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National politics

Sorry is out of order

Today the Tories hit the front page of the Telegraph and the Prime Minister raised himself “to apologise on behalf of all politicians, on behalf of all parties”. Frankly I don’t think he has any right to talk for all parties. He might have apologised for his MPs on Friday, or Saturday, or Sunday. He might have apologised for Jacqui Smith’s behaviour weeks ago – he might have sacked her.

Brown might have apologised for allowing Speaker Michael Martin to preside over this mess. He might have apologised to Heather Brooke for the way Parliament has wriggled and squirmed to keep this information out of sight. He might like to explain why Martin is still in a job. He might like to take the strong line on misbehaviour that David Cameron took with Derek Conway from whom he withdrew the whip, effectively banishing him from the parliamentary Conservative group and precipitating his resignation.

Don’t let anyone use the current MPs’ expenses scandal as a justification to look again at MPs’ salaries. MPs’ salaries are perfectly adequate – the large number of capable people wanting to be MPs (up until now at least) and the lack of people leaving the profession voluntarily demonstrates that this particular labour market is working fine. They need to quietly get on with their jobs for the next few years like the rest of us who won’t be getting much of a pay rise for a while.

MPs’ (and Lords’) expenses need prompt reform. The Additional Costs Allowance is an invitation to corruption and needs to be swept away. Let MPs rent modest furnished second homes if they live more than an hour away from Westminster and can demonstrate that they maintain a proper first home. By all means pay the bills on the second home. That’s it. The landlord pays for maintenance and furniture. No food – we all eat.