Seumas Milne argues that the scams are a legacy of New Labour’s get-rich, ideology-lite culture. The remoralisation must go far beyond the Commons
“The House of Commons expenses scandal may have brought the British political class to a new nadir, but it’s the country that will pay the price. David Cameron was yesterday hailed as a political master after he turned a week of Telegraph revelations about pocket-stuffing MPs into a square-jawed display of resolve and ordered frontbench Tories to repay their most ludicrous expense claims – setting an example with his own £680 bill for removal of wisteria at his second home in Oxfordshire.
This, it was claimed, was Cameron’s Clause Four moment – in emulation of his role model, Tony Blair – and New Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders, from the communities secretary, Hazel Blears, to Nick Clegg, rushed to follow suit. Yet for all the ritual grovelling and self-flagellation, it now turns out things are not quite what they seemed. Cameron may be returning £680 for his wisteria job. But he has no plans to pay back the tens of thousands of pounds in mortgage interest he’s been charging to the public purse for years; just as Blears is coughing up £13,332 capital gains tax she avoided when selling one of three homes – but not the £45,000 profit she made from the deal at public expense… ”
Seumas Milne’s critically acclaimed, The Enemy within: Thatcher’s Secret War Against the Miners was published by Verso in 2004.