Friday, 7 January 2011

Chaytor (H)MP*

Twitter and the blogosphere appears to have been infected with a bout of 'Chaytorism' involving condemnation of his actions and lauding his punishment. There are, however, other elements to this story that are worthy of further consideration.

With the impending trials of Elliot Morley, Jim Devine, Eric Illsley, Lord Hanningfield and Lord Taylor - plus the possible prosecution of Denis MacShane - this can only reignite the public interest in political sleeze and politician's expenses, the latter much in the news with the on-going battle twixt IPSA and MPs. One can but wonder what effect the re-ignition of the expenses saga may have on the Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election? Might there be a public 'backlash' against the Lib/Lab/Con parties?

The public may well also wonder why Chaytor and the others mentioned above are the only ones against whom prosecutions are pending. Bear in mind that financial fraud is, in general terms, an intentional act committed for personal gain, utilising funds of another. 

The electorate has a right to expect that those who pass down laws and rules by which we must live and work have unimpeachable standards themselves, that they have been fair and reasonable in claiming expenses and that they have not sought to enrich themselves either in monetary gain or an improvement in their lifestyle. It must also be repeated that MPs expenses were to be incurred 'wholly and exclusively' as a result of their duties as an MP.

A great number of those MPs returned to Parliament in May 2010 were guilty of fraud - albeit they all had the excuse that their expense claims were within the rules - in that claims were made for items that were not 'wholly and exclusively' necessary to enable them to fulfil their duties as an MP. The fact that some opted not to claim the second home allowance, or repaid sums of money for claims submitted 'in error' when public attention focused on their shenanigans is neither here nor there. The fact that Margaret Beckett, for example, repaid monies for hanging baskets is, again, neither here nor there - since when were hanging baskets 'wholly and exclusively' necessary for her to carry out duties as an MP? And the difference between MPs and those members of the public who have been prosecuted for financial fraud - even though they may have repaid all or part of their illegal gain - is?

It can be held that whilst not ultimately benefiting from financial fraud - due to either being discovered before the crime has actually been committed, or repaying the monies involved - the fact that the fraud was committed in the first place is sufficient, in my view, for prosecutions to take place. 

Cynicism rising to the fore, again, one does have to wonder if those at the top of the political pyramid decided that if a few 'selected' prosecutions were brought, that these would satisfy the public wish for retribution? So perhaps Chaytor - and the rest, if convicted - are acting the part of 'time-honoured' scapegoats? With their usual inability to logically 'think things through', what the political elite did not realize was that those 'selected prosecutions' would just re-awaken the public's ire.


* With acks to Guido Fawkes, where I spotted the heading.

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