by Daphne Liddle
MICHAEL MARTIN, the Speaker of the House of Commons, announced his resignation last Tuesday in a subdued voice, after astonishing scenes the day before of him flustered, afraid and incapable of restoring order as MPs bayed for his resignation, seeking to load all the blame for the expenses scandal on to him.
Many of them had been in the spotlight themselves after appearing in the Daily Telegraph's list of MPs who have made morally unacceptable - and in some cases criminally fraudulent - claim for expenses from the public purse.
They seemed glad to have an individual to blame for their own weakness and greed. Martin was responsible for running the expenses system - and he has himself made some questionable expenses claims. He also made valiant but vain efforts to prevent information about MPs' expenses claims being made public under the Freedom of Information Act, and threatened police action against whistle-blowers.
So he must bear a heavy share of responsibility for the current furore. But the MPs involved cannot absolve themselves from their own greed and deceitfulness by blaming Martin.
Now MPs are talking about new brooms, a clean sweep and fundamental changes to the way Parliament works.
The working class is outraged and disgusted that ministers who frame the laws they must obey – who set benefit fraud investigators on them and means test every little thing they try to claim - are themselves corrupt and greedy cheats .
For example Caroline Flint, who as a housing minister proposed threatening unemployed council tenants with eviction as a way of coercing them into work! Claimed £14,000 for a new flat. People like this have no authority to call anyone else a sponger or a cheat.
Nevertheless the cheating and avarice of the MPs is small beer compared to that of the bankers, landowners and captains of industry. And the 100 MPs included in the Telegraph's list amount to just about one in six of all MPs. Presumably the paper could find nothing against the other 546.
A few days ago there were reports that the Queen was "deeply concerned" about the scandal. So she should be! If her claims on the taxpayers' purse were ever put to the same scrutiny we would quickly have a large majority in favour of a republic in Britain.
The greater danger is that public confidence in all political activity will fall so low that the working class will become demoralised and apathetic and will never trust any political activist again.
Or they may turn to extreme right-wing parties like the British National Party, which is hoping to take advantage of the expenses scandal.
Sonia Gable of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight warned: "The BNP is hoping to trade on voters' disillusionment with politicians following the MPs' expenses debacle.
"Nick Griffin highlighted the issue at the official launch of his party's European election campaign, claiming that everyone except the BNP had 'their snouts in the same trough' .
"Yet the main reason Griffin, a former bankrupt, is so desperate to gain election to the European Parliament is to get his hands on the generous salary and expenses package paid out MEPs and even a share of official group funding if the BNP can join up with enough fascist MEPs from enough countries. . . .
"And the BNP has no compunction in sponging off public money. Many BNP councillors draw their full allowances but hardly atttend any council meetings or do any work. One BNP councillor in Sandwell attended no meetings at all for six months, which got him booted on the council, but he still took his allowance.
"Under Griffin's leadership the BNP has blatantly avoided paying income tax and national insurance contributions by pretending that several of its staff were self-employed.
"And the party's latest accounts, for 2007, failed their audit because several thousands of pounds of expenditure was not properly recorded. "
Tory leader David Cameron has gained in the polls from the expenses scandal, even though many of his MPs are just as deeply mired as the Labour MPs. Gordon Brown has been rather quiet and reacted slowly to the unfolding events.
The Telegraph gained 93,000 in circulation when it published the list of dodgy expense claims. And on the same day, in its editorial, it called for big changes to the way Parliament works, including a drastic cut in the total number of MPs - and guess what, Cameron is in favour of these changes.
Bourgeois democracy does not have many benefits for the working class but the changes suggested by the Telegraph would reduce them further. They are hoping that workers to tally disillusioned and alienated from all politics and politicians will not bother to defend what little they have in terms of democracy.
We must rally and organise ourselves to fight for working class democracy - far superior to bourgeois democracy, and defeat those who would consign us to creeping fascism.