Secret expenses: EU ruling on MEPs’ cash is a scandal

It is difficult to believe that the politicians we imagine, in the widest sweep of the term, to be social democrats are capable of sustaining that system, one that created more equality, more wealth, more tolerance, and a longer-lasting peace than any other political credo in history.

Secret expenses: EU ruling on MEPs’ cash is a scandal

It is difficult to believe that the politicians we imagine, in the widest sweep of the term, to be social democrats are capable of sustaining that system, one that created more equality, more wealth, more tolerance, and a longer-lasting peace than any other political credo in history.

Familiarity has bred contempt for the reality that social democracy must be nourished and be seen to be fair and honest, if it is to survive.

Right-wing populism grows, because the centre is asleep at the wheel.

The world looks on with deepening incredulity as the consequences of the headline moment — US president Donald Trump’s election — in that slide stagger towards unknown destinations.

Trump was elected because America’s social democrats carelessly over-estimated Hilary Clinton’s appeal, but grossly under-estimated the anger with snouts-in-the-trough dynasties.

We are all culpable, but a never-ending flow of detail means we can no longer plead ignorance.

Last week, North Antrim’s MP Ian Paisley barely survived a do-or-die recall petition, set up because he accepted inappropriate gifts.

Just yesterday, his DUP party leader Arlene Foster made her second appearance at an inquiry into a botched green-energy scheme.

Though she is not accused of under-the-counter behaviour, she is accused of ineptitude that cost millions of pounds. Whether that differentiation rehabilitates her reputation remains to be seen.

Apart from Trump’s Russian-roulette-as-diplomacy, those issues are, however, very much in the h’appeny place.

A ruling this week, by the EU Court of Justice, that MEPs’ expenses can remain secret, flies in the face of transparency around how public funds are used to support politics.

The EU’s legitimacy is undermined by a huge democratic deficit, so a two-fingers ruling like this damages European solidarity all the more.

That idea is strained because of Brexit, and rulings that go against the real spirit of democracy, not to mention the principles of social democracy, sadly lend legitimacy to those who excoriate EU institutions.

MEPs are paid €8,611.31 a month, plus pension. On leaving the parliament, they receive a golden parachute worth up to €206,664.

The case was centred on expenses, including the €4,416 monthly ‘general expenditure allowance’ to fund constituency offices.

MEPs are also refunded first-class travel expenses and get a €313 daily allowance while in Brussels or Strasbourg.

Most MEPs claim the maximum office allowance. There is no requirement to provide invoices, receipts, or any details on how the funds are spent.

Journalists from 28 EU states sought records on these payments, but the Luxembourg-based court ruled the documents concerned contained personal data and could not be published.

The ruling may reflect the law, but it is a real scandal in public administration.

Some MEPs may rejoice at the ruling, but the smarter ones will not.

They know they must face the electorate next May and what was once a housekeeping detail is now a top-10 election issue.

After all, who would be so foolish as to vote for someone who hides behind this let-them-eat-cake ruling?

This unfortunate decision attacks the very heartbeat of social democracy and the culture that sustains it. It cannot stand.

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