Socialist Worker

Reshuffle won’t stop the rot at heart of parliament

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2154

The Labour government is making noises about reforming parliament to try and offset the fury over the expenses scandal.

But Labour can’t escape the unending stream of revelations that show just how deep the rot of corruption goes.

New Labour chancellor Alistair Darling was in the line of fire as Socialist Worker went to press.

Darling claimed expenses to cover a £1,004 service charge for his flat in the exclusive Imperial Court building near the Oval cricket ground, south London – just ten days after taking up his new role in July 2007.

At that time he was also claiming second home allowances on his Downing Street apartments.

The double claim breached even the lax parliamentary rules that prevent MPs from claiming on more than one property at a time.

Darling designated four different properties as his second home in as many years.

From October 2007 he declared he was renting out his London flat and said that Downing Street was his second home.

Property empire

He has since claimed about £1,200 a month in mortgage and council tax bills.

Geoff Hoon, the transport secretary, avoided capital gains tax on the sale of his London flat as he built up his £1.8 million property empire at our expense.

He was forced to hand back £384 as he admitted over charging for bills covering his constituency home in Derby.

There is one Labour peer who has admitted that he “fiddled” his expenses.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead, a former CWU union bureaucrat, became chair of the Labour Party in 1992 and entered the Lords in 1998.

Since 2001, the earliest published expenses available, he has falsely claimed £100,154 for overnight subsistence.

Last year he claimed £17,794.

Even those disgraced MPs who are forced to stand down at the general election will keep their perks long after they leave parliament.

Perhaps fearing for their futures, some 52 Labour MPs have applied to become members of the House of Lords after the next election.

But MPs who don’t get into the Lords will still get payoffs when they leave along with a healthy pension.

They increase the amount of their “golden goodbye” handshake by clinging on until the general election.

Up to £42,000 is on offer for MPs who stand down to pay for winding up their staff’s contracts and office rent.

And all MPs leaving parliament at the next election will be given the option of keeping a Commons pass, allowing them to mix freely with MPs and use Westminster’s subsidised bars and restaurants.


The perks are offered by the Association of Former MPs. Some 206 MPs have secured a Commons pass through the organisation – though their names are kept secret.

A large number of former MPs are now making money working as consultants and lobbyists, pushing business interests in parliament.

A cabinet reshuffle won’t stop this rot. Gordon Brown should go now.

And we should demand criminal investigations and jail for the crooks at the top.

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