Clegg on expenses – but what should he do if Lib Dems are named and shamed?

by Stephen Tall on May 12, 2009

Well, it’s Tuesday evening, five days after the Telegraph first started ‘naming and shaming’ Labour and Tory MPs who have deliberately taken advantage of their own system of MPs’ expenses to make frequently indefensible claims ranging from the petty to the extravagant… And all Lib Dems are currently holding our breaths to see if tomorrow or Thursday will bring revelations of what our own MPs have been up to, if anything.

Nick Clegg was on the BBC today making a staunch defence of the party’s previous efforts to reform the system, blocked by Labour and the Tories:

But his efforts will count for little if the Telegraph is able to identify ‘within the rules’ expenses claims from Lib Dem MPs which breach the spirit of those rules, and which will appear grubby to the public. Yesterday I suggested that amidst the rubble of this situation, there was little Nick could do while also observing due process and natural justice.

A number of you took me to task in the comments thread, and made good, robust, fair suggestions for what Nick should be prepared to do, beyond simply apologising and continuing to campaign for reform. (Indeed, a number were put forward today by David Cameron in the wake of his party’s shaming.) Proposals included the establishment of a review panel to consider abuses alleged by the Telegraph, with:

  • minor errors to result in a formal warning from the party leader;
  • significant claims contrary to the spirit of the rules – including any capital gains – to be fully repaid, with a further 10% to charity, and dismisal from the front-bench;
  • ‘major scams’ – including the ‘flipping’ of second homes – to result in the withdrawal of the whip.

    Now let’s see what the next 24 hours brings to see if these proposals can remain purely hyporthetical…