17 May 2009

Shades of grey

I usually admire the writing of Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer. But this kind of stuff is just playing to the gallery:
David Cameron can instruct his new scrutiny committee to remove the Tory spivs and scam merchants. The committee can be empowered to strike off the approved candidates list any Tory MP found guilty of making unethical claims. On the Labour side, the party's national executive committee will this week discuss a proposal to conduct a clean-out. Gordon Brown should support this at once and ensure that there is a tough mechanism for imposing deselection on the fiddlers and fraudsters on his benches.
The problem is deciding which of the miscreants is an outright cad worthy of being cast into the outer darkness and which is an idiot who has made a simple mistake or two in compiling his or her expenses claim. We could all agree (perhaps) that Messrs Morley and Chaytor should be compelled to spend more time with their imaginary mortgages, while Ms Blears should pay a severe penalty for her capital gains tax avoidance (and for being extremely irritating). But do Mr Darling's flipping, Mr Straw's excessive claim for council tax, Mr Willetts' light bulbs, Mr Letwin's leaky pipe under his tennis court and Mr Salmond's gluttony constitute sins of an equal magnitude? Maybe they do, maybe they don't.

I realise that it is tempting to opt for a 'when in doubt, chuck them out' policy. But I really think that we need to draw some sort of dividing line between the villains and the clowns. Drawing such a line would require the wisdom of Solomon, however. Mr Rawnsley's pat solution is no real solution at all.

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