LONDON – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for root and branch reform on Monday to defuse an expenses scandal that has damaged the main political parties and put pressure on parliament's most senior figure to quit.
Brown said he had been angered and appalled by days of disclosures about lawmakers' questionable and sometimes lavish expenses that have brought British politics into disrepute.
There's got to be root and branch reform, Brown said.
I'm hopeful that we can get a consensus in this country about what is needed to be done to have a complete clean-up of the political system, he told Sky News.
The expense scandal has eroded support for all major parties, but particularly Brown's Labour party, in power since 1997. Its popularity was already low as Britain's struggles through its worst recession since World War Two.
Public anger over the affair could favor fringe parties in June 4 local and European elections.
Brown is trying to seize back the initiative after opposition Conservative leader David Cameron stole a march on him by cracking down on abuses in his own party. Brown has put his faith in slow-moving parliamentary reforms.
In a step toward openness, Brown's spokesman said the government expected to publish ministers' expense receipts within the next week.
The Daily Telegraph obtained a disc containing details of expense claims and has been publishing damaging reports of claims for everything from swimming pool cleaning to dog food, as well as for mortgages that have been paid off.
Labour has suspended two MPs and one of its junior ministers has stepped down pending an investigation into his finances.
MOTION OF NO CONFIDENCE
A Conservative politician has prepared a motion of no confidence in irascible parliamentary Speaker Michael Martin, who fought a long legal battle to prevent publication of details of lawmakers' expenses.
If ousted, Martin, a Labour veteran, would be the first Speaker to be sacked since 1695. The position of a Speaker or presiding officer in politics dates from the 13th century.
Brown suffered another blow on Monday when Rupert Murdoch's top-selling Sun tabloid, whose support has been important in Labour's three election victories, called for an immediate national election.
Voters have had enough of this Government, enough of greedy MPs, enough of a Commons Speaker who has turned the Mother of Parliaments into the mother of all shyster politicians, it said in an editorial headlined Give Britain an election ... now.
Brown is certain to resist calls for an election as Labour trails the Conservatives in polls. He does not have to call an election until June next year.
The Conservatives had a 16 percent lead over Labour in an opinion poll published in the Daily Telegraph on Monday. The Conservatives were on 39 percent, Labour 23 percent, the Liberal Democrats 19 percent and other parties also 19 percent.
The support for parties beyond the main three had jumped nine points from the previous month, adding to speculation that fringe groups like the Greens, the anti-European Union UK Independence Party and far-right British National Party (BNP) will show big gains in European and local elections next month.
Britain's financial markets have yet to show any response to the scandal. However, a poor poll showing for Labour would reopen speculation about whether Brown should lead the party into a general election next year.