The House of Commons Club (members only)

30Oct09

The reformation of the Government which was promised to us in 1996 has, if nothing else, reversed and regressed back to the bad old days of pomp and hierarchy. The whole ‘us’ and ‘them’ attitude of The Commons stinks. There is no better word to encompass my feeling towards the last weeks of reluctant coughing up of ill-gotten expense claims and wild, almost archaeic and dated notions of what The House of Commons is supposed to be. The clue is in the name.

I was watching Question Time’s Llanndudno edition last night and praying the demon pumping citric acid up Jacqui Smith’s rectum would stop because her face alone was a sour enough response to the fire she was under from an insightful man in the audience who had clearly done his homework and taken the MP quite by surprise. The audience member lobbed huge numbers at her and, for a period which must have felt like a long drawn-out colonic to residents of Spin Land, the camera switched from the audience to Smith to the audience to Smith exaggerating her incredulous expression all the more.

The question was more or less, why didn’t she have to pay back the sum equivalent to a journalist’s salary, on the expenses she claimed on her sister’s house? Smith’s answer was that the committe overseeing all duck-pond type expenses had let her off (lots of reasons, none of which the public are likely to remember or care about). So why, the gentelman says, is she listening to what a committe thinks and not what the voters think en mass? Jacqui Smith deflected this with another milk-curdling expression that she was doing what she was told by the committee, they had decided what would happen. A huge reel of stoney-faced ‘unreserved apologies’ cascaded out when the audience piped up, predictably, about adult videos, and the matter was swiftly muffled by that which serves a such a magnificent distraction – sleeze.

That did not make reassuring viewing. It is no good only making changes to a corrupt system when people take notice, and not the other 99.9% of the time. Just as it is no good apologising and writing a healthy summed cheque just because a committee tells you to, or indeed the opposite and puting the cheque book back in your handbag when a committee lets you off, much like offering to buy a drink for a friend in the pub and they tell you they’ll get this round. Purse goes back in the bag, you get the G&T you would have bought anyway and had the money for but your mate puts it on his tab.  Bob’s your uncle. All of the Government’s money is just one huge bar tab now anyway, isn’t it? Too bad we’re a trillion pounds in debt.

I can’t put my finger on what out of the whole segment of QT that bothered me the most – after all it could have just been the expression on Smith’s face, but overall it was like watching a really bad parallell park that you know is never going to happen but the bloody driver keeps shifting anyway rather than drive off and find a better parking space.

Perhaps it was the shocked reaction and ‘this is ridiculous’ attitude that could have so easily been spluttered by my own MP, Alan Duncan, during his August rant about MPs living on ‘rations’ now all eyes are on their claims and extravagances. To them it is like the builders are in to work on their member’s club and they’re coming inside and using the newly carpeted upstairs toilets.

This attitude was then refreshed while listening to a breakfast report on today’s milestone Youth Parliament debate taking place in the Commons. Forgive me, but I can’t remember the name of the politician being questioned as I was flinging together what ended up being a really disgusting salad, however, the gist was that he didn’t believe the UKYP holidng a debate in the Commons was appropriate.

Hello? Democracy calling! Who does he think the Commons belongs to? It’s not his mother’s front room reserved for the vicar and the president of the gardening club! The UKYP are a legitimate, political organisation supporiting mainstream parties and their views and voicing the needs and suggestions of a young generation which is frequently misconstrued or ignored by patronising, snobby, old fogies. The Commons belongs to the people, it is the place the MPs we have elected get across our best interests and it is not a private members club. Because that is what needs to be changed otherwise more serious problems will arise at the next election, namely extreme parties growing in popularity because extreme changes do need to be made where the system is concerned.

The more we dig up, the more politicians seem to receed back into this little club, be it relying on a committee to give them an excuse and a get-out-of-jail-free card (a mere board-game trifle that seems very apt given the current mood) and the Houses of Parliament and all the perks that come with it. It is a giant members-only lounge for some people who need to be made aware that even without the perks, with just their basic net earnings they still have it a whole lot better than most of the people in this country and so they can afford to release some of their hot air and float back down to earth and understand just what we, the people, think of them.

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