Expenses published

As promised, details of all MPs' expenses stretching back over the last four years have been published online. You can see them here - it'll take a while if you want to read them all because there's rather a lot - assuming the site hasn't crashed as a result of the massive amount of hits it's likely to receive today.

Certain details, such as private addresses and bank details, have of course been edited out. Unfortunately this effectively makes it impossible to find out if homes have been "flipped" - ie; the designated second home has been changed, a method used by many MPs to avoid paying Capital Gains Tax or costs incurred for maintenance of a property, several of whom have been exposed by the Daily Telegraph which has obtained full and unedited information and which has been using it to increase sales for several weeks.

Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds Central: "when something goes wrong in life the most important thing is to hold your hands up and say it shouldn't have happened and then you have got to put it right." Image from Wikipedia, used in accordance with Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike2.0 license.

If the Government's published version were all we had to go on, we'd have been left unaware of cases such as that of Hazel Blears who claimed for three separate addresses in the space of a single year (since the addresses are edited) or the fact that Margaret Moran's second home was a hundred miles away from her Luton constituency, in Southampton which - purely as a coincidence of course - happens to be where her partner lives. Unsuccesful claims, which are in many cases the most revealing in that they prove MPs were more than happy to rip us all off and have us finance their luxury lifestyles - also do not appear, which woud have left us in the dark over Peter Viggers' infamous duck house. Acid Rabbi does not mind providing pleasant living quarters for ducks since they're nice creatures, but does object to subsidising the lifestyles of MPs who are well-paid and really quite objectionable.

An example of one of the not-very-revealing documents published online today.

"The argument for keeping bank details, phone numbers and addresses confidential I think is a fair one," says Cabinet Minister Hilary Benn (considered one of the expenses saints by the Telegraph - his total claims since 2004 add up to £42,113 which is amongst the lowest of all MPs. Don't forget he receives a ministerial salary of £141,866 though, which most people would consider sufficient to cover the costs of normal life). That's all very well - MPs deserve to be protected by data laws just as the rest of us do - but if there's any way that they can escape public scrutiny the publication is as good as useless.

Mr. Benn - the son of veteran socialist politician Tony Benn, who famously gave up a hereditary title to allow himself to stand as an elected MP - adds that the allegations have been "very, very damaging for confidence in Parliament." Voter confidence is at an all time low, with many people believing that their long-held suspicions that most - if not all - politicians are in it for nothing more than their own interests have been confirmed and absolutely nothing can be done to change that. We know what they have done, and we will not forget. However, if they come clean by telling us everything, own up to their actions and apologise - and they'll need to prove they really mean it by ending self-regulation and handing over control of the entire expenses system to an independent body that must be fully transparent to public inspection - we might, in time, forgive them.

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