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British Parliament finds steep cost in 'expense' scandal: credibility

The public is paying for everything from cleaning moats to changing light bulbs. Amid the fury, support for Gordon Brown's party is at its lowest in 65 years.

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Heard the joke about how many politicians it takes to change a light bulb?

In Britain, voters are less than amused after finding out that the answer seems to be "one," albeit with the help of a team of workmen whose home repair jobs for the same member of Parliament were funded by the taxpayer to the tune of more than $3,000.

The snippet of information is part of a stream of revelations in recent days that have lifted the lid on the culture of manipulation of expense accounts by Britain's political elite and caused deep damage to the reputation of the so-called Mother of all Parliaments.

"This has done enormous damage," says Jonathan Tonge, a professor of political science at Liverpool University. "It also happens to have come at a particularly bad time, when so many people are struggling to make ends meet."

The details on expense claims lodged by members of Parliament (MPs) have been published by the Daily Telegraph newspaper in recent days. The stories are making a mockery of many MPs' attempts to convince voters that they are sharing some of the pain of the recession.

Those tainted by the scandal include a Conservative MP, Douglas Hogg, who lodged expenses claims of £2,000 ($3,025) for the cost of cleaning of a moat around his country estate – not exactly the type of thing that helps his party in its ongoing efforts to jettison an image of being a bastion of the upper classes.


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