Friday, October 26, 2007

MP's expenses in the news again.

It's been another week when the costs of democracy have been in the spotlight.

Labour and Tories have failed to agree on limits to election spending because Labour want to stop candidates like me campaigning in between elections with caps on spending at a local level; whereas the Conservatives want to see individual party donations capped to prevent more 'cash for honours' type scandals.

Labour are worried about the amount of money being funneled by our party into target seats by Michael Ashcroft.

Michael has started a restructuring of the way in which campaign funds are raised and distributed by the party nationally. This was to deal with the fact that most fundraising tends to be done in Tory heartlands, and the money therefore money piles up in the safest seats.

The main reason the Ashcroft fighting fund exists is to try and neutralise the impact of MP's ability to self-publicise at the taxpayers expense.

MP’s these days have many tens of thousands of taxpayers money to fund professional assistants, a constituency office, IT systems, newsletters, direct mail and so on which they use to promote the 'good work' they have done for their constituents; such as mailing a full colour annual report to every voter, every year.

These allowances are not supposed to be used for party political purposes but very revealingly The Times this morning reports “Marginal MPs prove the biggest spenders in review of expenses”

I believe and have often said that the allowances 'revolution' introduced by Labour in 2001 that opened the door to the kind of one-sided incumbency advantage MP's now enjoy was a disgrace that has encouraged cynicism and apathy amongst voters.

Publishing what they spend is a step in the right direction but the whole system has become in effect an unfair subsidy to sitting MP's - an act that has forced rivals to raise and spend yet more money in order to have a chance of being heard.

MP's should look at what they do with taxpayers money before they start trying to control what we do with cash freely given by donors.

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