Insights from the UK and beyond
The scandal engulfing British members of parliament over their often startling expenses claims has started to bring down some prominent victims: the speaker of the House of Commons, two Labour Party MPs and four from the Conservatives at time of writing.
The Daily Telegraph, which obtained a disk containing unexpurgated details of claims for moat dredging, floating duck houses, plasma screen televisions and reimbursement for mortgages long paid off, is now on Day 19 of its unremittingly lurid revelations.
It’s hard to imagineÂ that there can be much more of this, at least as far as the House of Commons is concerned, yet there probably will be.
Some political commentators are now beginning to wonder where else this story will lead.
In what turned out to be something of an anti-climactic announcement, House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin has said that he will step down on June 21.
Martin has been heavily criticised for his handling of the scandal over MPs’ expenses that has tarnished the reputation of the “Mother of Parliaments”, triggered outrage across recession-hit Britain and led to opposition calls for an early general election.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has apologised for using House of Commons expenses to claim the cost of two adult movies, watched by her husband while Smith was away from their family home.
The embarrassing incident is the latest in a series of rows over MPs’ expenses. Smith is already under investigation after claiming 116,000 pounds to pay for accommodation in London when she was living with her sister, while Works Minister Tony McNulty is under scrutiny after claiming 60,000 pounds for a house in Harrow, where his parents live, that is just 11 miles from the Commons.
They are known as the “big beasts”, those polticians that hold, or have held, heavyweight government posts and stalk the landscape as if they own it.
The return of Ken Clarke to the Conservative front bench as business spokesman offered Westminster watchers the delicious prospect of watching an admired political performer take on
another just as adept at the stalk and kill in the form of Peter, now Lord, Mandelson.