In 2009 Parliament was convulsed by articles in the Daily Telegraph detailing the allowances claimed by MPs. The most damaging revelations centred on housing allowances originally designed to allow MPs representing constituencies beyond Greater London to cover the cost of a second dwelling. The cases aroused huge public discontent, and were prompted by issues as various as triviality of claims (for toilet brushes), extravagance (contribution to cleaning out the moat of a stately home) and dubious legality (payment for non-existent mortgages). The publicity terminated the parliamentary careers of more than 100 MPs. But the longer-term significance of this issue was that it highlighted the ambiguous conception of what it is to be an MP: is it a job or a vocation? Until the seventeenth century members were paid. From the eighteenth century they were not, but only because membership of the Commons allowed numerous opportunities for corruption. The cleansing of British politics in the nineteenth century led to pressure for payment.
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