It's hard to overstate how shocked Labour members have been over the revelations about MPs expenses in the Telegraph and other newspapers.
Members after all join parties for idealistic reasons - and they then proceed to give money, give up spare time to attend meetings to select candidates, give time delivering leaflets and canvassing, give time defending the party online, give, give, give, in an act of civic altrusim without which we would have no democracy. And to find that we've been betrayed by the MPs who were solely focused on their own profit and who then have the gall to traipse around the TV studios trying to defend the indefensible...
MPs may bleat that "all parties are at it" or that they are underpaid compared to GPs or they are victims of the press, but none of this washes. To your average voter, MPs arn't underpaid at all. To your average party member who gives so much for free, the MPs sense of entitlement is shocking.
There is only one response to this - the MPs with the worst abuses must be deselected. To use the GP analogy, if doctors are found to be incompetant or have brought their profession into disrepute, they are struck off. The job of a politician is to understand what voters are thinking. Barbara Follet and Margaret Moran to name two MPs, appear to have no political nous whatsoever. So what is the point of having them as MPs?
There is also the issue of the reputation of the Labour party - this must come above the needs of individual MPs. In the 80's, Labour was constantly attacked over letting extremists hijack the party. It wasn't till Neil Kinnock publicly took on Derek Hatton and other Militant extremists at the party conference that the tide started to turn and the public began to see that Labour was serious about putting it's house in order. Indeed Kinnock took the whole issue so seriously, he actually missed Prime Ministers Questions, in order to attend Hatton's disciplinary meeting in 1986, which was scheduled at the same time. He prevailed and Hatton was expelled.
By contrast, the Conservatives did not deal with Neil Hamilton in the 1997 election. They foolishly allowed him to represent them, so the story became "Conservatives back MP who receives money in brown bags". They should have protected their party and forced him to step down.
Labour musn't make the same mistake. The MPs with the worst abuses cannot be allowed to contest the next election representing Labour. But how to force the rotton MPs out is exercising many. As seen by the way they seem to be defending themselves, they clearly mean to fight to stay on. And because we are so close to a general election, many sitting MPs will have already been reselected for their seat. There are several ways the CLPs can act. They can put pressure for the MPs to stand down and they can start disciplinary proceedings. Under rule 2A.8 of the Labour party rule book, "No member of the party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the national constitutional committee (NCC) is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NCC is grossly detrimental to the party." To any reasonable person, MPs engaging in property speculation at the taxpayers expense is "grossly detrimental to the party".
It's always hard for individual members to stand up at constituency party meetings to question the MPs. But they must do it if the Labour party is to survive with it's reputation intact. The public won't be happy till MP's have been punished and brought to heel. If we dont act, the voters will act, by choosing "anyone but the incumbant", and as we have the most incumbants, we have the most to lose.