need. We need now to move on and get reform for the long term. The ideal would be to get rid of the personal type expenses and have a salary set by an independent body that will represent a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, taking into account that this group of 650 or so people do lead our nation, do make many of our laws and do hold great responsibility. MPs should not set their own salaries - for that's what got us into this mess in the first place - it has to be done independently and fairly.
Nothing will be ideal in the current national mood. Yet I can't see a better way to sort it all out that what I am suggesting. I'd be really interested in hearing what people think is a good way forward for the long term. For me the priority must be to restore trust and confidence in our public life for the long term.
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