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After the expenses scandal broke, David Cameron was skewered by the Morton's Fork of having to choose between the voters and Conservative MPs.  The former wanted the latter to return public money; the latter believed that their claims had been correct, and that for them to be compelled to make repayments was unjust.  Many were consequently angry when Cameron put himself on the side of the voters, and their fury was heightened by what some of them saw as double standards: members of the leader's circle, they claimed, were treated more indulgently than others.

Interesingly, the signs are that the Prime Minister wants to make a different choice this time.  He is reported to have said: "Whatever Ipsa recommends we can't see the cost of politics or Westminster going up. We should see the cost of Westminster go down."  That form of words provides cover for support for an IPSA package that would balance a rise in MPs' pay with a cut in their pensions.  Whether or not this happens remains to be seen.  But in the meantime, as a Cabinet member told me earlier today, Cameron is keen not to compromise his charm offensive to backbenchers, which has coincided with a Labour dip in the polls – and of which this Friday's Party-backed EU referendum bill in the Commons is a part.

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