AN EXTRAORDINARY SCANDAL
THE WESTMINSTER EXPENSES CRISIS AND WHY IT STILL MATTERS
by Emma Crewe and Andrew Walker 

Details

Politics, Current Affairs
Publication Date: October 2019
RRP: £20.00
320 pp
HBK
9781912208753

Reviews

“For many academics and commentators the MPs expenses scandal was little more than the latest instalment in a historical  litany of crises, failures and fiascos in British politics. Emma Crewe and Andrew Walker challenge this perspective in a magisterial and compelling account that reveals exactly why the MPs expenses scandal was an extraordinary episode in British political history that continues to cast a long and dark shadow over parliament and politicians a decade later.” Matthew Flinders, University of Sheffield

“Anyone interested in British politics should read this book. This is not simply the story of a scandal, it is a very reflective, often personal, account of crumbling institutions that would eventually lead to the start of a shift in the sWestminster culture of deference. Adopting a historical and anthropological approach, Crewe and Walker take the reader into a journey packed with detail and research, which explains why the scandal happened. With enviable insight and access to Members, journalists and officials, the book makes for a fascinating read.” Cristina Leston Bandeira, University of Leeds

“Written in an accessible and engaging style, An Extraordinary Scandal not only takes us through the story of the UK parliament’s expenses scandal, but also makes an important political point: we dismiss our representatives and representative institutions at our peril! By situating the ‘scandal’ into a broader context of the financial crash, the digital revolution, the increase in MPs’ constituency work and the rise of the audit culture to discipline employees, Crewe and Walker point to the crisis of the politics of information that is important to understanding and engaging with all our political institutions, including parliament. This engagement, they show, does not have to be at the cost of dismissal of MPs, their work as our representatives and neither of parliament as the institution that holds the Executive to account. We need to go beyond seeking only villains and heroes – we need good representatives held to account and aspiring to do better; but we also need parliament as bulwark against a rampant Executive. This book does both and is therefore an important contribution to understanding our political institutions and those who inhabit them.” Shirin M Rai, author of Performing Representation: Women Members in the Indian Parliament

Featuring interviews with the MPs, journalists and officials close to the centre of Britain’s biggest political crisis since the Profumo Affair, this is the story of what really happened during the expenses scandal of 2009.

Andrew Walker, the tax expert who oversaw the parliamentary expenses system, and Emma Crewe, a social scientist specialising in the institutions of parliament, bring a fascinating insider/outsider perspective to this account. Far from an apologia, An Extraordinary Scandal explains how parliament fell out of step with the electorate and became a victim of its own remote institutional logic, at odds with an increasingly open, meritocratic society.

Charting the crisis from its 1990s origins – when Westminster began, too slowly, to respond to wider societal changes – to its aftermath in 2010, the authors examine how the scandal aggravated the developing crisis of trust between the British electorate and Westminster politicians that continues to this day. Their in-depth research reveals new insight into how the expenses scandal gave us a taste of what was to come, and where its legacy can be traced in the new age of mistrust and outrage, in which politicians are often unfairly vulnerable to being charged in the ‘court’ of public opinion by those they represent.

Author Bios

Emma Crewe is a Research Professor at the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS. She is the author of Lords of Parliament: Manners, Rituals and Politics (2005), The House of Commons: An Anthropology of MPs at Work (2015) and Commons and Lords: A Short Anthropology of Parliament (2015).

Andrew Walker was a senior official at the House of Commons for 20 years until 2016. He was Director General of Resources, and was the Board member responsible for the Fees Office until it was abolished in 2010. He now advises parliaments overseas on finance and HR issues.

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