MPs dogged by smear

WITH the economy in crisis and a Government dogged by smear and spin, public confidence in Britain's politicians has arguably never been at a lower ebb.

WITH the economy in crisis and a Government dogged by smear and spin, public confidence in Britain's politicians has arguably never been at a lower ebb.

Yet revelations this week regarding outrageous expenses claimed by our MPs has provoked further outcry and widespread condemnation.

Swimming pool maintenance, dog food, mock-Tudor beams and flat screen TVs are just some of the items taxpayers have forked out for on behalf of our MPs.

Even here in Somerset, MP David Heathcoat-Amory has fallen foul of the national headline-writers after being exposed for claiming hundreds of pounds for garden manure.


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Public perception increasingly views political life as one of opulence and opportunism, a gravy train on a fast-track to riches.

The fact that many of those exposed this week have blithely insisted they've operated 'within the rules' shows just how out-of-touch with the electorate they have become.

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How can the British electorate be expected to place its faith and confidence in representatives who appear to see public office as a chance to feather their nest?

How can Joe Public - in many cases fearing for jobs and struggling to meet mortgage repayments - really believe his problems are understood by MPs living in the lap of luxury?

Further down the scale, our local politicos came under fire a year ago for voting themselves enormous pay rises too.

And therein lies the problem. MPs are right when they say their huge claims are within the rules - but they are rules they set themselves.

To his credit, Weston MP John Penrose has long criticised a system which allows MPs to set their own pay levels and rules on expenses - but surely now, after these latest revelations, parliament needs to pay heed before all credibility is lost?

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