After months of protest and blaming anyone but himself, former Scunthorpe MP Elliot Morley yesterday finally admitted deceiving taxpayers out of £32,000, making him Parliament’s biggest expenses cheat.
The 58-year-old now faces the same fate as his disgraced colleagues David Chaytor and Jim Devine – both jailed after being convicted of false accounting. The trio appeared to think they were above the law and even tried to stop their cases going before the criminal courts, claiming expenses were covered by Parliamentary privilege and, therefore, beyond the reach of criminal law. Thankfully, the Supreme Court dismissed this desperate bid.
However, all three – guilty of stealing almost £55,000 through their combined mortgage, rent and utility claims – did take one last bite out of the public purse when they secured legal aid to help fight their case.
Morley has shown little comprehension of the magnitude of what he has done. Sleaze dogs politics all over the world – where there is power, it is a regrettable reality that corruption invariably follows.
Even in this context, the expenses scandal was one of the darkest days in British politics.
Morley’s actions have secured him a place in history as one of the most greed-driven politicians ever to set foot in the Commons. It could be argued that there have been graver cases of corruption, but it is hard to remember many who continued to trivialise their crimes as “an oversight” – the excuse initially put forward by the former Environment Minister.
On May 8, 2009, confidence in politicians was shattered when the widespread abuse of the Parliamentary expenses system was first published. A week later, Morley was still claiming on his website that he was “on your side” – but, thanks to his actions, it could take decades before voters believe that all MPs are on the side of the public.
Even before the scandal, Britain had some of the lowest rates for voter turnout in Europe. It can only be hoped that Morley’s crimes do not result in greater apathy but, instead, inspire a new era of accountable public servants.