Sunday, May 10, 2009

How do we encourage people to vote now?

Clearly it's Tories as well as New Labour Ministers who have been taking advantage of a system for claiming expenses which is, to put it mildly, pretty remarkable (as is evidenced by the ethical gymnastics of Hazel Blears, who seems to be saying that she was right to do something because it was within "the rules" but that the rules were themselves wrong...!)

As a public service trade unionist occasionally negotiating local procedures on claiming expenses in an impoverished South London borough I might as well be on another planet rather than just over the River.

Even as a member of the UNISON NEC (who failed to win friends and influence people a few years ago by opposing an increase in subsistence expenses) I just don't recognise the expenses system that our Members of Parliament have agreed for themselves. A fair system of claiming legitimate expenses is essential if politics is to be accessible to all - but that is very clearly not what has been going on.

As an opponent of the poisonous hatred of the far right I am particularly alarmed that the way this story is developing and will develop will feed an antipathy to politicians in general (and Labour politicians in particular) which will be very welcome to those vermin. The potential damage to democracy has been inflicted upon it by a number of our Members of Parliament.

The trade unions need to ensure that our members vote in the forthcoming Euro-elections in order to stop the far right (as I was saying).

But we also need to set about changing our polity very fundamentally so that it actually offers something to working people. Starting with the idea of MPs on a workers wage. But then maybe moving on.

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