Clegg: expenses reform is being "swept under the carpet" #mpsexpenses

by Stephen Tall on August 27, 2009

Nick Clegg has today penned an article for The Daily Telegraph urging the Labour and Tory parties to take action to reform Parliament in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal. Here’s an excerpt:

The new political season is beginning. Spring and early summer were defined by the expenses scandal, but what will the autumn be like? Will demand for change continue or will the political establishment succeed in sweeping it under the carpet? …

In the spring I set out a100-day plan for radical change: giving people the right to sack their MP, getting big money out of politics, and abolishing the notion of a safe seat. But the Conservatives and Labour refused to contemplate that sort of upheaval. We cannot let them get away with this blatant attempt to maintain the status quo. Today, in St Albans, I’ll be putting forward my ideas for political change to make sure the kind of corruption The Daily Telegraph exposed is never again given fertile ground in which to grow.

Nick takes the opportunity to announce that he will be tabling a Parliamentary Bill this autumn to give the public the right to sack their MP if it is proved they have done something wrong: “Gordon Brown and David Cameron pledged their support for my plan … I’m going to hold them to this pledge.”

He also emphasises the importance of electoral reform for the health of British democracy:

Frankly, there are far too many MPs, and far too many of them can do what they like because they’re in a safe seat. They know that they could put a blue or red rosette on the back end of a donkey and they’d still win because they only need to gain a minority of the votes in their area. There’s one simple way to abolish safe seats and slash the number of MPs at the same time: a change in our electoral system. You can design an electoral system in many ways – and I have a preference for the Irish-style Single Transferable Vote – but it’s clear that the “Alternative Vote Plus” system recommended by Roy Jenkins to Tony Blair back in 1998 could easily operate with 150 fewer MPs than our current system, and every single one of those elected would have to prove their worth to their constituents.

Finally Nick calls for a strict cap on donations, noting fairly that, “All parties have had their problems with donors”:

As long as Labour and the Conservatives protect their trade union and offshore paymasters, big money will continue to warp British politics. Even now, the arms race is beginning as parties try to stuff their coffers with money that will make next year’s election a competition of advertising budgets instead of a competition of ideas. Now is the time for swift action: a strict cap so that no one can give more than £25,000 to a party and everyone who donates has to pay their British taxes in full.