|Stephen Dorrell at the Leveson Inquiry|
Stephen Dorrell is not a stupid man. In fact, I've always thought him quite reasoned in his political thinking. Now he is caught up in a potential scandal about selling a flat of his for £70,000 and renting it back, using taxpayers' money. Did it ever occur to him, over cornflakes at breakfast, that this might, ever so slightly, be seen as iffy? He may not have done wrong, but it is perception every time in politics. The Daily Telegraph is on to it, a bit like a trained bloodhound. That paper has definitely got a smell for trouble. It reports "....but the disclosure that a senior Conservative has been caught up in the controversy over expenses will raise further concerns that 51 MPs have been allowed to keep their rental details secret". More secrecy? More potential trouble I fear.
We have not seen or heard the last of these things. Even with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, a quango swallowing taxpayers money, we still have not struck at the heart of the culture that sees expenses as additional income. Stephen Dorrell says he has nothing to hide and will explain all. Fair do's, but his political antennae have let him down here.
There does not seem to be any idea of considering if an expense is genuinely an expense. It's all a matter of correcting things after the event. One of the reasons I find David Cameron's position so hard to accept is that he let that bill for clearing wisteria from his house go through. It was no accident. He knew at the time that withering wisteria was his problem alone. It was nothing to do with the taxpayers and certainly had nothing to do with his constituency business. But when found out he shrugged it off. Arrogantly, too, I thought. And others in a similar situation, who he obviously thought were "not with the programme" got rough justice and were shown the door. Their seats filled with willing programme supporters.
Until the matter of expenses is finally sorted out, it will continue to anger the public if abused and continue to be a source of political blackmail by rivals and opponents in political life. I do hope Stephen Dorrell knocks this on the head very soon.