…for those of us who believe in the worth of politics and politicians.
Of course, there’s a lot of hypocrisy floating around at the moment. I mean the idea that UKIP, who have their Mote problem, are the party that might benefit from outrage over fraud would be funny, if it weren’t so depressing.
But none of that matters. Two wrongs, Motes and Beams (geddit times two…). Etc etc etc.
The only question that matters at the moment is who needs to resign, who needs to stand down and who needs to be prosecuted. I hate saying that, because I hold politics in very high regard, but in order to get some clarity and fairness in the system, everybody has to be investigated, instead of just seeing people whose claims seem most outrageous resign on an ad hoc basis (Though this should happen too).
The main issue we need to sort out is what the actual offences people have committed are. To do that we need to establish some standards by which MPs can be judged and apply them consistently.
My feeling is that there are two elements here – the illegal and the politically unacceptable. Some of the claims will be fraudulent and illegal. Those are the relatively easy ones to punish. Others will be legally perfectly legitimate but politically and morally indefensible.
In the recent coverage, it’s been very hard to work out which allegations are fraudulent, which excessive but arguably within the rules at the time, which were self enriching, and which were unreasonable, but defensible and not corrupt in intent.
How do we work out which is which, and who gets what type of punishment?
The current lack of clarity benefits those who have profitted in obscure, non headline grabbing ways, while hurting the very many who did nothing wrong, who deserve to be able to tell their constituents so, free from suspicion and innuendo.
So it seems like we need some body or organisation to produce a forensic charge sheet of both types of offence- legal and political – and so make it clear who is being accused of a crime and who of unacceptable behaviour by a public figure.
Obviously the police will have to be involved on possibly criminal offences. But there needs to be a way of assessing those who have not committed a criminal offence too. This way the House of Commons itself, the political parties, and ultimately the electorate can take what action they wish on the non criminal revelations.
If this were America, I’d saw we need a special prosecutor, with powers of subpeona, to inspect bank accounts and so on, whose conclusions could have both criminal (for a few) and political (for others) consequences. Another model might be a sort of mini-truth and reconciliation commission.
Whatever happens, I don’t think many of us have grasped yet how many people in all parties are going to have to leave politics for good.