My key argument that I've yet to have countered - is that...
- Demands for transparency are an effective way of hobbling any institution - particularly when the things that are revealed are subject to a high level of public commentary
- MPs have rivals who seek to coerce and compete with them
- Not applying the same standards of transparency to these rivals essentially empowers them against the people elected to represent all of us.
The idea of springing full disclosure under such circumstances strikes me as an ambush that is bound to damage the reputation of parliament - and, by extension - democracy in the UK.
All of that said, I'd like to offer a counter-argument in mitigation. Chris - here - applies a standard Public Choice Theory explanation of why MPs are neither all bastards or all angels.
But that's not good enough really, is it? All of this seems to come from a very misanthropic and deterministic place - one where collective action is only ever the product of a calibrated set of incentives. One where there no situation is so bad that it's not made worse by rational attempts to solve the problem.
If I were an MP, I'd want to make a point of driving a bog-standard family saloon. I'd not want to spend my holidays in the Galapagos Islands watching Turtles fuck in the sun. I'd be happy with a couple of weeks in Ireland and a week in Marbella at best.
I wouldn't want to eat at anywhere as vulgar as The Ivy any more than I do now. For work, in the past, I've had to go to these places, and I can honestly say that they give me the creeps.
Wealth is positional as much as it is a means to acquire resources. Once you've got food clothes and shelter for you and your family, the rest is largely about chauvinism and one-upmanship.
If MPs are to promote a public service ethos - and Labour MPs really should be looking at this as a response to the changing attitudes towards the excessive lifestyles of the rich - then they need to start shifting this positioning around.
It's a state of mind: If people who were perceived as powerful were living ordinary lives, it would have a significant positive impact on the rest of us. I'd not go as far as the 'Workers Wages for MPs' argument, but I'd be happy to go close to it.
A few weeks ago, Sadie explained why respectable MPs salaries were a key Labour demand - a way of ensuring that the job wasn't just toff's monopoly. I'd turn it around now: Anyone can be an MP, but if they do, subject them to a salary ceiling. Get rid of the fiddles and raise the base, by all means - but cap it as well. That may shake a few Baronet's kids out of the place for a while?
On that basis, perhaps getting MPs to be seen to be managing their finances in a respectable way can be turned around in Parliament's favour?