Musings on yesterday.
As mistakes go, the expenses scandal is perhaps the most blunderous in parliamentary history for MPs. The financial minutiae are paltry and largely irrelevant. A moat cleaning here, a bag of manure there, is small beer in the scheme of things, especially in such times of trillion pound debt.
The problem for Westmonster is that a spell has now been broken. Animosity is united from the full spectrum of political viewpoints.
For 12 years, Labour have ridden the wave of public trust in passing a swathe of laws which were allowed simply because MPs were respected (that, and their predilection for bent consultations, of course). One cannot subscribe confidently to the thought, though, that the previous administration were any less dismissive of the electorate, but Labour have taken the almighty piss, as discussed at the Telegraph.
Overall, more than 3,000 new criminal offences have been created by Labour – 1,000 of them punishable by imprisonment.
Here are just a few of the things you could do before 1997 but can't now – many of them, it must be said, forced on us by EU directives, though our government in most cases agreed them.
- Smoke in a pub or on a railway platform in the open air in the middle of the countryside, or at a covered bus stop, or in your own car if it is used for work, or in your own house if it is used as an office where outsiders may come.
- Own a horse, donkey or Shetland pony without possessing a passport carrying a picture of the animal.
- Ride off with a pack of hounds in pursuit of a fox or stag.
- Play the piano in a pub without an entertainment licence.
- Stage more than 12 events a year at, for instance, a school or church hall at which alcohol may be served without a full licence.
- Set off a firework after midnight or be in possession of a firework if aged under 18 at any time other than the period around Bonfire Night and New Year's Eve.
- Own a pistol for any purpose, including sport target practice.
- Stage a protest of any sort, even if alone, within 1km of the Palace of Westminster, without the authority of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
- Fish in the River Esk without authorisation.
- Enter the hull of the Titanic without permission from the Secretary of State.
- Import into England potatoes which a person knows to be or has reasonable cause to suspect to be Polish potatoes.
- Obstruct the work of the Children's Commissioner for Wales.
- Imbibe an alcoholic drink on a London Underground train or bus.
- Keep a car on your own driveway without tax, even if it not being used, without filling in a form.
- Sell a grey squirrel (though you can kill one).
That's a hell of a list, and not exhaustive.
One would assume then, that yesterday's small protest, described as a 'flash mob' by the BBC, would be a right of centre action.
Unfortunately for Labour, it wasn't. The Socialist Workers Party were in prominent, as were the Jury Team, and a sprinkling of Libertarians. The prime movers were far left and angry in their own way.
This is the problem for MPs now. They had a great little scam going which has been busted by their own greed. It has destroyed them entirely - left, right and centre.
The list above has angered just about every citizen of this country to some degree, and that is only a small selection. It makes no mention of the lies that led to the Iraq war, the ignored Number 10 petitions, the hypocritical global warming rhetoric prior to expansion of runways etc. - but no-one raised too much of a protest.
The only thing that held the whole cobbled nonsense together was that MPs were honourable and beyond reproach. That has been shattered and therein lies the anger.
Not that someone claimed for dry rot, but that they had lectured others on how to live their lives while doing so. Not that an MPs husband was wanking off to porn for a tenner, but that £5bn was being spent on ID cards which no-one wants. Not that a few thousand is being claimed by the schools minister, but that the schools are shit while he is trousering the cash.
The leftists were there yesterday, incandescent that a supposedly leftist party were acting like their mortal enemies, the rich. Capitalism may have been dealt a mortal blow by the banking crisis (according to them), but MPs have shown morals that are equally in the gutter. Those on the right are angry that their profits are being ripped to pieces by a taxing government which is populated by troughers intent on taking as much as they can get without recourse to the same system.
It is akin to a hypnotist clicking his fingers and us all wondering what we were doing by eating that onion. It's us and them now, there is no middle ground, they are hated by every political persuasion for a variety of differing reasons. If they had only resisted the temptation, the scam could have been perpetuated for another decade or so.
As it has transpired, it's the first time in living memory that left and right are united in protesting about the whole lot of them. They have abused their power and dumped on every single one of us. We may disagree about which aspects we dislike, but all are in unison that their positions are untenable.
The veneer of respectability has been wiped clean by a former SAS guy with a disk and there are only two options. A general election may regain a smidgeon of trust, but, as with the Poll Tax, we know now how to object and we may learn to like it.
For a future administration to reclaim public trust, an extensive roll-back of intrusive and illiberal laws is going to be required. The magic has to be re-invented by those in Westmonster, and for that to happen there will have to be a few rabbits pulled from self-serving hats.
It's difficult to ascertain which party is brave enough to try it at the moment. The first to break rank and admit that their policies have been out of step with their voters may well steal a march.
Or are they too far gone? Too enamoured with their own self-worth to change? Probably. But unless someone reverses out of the damaging cul-de-sac into which they have navigated, the spell that politicians have enjoyed for years may be gone forever.