And the text of the email runs thusly... [Emphasis mine.]
Today was a busy day. Trust in politics has been eroded so much over the last week that I knew we needed to act fast to start setting things right. I began by meeting individual members of the Shadow Cabinet. We went through those claims that have caused concern, and they agreed to pay them back. There is a genuine desire to recognise and respond to the public anger.
Next I met the Shadow Cabinet as a whole and told them the immediate action I'm going to ask all my MPs to take. All expenses must be published online; you can't 'flip' your second home to make more money; if you sell a home on which the taxpayer has been making mortgage interest payments, you have to pay Capital Gains Tax; and any claims on furniture, household goods, food - all those things we've read about - are banned.
After that I met the Executive of the 1922 Committee and then the whole of the Parliamentary Party. I went through the new rules in detail and told them about the key proposal for a Scrutiny Panel - including someone completely independent from the Party - to go over all excessive claims and see whether they need to be paid back. I had to be very clear about this: if they don't co-operate with the Scrutiny Panel, they can't continue to be Conservative MPs.
And it's not just those in Parliament who need to understand this mission. It's also those who aspire to be. Every single Conservative candidate has got to sign up to this new way of doing politics. They need to know that working in Parliament is a great privilege - one that must never be abused again.
All this is about being the change we seek. If we want responsibility in our society and thrift in our government, we've got to live by those values ourselves.
OK, as I said in the title to this post, credit where credit's due: Cameron has taken decisive action and I sincerely hope that he sticks to it.
One hopes that Jackart will be somewhat placated by my (not even grudging) acknowledgement of Cameron's measures. But he misses the point.
Devils Kitchen for example has a thing about David Cameron, whom he loathes. His expenses are totally above board, as are the vast majority of MPs'. He is trying to find a route through this crisis, without destroying his party's chances of winning the next election, without further crippling parliament and without giving Gordon Brown a series of sticks with which to beat him.
And so we've descend into Anti-politician bile, which is getting seriously boring. Politicians are much like the rest of us; not paragons of virtue, and subject to temptation. What irritates me about the "they're all at it" and "they're all as bad as each other" arguments is that it's prejudiced, inchoate anger which is not only childish and stupid, it also lets the most egregious troughers off the hook as the political class circle the wagons against the mob.
In other words, we shouldn't expose those who are using massive chunks of our money to enrich themselves, because the politicos will all rally around to defend their own. Yeah, nice argument, Jackart.
And Jackart employs a very dodgy argument for someone who claims to be a libertarian.
Politicians are much like the rest of us; not paragons of virtue, and subject to temptation.
Yes, sure. And I have no problem with them being "subject to temptation": I do have a serious problem with them giving in to that temptation.
Libertarians believe that each individual is responsible for their own decisions: if you do not believe that, then you are not a libertarian. As such, given a temptation, a libertarian has two choices: give into that temptation or do the right thing.
Whichever you choose, it is your decision, and you must accept the consequences. Many MPs gave into temptation; even those whom I respect and am sure were making legitimate claims, such as Douglas Carswell, seem to have liberally helped themselves to large expense accounts (£153,378 (209th)).
Jackart obviously thinks that the fact that these MPs were tempted excuses the fact that they gave into temptation.
It. Does. Not.
To excuse an MP on those grounds but not to excuse a common thief on precisely the same grounds—that both were tempted—is not a libertarian attitude: it is a purely hypocritical one.
As for the idea that most MPs are trustworthy... Well, trust has to be earned, frankly. And, had the public and the bloggers and the media not got themselves into such a frothing rage—had politicians not realised that they might actually lose votes over this—then very little would have been done.
We all know that politicians monitor blogs to a great extent: in that way, we have been a conduit for the intense irritation of the general public (and, believe me, the public is really pissed off). As such, I like to think that we have served a purpose in this matter.
Unfortunately, Jackart will not see this point of view: not only is he a True Blue Tory, but he has, it seems, no problem with people fiddling their expenses and so, no doubt, cannot see where the problem is.
So, whilst I'll admit that Cameron has now responded to this furore rather well, young Jackart, alas, has not.
UPDATE: Towards Mutual Benefit has a rather more scathing view of the whole issue.
So, Dave has spoken. What is incredible about this whole affair is that having proposed the changes that he has, and which will seem reasonable to most people, Cameron will be hailed as if he were the Second Coming. That's how bad the old system was: that what is merely reasonable gleams like a beacon of probity in comparison.
Cameron will come out of this smelling of roses. And it'll be a good result for his snouting MPs, too: nobody sacked, simply some spare change to be repaid. And, most importantly, not a mention of the issues that I raised above. Good politics from Cameron. The public will be reassured. And the corrupt linkages to business -- where the politicians really do show that they are the best that money can buy -- remain unmentioned, and untouched.
The rest of the post, which deals with MPs' dangerous closeness to big business, is also worth a read. I do know that certain Tory MPs have been concentrating quite heavily on trying to expose this area, so we shall see if there are any developments later in the year...