There is literally no obvious way out of the appalling mess in which MPs now find themselves over our allowances. The opportunities we have had – in deciding how to disclose information about our allowances – were squandered.
Worse still we have given up any attempt to control events. Authority has been passed to the Kelly Committee on standards in public life.
What we can therefore do now is limited. But we are not totally without influence. The leadership should come from the head man. The Prime Minister should act today.
He should invite again the leaders of the other parties to join him in Downing Street. The purpose would be to agree an all party leadership recommendation to the Kelly Committee and they should not leave Downing Street until the outline of an agreement is made. If he doesn’t, one of the other party leaders should take the lead.
They should then ask the Kelly Committee to speed up their enquiry. It should be asked to report on the second homes allowance within a month.
Can the second home allowance live up to its name? Should Members who are required to have a second home not loose out financially compared to London MPs?
If that is answered in the affirmative then some reforms fall immediately into place.
The Kelly Committee should list what it believes it would be legitimate to expense. Parliament should accept without amendment the Kelly proposals. Naturally all expense claims each month must go online as soon as they are cleared.
But how does the political class get some sense of authority and dignity back? Only the electorate can give this back. And it will not come back by simply holding a general election. We have to be much more radical.
We will know from opinion polls whether what Kelly proposes is supported by the voters. If it is not so, then Kelly and MPs must sell the proposals to the country by way of debate, and, if needbe, by calling a referendum.
The voters who pick up our bills must approve.
And I don’t kid myself that that will be nice for MPs. Voters are pretty angry and may well be in vengeful mood. The only way we can make a new beginning is to submit our allowances to the electorate to decide.
I don’t for one moment think the course of action will be an easy ride for MPs. But do we deserve one?