Sign of turmoil – Kate Hoey for Speaker

In the wake of the expenses crisis, the trouble is, the more we try to grasp the measure of the “power to the people” surge, the more we’re forced to behave like crusty old members of the Westminster village. The great British Ship of State is bucketing about in uncharted waters. Even though everyone is deeply interested in the destination, navigation remains a specialised skill. Rank and file crew members are cowering deep in the hold. The saddest message was texted by an MP to Sam Coates: in Red Box.

Given that MPs are more engaged with constituents than at any time in parliamentary history, why has this coincided with an unprecedented collapse in trust and what does that tell us about how to organise democracy in future? I say this as I have now completed 30000 cases since 2000”

Small wonder that “hundreds” have been telling Nick Robinson they’re thinking of quitting. But mass resignations will trigger fresh bouts of public rage, when the public notice the severance terms, as Nigel Morris reminds me…

MPs embroiled in the scandal remain entitled to two pay-offs so long as they serve until the general election, rather than resign immediately. All MPs who step down, or are defeated, at an election are paid a “resettlement grant” designed to compensate for loss of salary. It ranges between six months’ and one year’s pay depending on age and length of service in the Commons..

An MP aged between 55 and 64 who has been in Parliament for 15 years will be paid a year’s salary – £64,766 at current rates. The first £30,000 is tax-free. In addition, all MPs can claim a maximum of £40,799 for “winding-up costs” to pay off staff and end office leases. Politicians also benefit from a generous final salary pension scheme heavily subsidised by the taxpayer.

No surprise that my post inviting DIY Constitutional reform hasn’t exactly been swamped. Compared to say, the fortunes of TUV that spark off bouts of furious scratching at a bad rash, high end reform talk fails to excite passion. Yet the results of the European and English local elections on June 4 could trigger a political earthquake. In the tense atmosphere before the storm and with political compasses yawing wildly, the talk is mainly of personalities. Which ( if any) cabinet members for the chop? Who’s up for promotion in the doomsday reshuffle? Mandy, claims the Guardian. No, Margaret Beckett, claims the Times. Now there’s a radical line-up for you. And for Speaker? Most of them are known only to us anoraks. Party rebels like Frank Field or John Bercow have their fans in the media but you don’t care do you? Though it would raise more than a flicker of interest if the Lady of Mallusk made it to the Chair.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London