I daresay that a few MPs were hoping that the rumpus about MP's expenses had been swept under the lush Parliamentary carpets. There's been scant reference to the issue during the conference season. I'd almost forgotten about it myself. But No. Its about to rear it's very ugly head again. It appears that Sir Thomas Legg has just been biding his time - waiting until MPs are back in Westminster, within easy reach of the media pack, before re-igniting the conflagration. It all kicks off again on Monday.
Who is Sir Thomas Legg you may ask. Well, he was appointed by the Prime Minister to conduct an audit of expense claims by MP's over the last 4 years (or is it 5?). He is a retired civil servant, with nothing to lose - dangerous man. I hadn't expected his report until the New Year, but if tomorrow's Telegraph is to believed, Sir Thomas will be sending letters to over 325 MPs on Monday, asking for 'clarifications'. It must be a bit like waiting for the dreaded envelope from the 'Road Safety Partnership' after you've suddenly noticed that you've passed a speed camera doing around 29 mph over the speed limit. Perhaps Gordon Brown has heard a whisper of this, because he's returned to the subject of expenses in his long Telegraph interview today, telling us that he expects some MPs to face corruption charges.
No-one in public life is happy with this. Even candidates such as myself are condemned as ripping off the taxpayer - despite it costing me around £10k a year just to contest the election. We all suffer. One lady in Montgomery really laid into me a few weeks ago for the way I was 'ripping her off' with my expense claims. When I explained that I didn't receive any, and that it actually cost me, she was silenced for a few seconds. She then laid into me for wanting to get into a position where I could 'rip her off'. To cap it all, she said she was going to vote Ukip!! Our democracy is is serious trouble. There should already have been a General Election to elect a new Parliament of MPs who had been forced to make real commitments to voters. It will not end until the public have their say.
I'm divided about whether I welcome the re-ignition of the expenses row. On one hand its obvious that people are already deeply disenchanted with politics, and this will only make things worse. But on the other hand, I know that confidence will only be restored if voters feel that everything has been exposed, and those who have done things that they disapprove of have faced the electorate. Gordon Brown has refused to do this. So on balance, I reckon that the return of 'Expensesgate' to our front pages is probably a plus for the future of our democracy. Not sure where its all going to end though.