Betrayal and barbecue sets

Professor Robert Lee | 13 years ago

The revelations about MPs’ expense claims are more than a question of petty greed, says Professor Robert Lee.

As the scandal of MPs’ expenses continues to reverberate, is there anything left to say from the point of view of green politics? One might claim, perhaps, that a second home might represent a helpful reduction in the carbon footprint of MPs, given the number of journeys it eliminates. This rather falls apart, however, if, as in the case of Margaret Moran, the second (or, in this case, third) home is neither in Westminster nor in her constituency of Luton South but over 100 miles away in Southampton – a two-hour drive. Alistair Darling, according to The Daily Telegraph, seems to have changed the location of his second home four times in as many years. Now that this process, known as flipping, has been revealed, taxpayers everywhere have been left flipping furious.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has written of the decline of the moral authority of Parliament in the News of the World, a newspaper that debates issues of morality without fail every Sunday. Carey argues that it is the betrayal that matters, rather than ‘the clawing greed of painstaking claims for such minor items as tampons, barbecue sets and bathrobes’. But, actually, the greed matters, too. The claims made for mock Tudor beams, patio heaters, flatscreen TVs and the like offer a revealing insight into the values of our elected representatives. Are these the people that we ought to trust to deliver on the sustainability agenda? Judging by their patterns of consumption, we will wait an awfully long time.

About the author

Professor Robert Lee

ERIC Director and Head of Birmingham Law School, Professor Robert Lee was co-director of the publicly funded Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society at Cardiff University (BRASS). He is an expert on regulation, including environmental regulation and regulation of biotechnology and biomedicine. He previously worked for two top 10 UK law firms, and remains a professional-development consultant to one of the largest law firms in Europe, working on pan-European delivery of legal services.