Politicians do themselves no favours

AS SOMEONE who has always tried to see the best in our politicians, I've found the last week pretty uncomfortable.

AS SOMEONE who has always tried to see the best in our politicians, I've found the last week pretty uncomfortable.

Each revelation has seemed more incredible than the previous one - and with claims for silk cushions, swimming pool maintenance and chandelier cleaning I've been left thinking MPs live in a very different world to most of their constituents!

Certainly the system needs to be cleaned up. Strict rules must be drawn up.

No MP representing a seat within 50 miles of London should be able to claim a second home allowance in the capital. They should return home to their constituency at night - most days the house rises shortly after 7pm, well in time for them to catch the train home.

If there is a late-night vote at 10.30pm, as can happen on Mondays or Tuesdays, MPs should be able to claim the cost of an overnight stay in a hotel - not necessarily the Southwark Travelodge (although there's nothing wrong with Travelodges) but not Claridges or the Ritz either!

And those MPs from outside the 50-mile limit should be limited much more closely on what they can claim for. There's nothing wrong with running a small flat in Pimlico on expenses - but a four-bedroomed mansion in Bayswater is another matter altogether.

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And fixtures and fittings should be paid for out of the MP's pocket, not the public purse. They might find out - like most of their constituents - that there are comfortable furnishings available from Argos or DFS without having to spend thousands on a leather chair or �400 on silk cushions!

Many of the MPs who have been “outted” over the last few days should hang their heads in shame. I hope they will find themselves in very hot water with their constituency parties.

They have brought British politics into disrepute - and the only ultimate winners from their appalling behaviour are those from the fringes who would like to see the whole political system undermined.

One person who is clearly irritated - not to say steaming mad - about the revelations, especially from the Labour side, is Kevan Lim.

He is fighting hard to retain his Labour seat on the county council - and feels the revelations about some of his party's MPs has damaged his cause.

He has written to the Prime Minister: “I and many of my colleagues are currently fighting elections to the county council. We had expected to fight these elections on the work we have been doing locally on behalf of our constituents and on the clear differences between our Labour policies in Suffolk and the policies of the Conservative administration at Suffolk County Council.

“In areas like home care and social care, the future of recycling policy, the scandal of the chief executive's salary and the issue of road maintenance, there are clear differences between our policies and those of the local Conservatives which give the voters a clear choice. We have been very successfull over the last couple of years especially in Ipswich in winning and retaining seats

“However, the ongoing scandal of MPs' expenses is overshadowing the local elections and is bringing the whole of the political process into disrepute.

“It is a disgrace to read on a daily basis of the ways in which MPs and Lords of all parties have manipulated the system and these abuses have to end.”

The letter could have come from a local politician from any party - those in the House of Commons really have to look into their own consciences.

ONE aside from the weekend coverage of the expenses claimed by former Environment Secretary John Gummer for clearing moles from his “constituency home” was lack of knowledge they showed about his constituency.

Mr Gummer's Suffolk home is at Winston near Debenham. Reporters rushed into Debenham to ask people what they thought about “their MP's” expenses.

But of course Mr Gummer isn't their MP. Debenham, and Winston, are in the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich constituency of Sir Michael Lord.

So whatever the good people of Debenham think about Mr Gummer is pretty irrelevant really!

I DON'T know whether it was design or accident, but within hours of my piece last week saying that the election campaigns hadn't taken off yet I got the first piece of election literature through my letterbox.

The newssheet from Labour didn't tell me much that I didn't already know - but it was a welcome indication that someone out there is taking the elections seriously.