Parliament’s “unofficial opposition”, elderly Margaret Hodge’s public accounts committee needs to commission a tax expert and political economist

I could not help but be amused by a comment from Simon Jenkins in this morning’s Guardian:

The latest body blow to the benighted [HS2] project came on Monday from parliament’s “unofficial opposition”, Margaret Hodge’s ever trenchant public accounts committee.

The point is that we have come to an unusual situation where Margaret Hodge, a politician much older than all our party leaders (I don’t know why that’s relevant but I ought to point out that she’s very old indeed), is now providing more opposition in this parliament than much of the shadow front bench.

Three things follow from that observation.

The first is that the PAC needs a much bigger budget to do its work properly. Because they’re clearly not doing it properly right now. We should reward committees who are willing to speak out on topical issues in opportunistic fashion when they clearly know nothing about the subject.

They could then pay for a lot of advice to help their work, which they haven’t been able to until now. Then they could afford a suitably qualified tax expert and retired chartered accountant to provide them with tax and political economic advice. This should probably be somebody who has written several books on the subject.

The second is that other committees need to get their acts together to emulate ancient Margaret Hodge’s committee. Because what we need is all of our committees deciding that there is political capital to be made by ignoring their remit and using their resources to go off and do whatever the heck they feel will get them media coverage.

The third is that it’s time for the opposition front bench to swing into action. Again, I suggest that they hire a suitably qualified tax expert and retired chartered accountant to provide them with tax and political economic advice.

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