It is difficult to put the boot in, to demand prosecution of expenses fraudsters, when you are in a grey area vulnerable position yourself, and the whole house is being condemned for the normal use of expenses, as if that were the same kind of thing as fraud. It is bothering me now that the frauds - of whom there have been a handful - are getting lumped together with those who are merely making use of the allowances they have been given as part of their job.
However I am not in a grey place so I can spell it out.
Having an allowance for buying TVs, hiring cleaners, etc, and using it is not fraudulent or corrupt. Asking whether you can buy item X on expenses and doing so if you are told you can, is not fraudulent or corrupt. If the allowances cover moats, swimming pools and chandeliers, then they are stupid, but that does not make using them fraudulent or corrupt. Waiving your expenses is a superogatory act, not a moral duty.
However claiming for a mortgage you have already paid off is fraud. An MP couple claiming 2nd home allowance on both their homes is fraud. "Flipping" to maximise allowance spend is fraud. Telling the tax office something different to the fees office is fraud.
These MPs should be expelled from their parties, deselected, and prosecuted, in no particular order. So far Labour have "suspended" two, and the Tories merely kicked one off the front bench. Luckily no frauds in the Lib Dems, so far.
The rest of them are not frauds. But giving yourself an allowance system more generous than it ought to be is corrupt. So judge them not by what they claim, but whether they voted to reform it or not. Whether they voted for transparency - or for the exemption to the Freedom of Information Act. Large numbers have voted both ways on this, but even those who voted the wrong way, may honestly think the package is not too generous.
People of similar seniority in the private sector are on 6 or 7 figure salaries, with bonuses and expense accounts that will make your eyes water. MPs could vote through the same for themselves, but they don't. Because it would be corrupt.
So this is what I want to see from the party leaders. Rather than being caught between trying to defend what is reasonable and condemn what is wrong, let's throw the handful of fraudsters to the lions, condemn the system, and condemn those who have voted to keep it secret and unreformed. And three cheers to the Telegraph, and the Freedom of Information Act for making reform possible. And shame on Cameron and Brown for ignoring the big money spinner of property speculation on the back of subsidised mortgages.