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By Peter Hoskin
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There’s
a small
item in today’s Sun
that ought to make big waves. It concerns the
subsidised food and drink in Parliament, and how certain politicians are
working to block price rises. Apparently, MPs are insisting that the costs
remain frozen, for reasons including that, “breakfast in the Commons would cost
more than ‘nearby commercial venues’”. That means fillets of sea bass for £3.50
and glasses of white wine for £2.35 from here on in, all funded by the taxpayer
to the tune of £6 million a year. Take that, commercial venues.

Stacked
against a debt burden of £1.4 trillion, that £6 million may not add up to much
– but, symbolically, it’s important. Not only is it an affront to the
unsubsidised general public, at a time when supermarket prices are rising and
wages stagnating, but it’s also a reminder of the pocket-lining tendencies that
contributed to the expenses scandal. After Chris Huhne’s resignation, you’d
think politicians would be especially alive to that little ideal called ‘trust’.
Sadly, not all of them are.


I
mention this as preamble to a
point I’ve made before
: that David Cameron should concentrate more heavily
on restoring trust in politics. It’s true that his Government has done much to
make Westminster more transparent, but much of the initial urgency has dimmed. Since
giving a
speech
about sweeping away “the subsidies and luxuries that sit so uneasily
with public service,” before the election, the Prime Minister has barely
mentioned it since. It’s almost as if he believes the matter has been resolved,
although he must know it has not.

Of
course, Mr Cameron can’t always act against an unyielding Parliament. But he
can use the prime ministerial bully pulpit to speak out against politicians’
most egregious habits and to shame the perpetrators. Besides, if he doesn’t do
it, you can be sure that Nick Clegg will. As the next election approaches, the
Lib Dems are likely to cast themselves as the ones fighting the system from
within, as they have done
so in the past
. It would be unwise to allow them a free run across that
ground.

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