The psychology of expenses

Somebody once told me that elitists – by which I mean people with wealth and power – go through several stages of psychology when they are caught and charged with a crime.

The first stage is denial – “It wasn’t me! It was someone’s else’s fault! I will sue the person who said it about me!” etc. The second stage is arrogance and misdirection – “I had to do it, I was acting in the best interests of my people and if I hadn’t of done this, something terrible would have happened! I’m a hero!”, etc. and the final stage is wallowing self pity – “I’ve suffered so much because of this, I don’t deserve this punishment, you people are treating me like a common criminal. You’ll soon be sorry for treating me like this.” and so on.

Is there anyone who can’t see this third and final stage being clearly played out in our Parliament right now? Various sources – mostly those from within Whitehall – are warning us that we have gone too far. MPs are beginning to “crack” under pressure , the media coverage has gone too far. Apparently, politicians are walking around with “fear” in their eyes!

Well call me cold-hearted and callous, but I just can’t hear any violins playing right now. Let’s get something clear – every MP who made a greedy, self important, arrogant decision to make an obscene expenses claim did so willingly. They had a choice to use their own considerable funds to pay for the expense or to use the taxpayer’s had earned cash to do so instead. Nobody forced the to make the claims at any time. They know it and we know, they just wish we didn’t.

Moreover, most people seem reluctant -to ask the biggest question – if our own local MPs are up to this much mischief, what about the guys with real power sitting up in Brussels, protected by layers and layers of legislation that make it impossible to check on what they re doing? Why can’t we ask this question? Perhaps we prefer not to know the answer?

As I typed this piece, it becomes so clear what the problem really is. We have a mentality of “them” and “us” in politics and have done so for a long time. Politics is now a full time career choice for many of our MPs. Most don’t look upon themselves as servants of the people or even figures of democracy. Certainly, the majority don’t think of themselves as common people from other careers, elected to represent their home town. They see themselves as marketers, of whom the most successful are awarded the position of MP.

With that “promotion” comes perks. Those perks might include various corporate events and sponsorships, consultency and directorships, and most certainly expenses claims. This is where the key problem lies – they do not see expenses as a fund to be claimed only when absolutely necessary and morally justified, but as one of the perks of the job. Something to be exploited and budgeted-in whenever the “system” allows it. In that sense, the politicians who used the “blame the system” get out line were correct. The “system” – they choose that word because it does not imply any human involvement – is to blame, but it is our own politicos who allowed that system to flourish in the first place.

But let’s not lay the blame solely at the blame of our young career MPs. We have to look at our society as a whole. We have become conceited. We have become complacent and lazy. We have reached a stage where we ask nothing more of these people other than the occasional false promise and nice sounding, vacuous speech. We have allowed them to bedazzle us with so much red tape and complex legislation that we are too intimidated to try and keep things transparent. We have become so intellectually lazy that we rarely question the motives or direction they take. In short, we have are just as responsible for this “them and “us” mentality as they are. Make no mistake, that is where the problem lies.

So what is the solution? Perhaps we don’t need one now. After all, they have changed the rules in Parliament, right? They can’t claim for all these expenses anymore can they? Pull the other one. The new rules on expenses are nothing more than a face saving exercise for our leaders until the next election, war or epidemic rolls along and we forget about all this nonsense.

Sadly, this is deep rooted problem that cannot be dealt with by quick lip service from David Cameron. What is needed is an end to this “them and us” psyche of our society. The people in power need to be sent a sharp reminder who they work for and why they are there. They need to make democratic decisions, consult the people on sensitive, controversial and divisive matters and to pledge a whole new set of policies for the public to scrutnise, monitor and understand what they do.

That change will never, ever, happen with the three big parties as they stand now. They have built this system and stand to lose everything by dismantling it. The solution lies in a new, rapidly growing party with a full set of policies, ethics, structure and behaviour. You might call it a fresh light on politics. That party is Popular Alliance. Don’t take my word for it, see for yourself.

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