If one thing has become clear from the expenses scandal, it is that MPs should not make the rules about their own pay and conditions.
It is therefore absolutely right that party leaders have agreed to accept the findings of Sir Christopher Kelly’s review in full. It is a thorough piece of work, and packed with eminently sensible recommendations. While the media firestorm over MPs’ expenses may have begun to subside, MPs must not think they can wriggle out of the necessary reforms. In fairness, most MPs I have spoken to are keen to get on with a new system based on the Kelly proposals, and start to rebuild trust in politics.
This is not to say that reform should stop with the Kelly recommendations. The scandal of MPs’ expenses was emblematic of wider problems with our political system. Even in cases where an MP is convicted of wrongdoing, their constituents have no power to sack them between elections. The very concept of safe seats gives voters in many constituencies little choice over their elected representative. We still have an unelected House of Lords, and progress has stalled on cleaning up party funding. Whether it is right of recall, electoral reform, or getting big money out of politics, there are many issues still to be tackled.
Sorting out our political system is too important to be left just to politicians. The public must be involved too – for example through a Citizens’ Convention. Power 2010 are collecting ideas for reform from the public at www.power2010.org, and I encourage people to have their say.
We now have Kelly’s long-awaited plan for dealing with the problems of MPs’ expenses. These recommendations should be implemented quickly. Most importantly, they should be seen as the starting point for radical reform of our politics, not the final destination.