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(dis)trust in institutions May 28, 2009

Posted by Bradley in : Uncategorized , trackback

The stories about MPs having designated one of their homes as a main residence for tax purposes and a different home as their main residence for the purposes of their parliamentary expense claims, about married MPs each claiming different homes as a second residence to maximise expense claims, second homes (which should be related to representation of constituents in some way, surely) miles from constituencies, and rent and salary payments to family members do seem to be in some ways a distraction from the real issues facing the country. But I think they do raise some very real questions about trust in institutions. How can people who seem to be very preoccupied with making sure they can manipulate the rules to their own best advantage be trusted to make sure that financial regulation works properly? It’s not clear how some of the possible reactions to the expenses scandals really respond to this underlying issue. How do fixed terms for MPs necessarily do much other than encouraging them to think about making sure they have profitable jobs after they leave?

Joan Smith complained this week in the Guardian that this was all really unfair to hardworking MPs. But a large number of commentators disagreed (some quite vehemently). Like it or not, MPs present themselves as representatives of their constituents’ interests and it doesn’t look good if they are able to maintain servants’ quarters and duck islands at taxpayer expense when the taxpayers worry about whether they will be able to keep up payments on a mortgage or feed their families.

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