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GLENDA JACKSON: Outcry over expenses is fully justified

PUBLISHED: 11:23 21 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:12 07 September 2010

I had intended to write this week in strong support of the Finance Bill, believing, as I do, that our greatest national resource lies in the energy, creativity, inventiveness and talent of our people. That borrowing is to ensure that essential resources w

I had intended to write this week in strong support of the Finance Bill, believing, as I do, that our greatest national resource lies in the energy, creativity, inventiveness and talent of our people.

That borrowing is to ensure that essential resources will not be, as they were under the previous Conservative Governments, thrown onto the scrap heap and that the public services upon which we all depend will not be allowed to atrophy. Borrowing makes sense.

And as someone who for all my adult life, lived under the debt burden of fighting the Second World War, during which the most amazing opportunities were there for millions like me, I can say that our present 'burden' will not sink either our country or our abilities.

But my theory of the benefits accruing from a policy of borrowing to invest has been overtaken by events or rather the drip, drip, drip 'revelations' regarding MPs' allowances. All such claims were to be published in July of this year. I'm hoping mine will be on my website by the end of this week and if you don't have access to a computer I'm happy to furnish you with a copy by post.

It is entirely our fault - by 'ours' I mean all MPs of whatever party affiliation, not to have sorted this mess out long ago. And the public anger at what they are reading, hearing and seeing is entirely justified. Not all of the detailed claims were in fact claims and the Prime Minister did not pay his brother to do the cleaning, but it is a system that has to change, and swiftly.

We quite rightly no longer have a say in our salaries, and we should have no say as to the kind or size if allowances. There is a need for what has been called the second homes cost and in a Parliament in which the majority of MPs represent constituencies hundreds of miles from Westminster, the cost of being in London should be reimbursed. But at what levels, is just one of the questions of the hour.

Apologies are the order of the day, so 'sorry' has ceased to be the hardest word, but that's not nearly enough. The examinations by Sir Christopher Kelly which the House should accept without debate or amendment, should bring this seriously damaging process to an end.

And it is damaging, not only to MPs but to Parliament and the entire democratic process.

People don't go through the gruelling process of selection and election to make money. Given the present climate you won't believe me, but its true. They believe in democracy, in public service, that human nature doesn't change, but the human condition can be improved and that truly free societies are those that recognise and support our mutual dependence.

Which is why the deeply serious aspect of all these revelations is that the European and local elections may be shunned by our electorate, under the 'plague on all your houses' assessment. But waiting in the wings are extremist parties, usually the beneficiaries of low voter turnout.

Letting them in would be cutting off the nose to spite the face. This country with every other country in the world is facing seemingly superhuman problems. The economy, environment, poverty, disease, and seemingly intractable and permanent conflict.

We need all our senses to solve these issues and demagoguery won't do it.

Glenda Jackson is

the Labour MP for

Hampstead & Highgate.

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