LONDON (Reuters) - Embarrassing disclosures about the vast expenses claims of MPs amount to a “McCarthy-style witch-hunt” that risks driving politicians to suicide, a Conservative MP said on Friday.
Nadine Dorries wrote on her blog that the scandal, in which the Daily Telegraph newspaper has fed details of how members of parliament have abused their generous expense allowances, was forcing politicians to the brink.
The scandal has triggered outrage across the recession-hit country and opposition calls for an early general election.
European and local elections to be held on June 4 are expected to reflect the level of popular disgust, with lower voter turnout and a move towards fringe parties predicted.
A poll published in Saturday’s edition of the Guardian found that two-thirds of voters sampled want Prime Minister Gordon Brown to call an election before Christmas.
The Guardian/ICM poll also found that more than a quarter of voters are planning to reject mainstream political parties in favour of minority ones because of the expenses crisis.
"The atmosphere in Westminster is unbearable," Dorries wrote on the blog (blog.dorries.org). "People are constantly checking to see if others are OK. Everyone fears a suicide."
Asked about her comments on BBC radio on Friday, she sought to back away from the suicide suggestion but said the disclosures, including that politicians charged for duck ponds, horse manure, bath plugs and pornographic films, were forcing members of parliament to breaking point.
“What the Telegraph are executing is almost a McCarthy-style witch-hunt. The way they are deploying their tactics and the way they are treating MPs has reached a point now at almost two weeks where I think people are seriously beginning to crack.
“I have never, ever been in an atmosphere or an environment like it, where everyone walks around with terror in their eyes. People are genuinely concerned.”
Dorries, whose own use of expenses to buy household goods was exposed by the Telegraph, joins a number of politicians who have attacked the disclosures rather than apologising.
Conservative leader David Cameron, who is expected to win the next election, said she should be thinking about the electorate not other MPs.
“Of course MPs are concerned about what is happening, but frankly MPs ought to be concerned about what their constituents think, they ought to be worrying about the people who put us where we are,” he told the BBC.
The Telegraph on Friday named one of the men who leaked details of MPs’ expenses to the paper as former SAS officer John Wick.
Wick, who is a Conservative supporter, told the paper he had “no regrets” over his actions.
“This was a scandal across the political spectrum with some Conservative MPs’ behaviour as reprehensible as their Labour counterparts,” he said.
The daily disclosures have focussed on MPs’ use of second-home allowances to charge a host of ordinary items to expenses and sidestep capital gains taxes.
Several MPs have either been admonished by their parties or said they will give up their seats at the next election, which has to be held before June next year.
Politicians have been heckled and shouted at in the street for their behaviour and police are investigating whether there should be possible criminal charges.
Additional reporting by Adrian Croft and Stefano Ambrogi