Jacqui Smith made an apology, a qualified apology and only for what had been revealed as wrong:
But she declined to apologise for declaring her sister’s London home as her main residence, saying that she spent the majority of her time in the capital and had checked this arrangement with the House of Commons authorities. “It has been a difficult few weeks and I have apologised for those bits of my expenses that I think are wrong,” she told GMTV.
Ms Smith told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 that it was the “nature of the job” that MPs had to furnish and run two properties.
After the reveal about what Jacqui Smith claimed for, including luxury items for which her voters had to save, the chances of maintaining her marginal at the next election have dimmed. How not to exercise an incumbency advantage?
Jacqui Smith may be out-of-touch but it is the collective behaviour that leads to grating of teeth. Backbench MP attendance of select committees has declined under Labour, removing the scrutiny which the Commons is responsible for. Various excuses are trotted out of the 'do you know how important I am' or 'pick and choose' or the unbelievable.
MPs now openly pick and choose which meetings they attend with impunity. Jim Dowd, a Labour MP who attended 18 out of the 37 meetings of the Health Select Committee, suggested that he had the balance “about right”. He said: “I go to the ones I can get to and the ones that do not clash with my many commitments as a London MP.”
Emily Thornberry, a Labour backbencher who attended 13 of the 36 meetings of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said that she principally attended those meetings on housing — a minority of its workload. “I have never made a secret of the fact that I think it should be a housing committee. Also, I couldn’t go to all the meetings because the House was sitting and there were debates on [important] issues. There is a difficulty because there are lots of calls on your time.”
Figures for select committee attendance for the year to November reveal that members of all parties failed to turn up. Siôn Simon, who was a backbencher until last October, attended only 11 of 37 meetings in the ten months of last year in which he was a member of the Treasury Select Committee, which is playing a key role investigating the credit crunch. He stopped attending when he became a minister. Mr Simon, now Further Education Minister, rejected suggestions that he was failing in his job. “I was a regular attendee,” he said.
As in the expenses fraud, this is a sign that the parties have undermined the Select Committees. MPs will only attend on constituency business or as a specialism. Some declined as they were busy focusing on their lack of front bench careers. Why should we be surprised at this abysmal state of affairs; so appalling that the executive has begun to allow Parliamentary Private Secretaries to become members.
Party leaders need to make sure that, only those who rise above the mentality of placemen and sinecures, through a diligent appreciation of Parliament will advance in their careers. Until then, our Mother remains a toothless hag, soiled by the antics of scheming wyrms, biting at her teats.
And what happened to the Lords who were found out earlier this year?