MP’s expenses scandal

Crumbling Pillars of the British Establishment

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The phone hacking scandal has rapidly spread to engulf the police, the government and sections of the media. Estelle Cooch looks at the crisis of legitimacy spreading through the British establishment.

A succession of scandals have engulfed British public life over the last three years, each one placing under the spotlight the entrenched corruption of a different institution that governs our lives. First, there was the banking crisis and the huge bailouts that followed, and then came the parliamentary expenses scandal. Now the phone hacking scandal has raised profound disquiet not just about parts of the press but also about the cosy relationship of sections of the media with both politicians and the police.

Cuts, war and MPs' expenses: Are we all in it together?

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A poll conducted after the Tory party conference last month showed that they were down one percentage point over the previous month, while Labour was up three points.

So they received none of the usual boost that the high media profile and set piece speeches give these parties after their conferences, in fact the opposite.

I'm not surprised. Telling everyone that they are going to have to work a year longer before they get a pension is hardly popular. Nor is the constant refrain that cuts in the public sector, of both jobs and services, are absolutely necessary to overcome the budget deficit.

MP expenses: How I remember it

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Valerie Wise was a political assistant to her mother, left wing Labour MP Audrey Wise, on two occasions between 1977 and 1979 and between 1987 and 2000. She talked to Socialist Review about how MPs' expenses were dealt with in these periods.

When Audrey was first elected in 1974 she had to stay with friends and comrades in London. She then moved into a relatively cheap hotel, but it wasn't easy living out of a suitcase all the time. Eventually she got a small flat that she rented. She paid for this out of the small allowance that MPs got at the time.

The best democracy money can buy?

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As workers lose their jobs and homes because of the recession, MPs from all the main parties have been caught on a spending spree with taxpayers' money. Michael Lavalette, a socialist councillor in Preston, makes the case for political representation with principles

The revelations about MPs' expenses have shocked and angered people across Britain and caused a political crisis that threatens the whole legitimacy of parliamentary democracy. The range of items they have claimed for on "expenses" is truly astonishing, from duck houses to moat cleaning, from mortgage payments to loo seats, from "hired help" to food bills, from council tax fiddles to claims for incidentals like light bulbs, bath plugs, scatter cushions, mirrors and Asda pizzas!

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