I’ve been interested by the week’s news that the British House of Commons has been in a state of uproar. The Speaker has been forced to resign (the first occasion for over 300 years) as a result of a furore about Members of Parliament padding their expenses.

What possible significance could that have for us? Well, the penalty for these errant politicos seems to be that they will be forbidden to stand in the next election. They won’t be sacked immediately, therefore, but they’ve been given notice. In the United States we have, of course, no possible way of knowing to what extent our senators and congessmen and women are inflating their expense accounts. We do know, however, that former senior members of Halliburton channeled millions to their former colleagues in a series of actions that were effectively uncontested ‘closed bids’, and that no action was taken. None.

The comparison is not made lightly. Halliburton supplied shoddy equipment and services at inflated prices and helped to undermine Iraq’s social and economic recovery in the process - because the real effect was that reconstruction didn’t happen, or happened in ways that were open to corruption. No one has any doubt that many moderate Iraqi young men were turned to extremism as a direct result, and that many more joined questionable militias simply to earn their daily bread.

In England the public outrage has been deepened because so many people have been hurt by the recession. It feels insulting to have politicians claiming expenses such as, for example, for the cost of cleaning out of a private castle’s moat, or the manuring of a rose garden, when others are scrimping to get by. What it means is that the composition of the next parliament will be very different. It also means that many of the energy-efficient and green initiatives of the past few years may come to a grinding halt as the conservative party looks set to take over.

Thus a few selfish actions by a very few people who ought to know better may well have a significant impact upon global warming policies. It may even derail them completely. And since England is one of the leaders in ‘green’ policy, well ahead of the US in its actions, the rest of Europe will be weakened in their own stances against pollution and greenhouse gases.

It doesn’t seem quite fair, somehow.

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