The last few weeks have been interesting, as the real legacy of Thatcher and Blair has come home to roost with a vengeance, as both the Brown government’s minimal credibility and any claim to moral authority have been blown away. As some Westminster MP’s run for cover or are left trying to defend questionable ‘expense claims’ and the on-going saga of MP’s expenses continues to run and run it may well be time to take stock as to how we ended up in this mess.
Some of the responsibility lies with Mr’s Thatcher – those blighted and wasted (from a Welsh and many other perspective(s) 18 years of Conservative Government saw an amazing growth in what can best be called ‘institutionalised corruption’ as the culture of ‘making a quick buck’ and ‘lining your pocket’ took hold. With some MP’s acquiring lucrative non executive directorships in the privatised previous nationalised industries (that they had helped to privatise), as well taking back handers and brown envelopes to ask parliamentary questions, as well as having second jobs, etc.
By the early 1990’s discontent outside Westminster was rising, in some pretty unexpected places, I can remember the significant cheer going around a large south London Police station when it was announced that Mrs Thatcher had resigned. The Conservatives were as surprised to be returned to power in 1992 as everyone else was by the fact that they were back in office. I can remember the bitter disappointment of the Basildon result – which meant that there would be more wasted years and more of the same. Majorism came and went dying a slow death mired in sleaze, corruption and back ti basics.
New Labour and Blair at least offered the illusion of change in 1997. Sadly New labour turned out to be an illusion and for all the talk and the spin, little changed and any moral credibility not so quietly died in the deserts of Iraq. What was really scary was that it took an incredibly short time for New Labour to lose the plot, the scams, the backhanders and the sleaze never really went away. The only real difference was that now if was New (and Old) Labours turn to get their noses in the trough like so many possessed Gadarene swine.
Now many of the New (and not so New) Labour MPs had a real advantage for when it came to lining their wallets as they came from the ‘corrupt’ culture of Labour dominated local government, so exposure to corruption and sleaze was second nature and it is beginning to appear like a number of them took to milking their expenses in exactly the same way Labour does it at local level, especially in the areas where they have been in power for generations.
It’s quite interesting, in the south east, Plaid had some hard earned successes at County Council and Community Council level in 2008. I have been lucky to spend time working with, talking to and listening to our new elected representatives as they get an understanding of how local government does and does not work.
One thing became pretty obvious was the fact that the Labour Party locally went out of its way to try to encourage our elected reps to follow their example of claiming everything you can claim – fortunately our Plaid Councillors were forewarned and wise to this old trick. Once you get sucked into that culture of municipal ‘corruption’ it’s very difficult to get out of it, and very difficult to condemn it - as some Westminster New (and not so new) Labour and Conservative MP’s are finding out to all our cost – when polling day comes lets hope the electorate remembers who claimed what and vote accordingly!