Stinging reaction to cash for access scandal

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Some five years ago, I wrote: ‘Good riddance to the last Parliament, blighted by the expenses scandal, with scores, possibly hundreds, of MPs playing fast and loose with taxpayers’ money - some of them blatantly breaking the laws - to feather their own nests’.

Well, my hopes that the current Parliament - now approaching its death throes - would be an improvement on its predecessor have by no means been fully realised.

The downright greed over expenses has not by a long chalk entirely gone away, and there have been instances of the “rebranding” of second homes, a practice which also hits taxpayers in the pocket.

The culmination, of course, has been the revelation of the new “cash for access” scandal involving two highly respected former Foreign Secretaries, Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind.

It beggars belief that two such highly intelligent and seasoned ex-Cabinet Ministers should have fallen for this latest sting, especially as, on the face of it, it seemed like a carbon copy of previous such operations which have led to the disgrace of other former MPs.

Both of them have said they broke no parliamentary rules and deny the allegations they offered to help a fictitious Chinese company in return for payment. But the effect of all this is that it’s probably cost them places in the House of Lords. In the case of Rifkind, he has ended his Commons career a full parliament before he had planned to. And it is likely to have a disastrous affect on their reputations, both of them distinguished. What a price to pay!

Perhaps the authorities will now see fit to tighten the rules, something which they did at the end of the last parliament to blatantly no real effect. All the punters are now saying is: “Well, they are at it again...”

No wonder David Cameron wants the Green Party to be represented on the election television debates - if, indeed, they ever take place.

The Greens’ bumbling Party leader, Natalie Bennett made such an embarrassing and disastrous hash of a radio interview that if she repeated the performance, she would make all the other party leaders look undeservedly brilliant by comparison.

The Australian-born Ms Bennett says she hopes that she will not be defined by that interview. A bit late for that, sunshine.