Tuesday, May 26, 2009

British Parliamentary Crisis Over Expense Scandal

This hasn't been reported much in the US, but it seems something unprecedented is happening in Great Britain.

Telegraph was the first newspaper to report on the ever-growing expense scandal 2 weeks ago, and it has the dedicated section on their website.

British Members of Parliament (MPs) were revealed to have taken the taxpayers money to:

  • clean the moats
  • pay the mortgage on their second house
  • hire tax accountants for their personal tax returns
  • decorate their Christmas tree
  • buy lavatory seats.
  • repave the driveway
  • buy a plasma television
  • collect half-million British Pounds (Sinn Fein MPs) while refusing to attend the Parliament
  • reupholster the sofa
  • buy ginger crinkle biscuits
The list goes on and on.

It has been their custom, to give MPs expense accounts as perks, since their salary is considered low (currently it is 64,766 British Pound, which is about US$103,256) . However, with the UK's economy down the toilet, the taxpayers there are saying "Enough is enough".

6 days ago, the Speaker of the UK House of Commons was forced out of job under pressure over the scandal. (BBC Radio's report is here.) The first time that it happened in over 3 centuries. After noting that 9 Speakers met violent deaths including 7 who were beheaded, that's understandable.

Times online reports that 325 MPs will be swept away in the general election, which Prime Minister Gordon Brown will likely be forced to call. That's HALF of the Parliament.

"As many as 30 will be forced to resign directly because of the expenses scandal, while whips expect more than 200 to quit because they are unable to cope with continued public anger. Up to 90 MPs will be voted out in the election."

The scandal, which started as seemingly minor one, seems to have evolved into a full-blown taxpayers' revolt. William Rees-Mogg (of "The Sovereign Individual" and "Blood in the Street") calls it "a revolution" (his article is here).

I hope the British taxpayers have longer memory than the US counterpart.


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