Now call me old fashioned (and it appears that I have Stephen Tall for company here), but I'm beginning to get the impression that there is no level of self-abasement out of reach of our politicians. The expenses scandal was just that, with a regime for expenses which lacked any credibility, either in itself or in terms of its administration. Fine, change it. Make it transparent, punish those who transgress, whether as claimants or administrators.
However, we are now going beyond retribution even, to a point where the laws of natural justice and common sense are placed in suspended animation. The notion that it can be right to retrospectively impose limits on the level of claims is a nonsense, the sort of nonsense that any sensible person would protest about if applied to them. Indeed, such legislation, if enacted in Parliament, would undoubtedly be shot down in flames by any self-respecting lawyer.
But in the rush to closure, it seems that a sufficient number of politicians are willing to do anything to 'make it go away'. Well, I've got news for them. The only way to make it go away is to live up to the standards expected of our lawmakers. And of course, most of our lawmakers do just that, not that you would believe it from the buzz in the blogosphere and in the 'dead tree media', as Guido Fawkes loves to describe the newspapers.
You see, I don't get the impression that paying the money back will actually change that many minds. The damage has been done by the announcements of perceived wrongdoing, and nobody is going to be paying attention to the trickle of announcements that MP X has repaid £Y, especially if MP X submitted perfectly valid claims, approved by the Fees Office. Indeed, MP X gets the worst of both worlds, condemned by the public for alleged greed, regardless of the merits of his or her claim, just because someone has retrospectively imposed his own judgement of what is 'right and proper', and is then expected to make a repayment based on (currently) provisional and arbitrary guidelines.
A sense of retribution and a sense of justice are not mutually inclusive, and in our rush to punish MPs, we risk debasing the currency of our democracy to a point where anyone with any sense of self-respect and self-preservation will avoid public service to the detriment of our society as a whole. Just as being a Muslim doesn't make you a terrorist, being a politician doesn't make you a crook. Whilst most of us seem perfectly willing to accept the former, the latter appears to be more difficult to comprehend.