The Sketch: There's an easy way to solve this mess

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The Independent Online

As Mandelson's reputation grows, the Prime Minister's sinks. Week by week he gets worse. Dedicated to straightforwardness, honesty, integrity and transparency, Gordon Cack of Cackmanshire turns everything he touches to the eponymous substance.

And just when MPs might have started the long haul back into the light, these redacted expenses show us what they were actually prepared to reveal (rock all). That's one thing. But the measures to clean it all up are indistinguishable from raw sewage.

Gordon has demanded an instant board, or committee or commission, or authority with the word "standards" in it. It's got to be fast to show that he can beat the Kelly committee and re-establish himself as tough, decisive, businesslike. It is like a certain sort of business, that's true. This week, Harriet Harman was very unforthcoming about what was to be in the Bill to set up this external regulator. The reason emerges – from corridor chat – that its contents are changing daily. "I haven't seen such ramshackle legislation since the Dangerous Dogs Act," a member of the Bill committee said.

Gordon wanted this new quango to "regulate the conduct" of MPs. That's out now. They wanted to increase the burden of proof, making it harder to act against offenders. They wanted to make prosecutions under a magistrate instead of before a jury. That's all up in the air and coming down on the wrong side of Gordon's dividing line.

It's only being done in a rush to make the hon member for Cackmanshire look good – so no draft Bill, no pre-legislative scrutiny, no consultation. It will end up one big fat fudge. Or it will look like fudge.

In another corridor, a Tory MP was coming out in favour of Kitty Ussher. He was carrying a Revenue pamphlet written for MPs. "Which is your 'main residence'?" it asks. The answer is: "You can choose," and "It does not have to be your 'home' for the purposes of [Additional Cost Allowance]".

There it is. Black letter advice from HM Revenue. "Your choice is relevant for capital gains tax only." I defy any British citizen of sound mind to ignore such advice in order to pay more tax.

"MPs are the only people in Britain who are now not allowed to do this," a Labour MP said, referring to the flipping.

Hurricane Exes ought to have blown out by now. The answer isn't an instant Bill, more regulation, another board.

It's not the destruction of MPs' independence, or subjugating them to an unelected panel.

The answer is to stick every claim on the internet. Those who are prepared to suffer public ridicule – let them claim for their moat cleaning, wife-hiring and wisteria control.