MPs’ expenses scandal led to Brexit deadlock, argues BBC Radio 4 documentary

The impasse over Brexit can be traced back to the MPs’ expenses scandal, a University of Sheffield professor will argue in a BBC Radio 4 documentary this evening (7 May 2019).

Marking the 10th anniversary of the revelations, MPs’ Expenses: the Legacy of a Scandal will examine how the resulting reforms created the politics we have today.

Reports of MPs expenses claims in the Daily Telegraph from 8 May 2009 led to a huge wave of resignations, paving the way for many of today’s most influential MPs to enter parliament – such as Chuka Umunna, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart.

The resignation of former Speaker Michael Martin allowed John Bercow to take the chair, bringing with him a new style, efforts at modernisation, a focus on backbenchers and an emphasis on parliament over government that has had a major impact on the course of Brexit.

Meanwhile, the select committee reforms triggered by the expenses scandal created both an alternative career structure for independent-minded MPs, and enabled those committees to deliver more rigorous scrutiny of government.

Together, argues writer and presenter Professor Matthew Flinders from the University of Sheffield’s Crick Centre, these changes created the circumstances and political dynamics that led to the current impasse over Brexit.

The documentary will air on BBC Radio 4 at 8pm on Tuesday 7 May and again at 5pm on Sunday 12 May, and features interviews with MPs and Peers including Sarah Wollaston and Lord Blunkett, as well as Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority Chief Executive, Marcial Boo.

Professor Matthew Flinders said: “Britain now has one of the cleanest political systems in the world, and parliament more independence from the government than it’s had for decades. And yet democratic politics comes with a cost.

“If there’s a real legacy to the MPs’ expenses scandal, it has to be our failure collectively to cultivate a more balanced conversation about what our MPs do, how they do it and – if you want them to do it well – how much it’s going to cost.”


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