17 Mar 2010

“Hurt” MPs prepare to say farewell to the Commons

Few apologies, many regrets. That was the impression I was left with after interviewing retiring MPs for tonight’s Channel 4 News.

We hear, for the first time since they were trapped in the expenses saga, from Derek Conway and Kitty Ussher. Nicholas Winterton (one half of what the newspapers dubbed “Mr and Mrs Expenses”) shares his thoughts as he leaves. As do Geoff Hoon, Ann Widdecombe and Tony Wright.

You get an overwhelming sense of hurt from the interviews. A sense of a Commons that is still in shock. 

For all retiring MPs, whenever they were first elected, arriving at the House of Commons boosted their status. As they leave they’re not sure whether to tell taxi drivers what they do for a living.

Ann Widdecombe opened her post just a few days ago to discover a two word correspondence – “oink, oink.” 

As Geoff Hoon says, MPs give up chunks of family life and much else because they are highly motivated and public approval is a component of that. Now they feel “de-motivated.”

Derek Conway said those MPs that remain are no better than “walking wounded.”

As both Derek Conway and Nicholas Winterton say, what the public called the “expenses saga” was to them an “allowances saga.” They were supposed to claim to the hilt or near it to make up for salary rises foregone. That was the advice from the Fees Office and from senior colleagues. 

Tony Wright tells of being eye-balled by a colleague – a well known figure in the Commons – who didn’t like him blowing the whistle on MPs playing the mileage expenses claims to their advantage. 

Derek Conway tells us he paid a heavy price as he was a highly favoured candidate for the Speakership before disaster struck.

Kitty Ussher says that although she was a Treasury Minister, flipping her second home to avoid council tax was no different from taking up an ISA. 

On at 7pm tonight – and you can see it after that on Channel 4+1, or the Channel 4 News website.

Tweets by @garygibbonblog

16 reader comments

  1. Tina Louise says:

    Interesting insight, thank you. In the end though, it all comes down to a culture of deceit.

    I believe that ALL our politicians who were aware of this deception by themselves or others, are culpable. I want to be governed by honest politicians – and that expectation should be a right, not a joke.

    Tina Louise

    1. Amrit says:

      It was our right and it is consciously ignored and has been for a long time. Incredible how the MP’s keep talking about regaining trust – never a word from them that they themselves destroyed it over many many years. It is I believe an established fact that Trust has to be earned and is not a given just so it can be abused and manipulated again.. and again. Just watched Despatches – why are they all get getting such fat payoffs and pensions anyway? I am so so cross at the levels of financial abuse they have encouraged and participated in. We need a team of Secret Millionaires to volunteer to show Gordon and the rest of the pratts how to add and subtract honestly as opposed to self suitably.. might learn something to help them rekindle a little of the national interest they lost while serving their own? Can’t be a mistake compared with what we have and how they dealt on behalf of this country. The price of such greed and selfishness is that they have brought Shame on themselves and their houses..even if they don’t know it

  2. Steve says:

    Few apologies, many regrets, no humility. Having bailed the banks out with OUR money and then allowing the banks to do what they please (re: bonuses) all whilst the general public suffer, no wonder the UK populace have a huge apathy towards politics. How the other half live…

  3. adrian clarke says:

    What the MP’s , both those leaving and those seeking re election ,do not seem to realise is that they are/were the countries law makers .Their decisions affect the lives of the rest of the population .They would see the taking of pencils, rubber bands , note paper or any other article , from a company as theft .Yet abusing their expenses , by over claiming , flipping homes, lying about main residences , is exactly that.Theft from their employer, the tax payers of this country.If you seek high office and wish to serve your electrate you should be above reproach.The excuse that somebody told me it was OK is not a defence at law.The law is quite clear , “you should know”.The majority , including the leaders are all guilty.Just as guilty are the Lords.To my mind their only sorrow is at being caught.

  4. Jay says:

    I hope the only mps who would speak on camera were the psychologically flawed individuals who genuily felt that they were the victims. Perhaps some therapy and medication are in order.

    Mps go into parliament because of their egos and stay for the lifestyle. One they make for themselves. There are no innocent mps. They were either fiddling, knew it was gonging on and did nothing or too self-absorbed and frankly stupid to be making laws. That’s before we even get to the ones who were trying to block the freedom of information request by any means necessary, including “gorilla tactics”.

    Another website asked how the expenses scandal had effected people voting intentions. Speaking for myself its simple. If a candidate has been in parliament before I’m not voting for them. Abstention is not really an option. But perhaps their egos would like to know that most of the British electorate hold them in such high regard they can’t be bothered to travel to the local school / community centre and tick a piece of paper every 5 years or so for them. They might do it if it was to see a certain mp kneeling on broken glass. Saying sorry would probably even be optional.

  5. Mudplugger says:

    Considering that the ‘deserters’ have nothing more to lose since all their integrity was so comprehensively shredded, perhaps a more revealing set of interviews would be with those MPs who are planning/hoping to stay, despite being exposed for their over-liberal treatment of ‘allowances’.

    To hear whether they have learned from the process and how they plan to modify their behaviour henceforth could be illuminating for their potential electors to consider in the coming weeks.

    Over to you, Gary. (Bet they run a mile.)

  6. Ramsey says:

    I think Mr Winterton’s attitude and comments sums up why MP’s just don’t get it! They may be feeling sorry for themselves but if they are to represent the people of this country they need to understand that the world has changed and that the people are now much better informed about the way parliament works and that the old ‘systems’ will be scrutinised for the kind of misguided legislation that got them all into this mess in the first place.

  7. Anthony Martin says:

    The only feeling I have towards all these MPs is, the sooner they’re gone, the better. We all know that the remaining scum still reside and, the incoming will be even more secretive with their perks & pensions.
    The secretive ‘gentlemen’s club’ system was honed over a period of time and was very evident to those milking it that, it was
    deciet on a grand scale. It was like a religion where all the colluding scum accepted the status quo and were very happy to milk & benefit from it under the guise of naivety! Big liars.
    Just how much these bast***s have actually milked and are still milking, beggars belief.
    Britain, the country where the corrupt rich, fraudulent MPs & Lords and, arrogant greedy corrupt Banking scum have given our country the reputation of utter disgrace around the world.
    Top that with the system of unrestrained capitalism that allows the rich to dominate resources & media and, manipulate government policy, and you have inequality & festering hate in a country of misery.
    Good riddance to you MPs old & new. We need equality, trust and altruism.

  8. Joshua says:

    Absolutely fascinating piece on today’s programme. Really interesting to see the more ‘human’ MPs caught in the expenses scandal. Kitty looked close to tears.

  9. Kes says:

    Interesting insight into this mentality. Amazingly, they are still running their own expenses system! That is costing us £6.5 million for 80 staff. A well organised staff of four could run it, but these people, unably led by a career politician PM, can’t stop indulging their habits of waste and claim. It remains a stain on this country.

  10. margaret BrandrethJones says:

    ” Go out and feel what the impoverished feel, then you can give them your wealth and make the world more fair.”

    Modern Interpretation of Lear.

  11. chris kilby says:

    Winterton is a Gillray caricature made pompous flesh. Which is precisely how the history books will make him look.

    His insistence on referring to MPs’ expenses (which you have to justify) as “allowances” (which you are entitled to) spoke volumes. So did his claim that we’re all just envious. Furious more like.

    Then there was the blank, uncomprehending look on Kitty Ussher’s face. Her (badly) rehersed and disingenuous defense that flipping her home to avoid paying council tax was no different from an ISA was completely bogus – even she wasn’t convinced.

    I wonder how the likes of Winterton and Ussher feel about “benefit cheats”…

  12. margaret BrandrethJones says:

    Just a quick look at the comments and the sanctamonious , self indulgent remarks. No empathy at all . All big brothers , but no sisters of mercy.

    I have suffered with many too.but hey this is another reason why small communities of people could cause a lynch mob mentality, an innate cruelty permeates.

    All get ready with the thumbs down to hang me.

  13. frank says:

    how many of these MP’s have been deselected? not many I think
    despite the public outcry and dismay at such venal self centered behavoiur many still retain confidence in their constituiencies. I think they represent the people who have chosen them for a seat , not the electorate , we seem to have precious little choice, but the committee members and suchlike who interview before selecting a candidate.It is my contention they know what they getand are happy with it.

  14. Steve Willis says:

    I wonder how many of these M.P’s will go on to develop careers in the media and Quangos?

  15. g7uk says:

    And what about those who are standing in the coming election? In the BBC Panorama programme about Salford a couple of months ago Hazel Blears was seen running away from the reporter repeatedly and refusing to answer questions. What kind of message does that give?

    Previously, when she held up the cheque that she was sending to the Inland Revenue, some people said it would just come off her future tax liability, unless the Revenue had issued her with a bill for the capital gains tax. I’m still waiting to find out what actually happened.

Comments are closed.