Fiddling, whilst Rome burns. Which of these is supposed to be more scandalous, that some members of a fairly small group of people took a rather venal attitude to their expenses, or that in a period of economic growth, the real incomes of the poorest 10% of the population fell and those of the wealthiest 10% rose? What do we care more about, the fact that MPs don't fully understand the ins and outs of virtue ethics, or that the 6 million poorest people in the UK on average lost 6% of their real income over the past three years whilst the 6 million richest gained on average 4% more? For all that some philosophers might like to make it so, politics is not a morality play, full of allegory and the opportunity to strike pious poses: it's what we do when we see that sainthood doesn't and couldn't, except at prohibitive cost to those who have to live under it, divide the spoils of not killing each other. So MPs skim a bit off the top; it's not very nice, but it's hardly the failure to arrest the enormous rise in inequality that occurred under Thatcher, or even to reverse the effects of the institutional changes which generated that rise and allow those who benefitted from them to continue to capture the lion's share of the benefits generated by economic growth. But no; we need to make sure, not that we redress the balance of power in the institutions we all live within and support which allows those with the most to systematically accrue more and more at greater and greater cost to those with least, but that everyone understands that what really matters is whether some MPs think they can get away with charging a couple of hundred quid to the taxpayer for broken toilet seats.
Update, 12/05/09: that some MPs were designating the same property as having different purposes under different sets of rules is now equivalent to a system of endemic patronage which had governed everything from the distribution of public works contracts to the formation of governments and whose end required a campaign in which, despite being guarded continually by members of the security forces, several members of the judiciary were assassinated.