Britain’s tottering Labour government has been forced to defend itself again, with an opposition newspaper publishing the expenses claims of a number of MPs, including the Prime Minister. They show that Gordon Brown reclaimed nearly 10,000 euros he had paid his brother for cleaning services at his London apartment. It heaps more pressure on the government ahead of next month’s local and European elections.
“We all have to recognise that the public is angry, that public confidence is dented and the system needs to change. I think we all recognised that even before this morning – and that change is underway,” said Labour MP Harriet Harman. Parliament approved limited changes to expenses rules last week, but refused to overhaul annual allowances worth 32,000 euros for an MP’s second home. “The MPs throw up their hands and say: ‘It’s not illegal, I haven’t done anything wrong.’ Well, there’s a big difference between saying it’s within the rules and they haven’t done anything wrong. Ultimately, the onus is on the MPs, they should lead by example, and they should start doing what’s right rather than things they can get away with,” said Susie Squire, from a group called The Taxpayers’ Alliance. Brown has been hit by a series of PR gaffes. His attempt to use Youtube to get his message across was swamped by criticism from his own party, and the derision of opponents. The expenses claims reinforce the growing view that parliament enjoys generous perks, while voters struggle in the recession.