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Saturday, December 04, 2010

Cleaning up politics

David Chaytor's guilty plea yesterday and the decision of the courts not to allow Phil Woolas to appeal against an election court ruling that he can no longer sit as MP because he made false statements about his opponent are two welcome steps towards cleaning up politics in this country.

However, the current agitation by MPs against the new independent body set up to oversee their expense claims shows that many still do not get it. It is also the case that Woolas still retains some support amongst Labour MPs, who can see nothing wrong with the disgraceful campaign he ran in Oldham East.

These are not matters that can be left to partisan politicians. Too often politicians of all colours have pushed at the boundaries of what is acceptable both in terms of how they campaign and how they conduct themselves. The courts only get involved as a last resort. The only sanction available to the public is the ballot box and often the system frustrates them in getting their way there.

That is why the referendum on the alternative vote next May is so important. It may not be the best system but it at least ensures that every MP needs to get more than half of the vote to get elected. As a result they have to work harder to win and are more easily punished if they stray from the straight and narrow.

That is a message that we need to get across to the public. The only people who don't want to reform the system are those politicians who benefit from it. It is time for a change.
Where MPs complain that IPSA is inefficient, bureaucratic and costs far too much to run they may have a point.
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