Thursday nights are not usually spent watching TV... as much as I would like them to be, life generally does not allow it. Thursday's aren't renowned for gripping TV either....
Imagine my surprise yesterday then when I discovered Question Time (usually watched via BBCi Player), followed by Dragon’s Eye (usually missed altogether – I’m rubbish at remembering about TV) and then Sharp End (again, usually missed – mainly because I only discovered it about 2 months ago on my last night off!)!
The focus of all three programmes was less surprising – MPs expenses. The public anger at what’s been happening at Westminster was palpable, most especially in the QT studio with the live audience. Both William Hague and Ben Bradshaw demonstrated how out of touch the two main UK parties are... Even Hague couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of Anthony Steen’s suggestion that criticism of his expenses was triggered by jealousy! Bradshaw seemed to think that just because he has continually campaigned for reform of expenses that that should pacify a crowd angered by the actions of Hazel Blears and Geoff Hoon, amongst others.
The overwhelming feeling amongst audience members was that Brown should call an election and let the public ‘sack’ those they have deemed to have failed them. I have to say, I share Mr Bradshaw’s concerns – yes, Brown should call an election. But before he does so, each and every claim should be investigated and the findings published so that we, the voting public, can make informed decisions about those that have represented us for the past five years or more. At the moment, every MP is being tarred with the brush of the guilty. Plaid’s Hywel Williams MP was forced on Dragon’s Eye to defend the decision of the Plaid Parliamentary Group to seek, and then to claim for the cost of legal advice on impeaching Tony Blair over the Iraq War. Regardless of what you think about the claim itself, surely no one can disagree that the job of the backbench MP is to hold the government to account? In Wales, where a larger proportion of our young men and women join the armed services, Elfyn, Hywel and Adam were representing the interests of many of their constituents who were to be sent to this illegal war.
Reform is needed desperately, and as Vince Cable advocated, not just reform of the expenses system but wholesale reform of the parliamentary system. I just hope they don’t allow Blaenau Gwent’s Dai Davies, a seat on the oversight committee. If I am not mistaken, I heard Mr Davies advocate on Sharp End that MPs salaries be linked to the average wage of their constituents. I would be seriously concerned about the huge disparity between wages this would create. As Mai Davies pointed out, the Hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent's salary would drop to around £25,000 whilst the MP for Henley, or one of the many other London constituencies, would see his soar well into the hundred thousands. How would that kind of wage gap help foster effective representation and good governance?
Ooooo... it’s just occurred to me – the Conservative Party would abandon welsh seats!!
Keith Simpson's Christmas Reading List
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