Why should Bob being my uncle be of any benefit to me? Well, the phrase is said to date from the 1880s when the prime minister, Robert Cecil, appointed his nephew, Arthur Balfour, to the prestigious and lucrative post of chief secretary for Ireland. Bob was indeed his uncle, and found him a nice little earner. It is all about nepotism: abusing a position of public trust to promote the interests of family members.

The British civil service managed to stamp out nepotism more than 100 years ago. Now, finally, the House of Commons may be about to follow suit. On Wednesday, the report into MPs’ expenses by Sir Christopher Kelly is expected to call time, finally, on the cosy practice of MPs employing their wives, children or lovers as secretaries and researchers. This has provoked a pre-emptive wave of righteous indignation from MPs who say this is an unfair assault on the hard-working people who tirelessly serve our legislators.

I’m sure that many partners do a very good job, but that doesn’t alter the fact that there is a massive conflict of interest here. It’s not just the obvious abuses such as the Tory MP Derek Conway paying his sons as parliamentary researchers when they were actually away at university. How can an MP be expected to assess whether public money is being spent wisely when it’s being paid to his or her spouse and other members of his close family? Nearly a third of MPs employ their spouses or children. The Rev Ian Paisley employs two daughters and a son according to the Register of Member Financial Interests. The Tory MP for Tewkesbury, Laurence Robertson, records that he employs both his wife Susan Robertson “from whom I am separated”, as his secretary, and also his “new partner”, Anne Marie Adams. That must make office life interesting. The practice has been abused and it simply has to stop. MPs cannot be allowed to continue enriching themselves and their families in this way.

There were predicable howls of anguish, too, when it emerged that MPs will no longer be able to claim mortgage interest for second homes. In future they will have to rent modestly-priced accommodation when they’re in London – and only if their constituencies are more than 60 minutes from Parliament. It might seem astonishing that MPs were ever allowed to claim for second homes in London when they already lived in London, but they did. And they didn’t even have to live in them.

Tony McNulty, pictured, the Labour minister, gave a grudging apology to the house last week for claiming expenses on a “second home” that was occupied full-time by his parents and was only a few miles from his real family home. This was a calculated abuse of the system and should surely have led to his being thrown out of Parliament.

McNulty insisted that he was “only following the rules” and that it wasn’t his fault. But this is a feeble defence. The rules are laid out in the parliamentary “Green Book” which sets out MPs’ terms of employment. It says MPs can only claim expenses that are “wholly, exclusively and necessarily” for “the purpose of performing their parliamentary duties”. It says nothing about buying houses for your parents. Nor does it say you can use the second homes allowance to play the property market as so many MPs have done, evading capital gains tax.

The former Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, was challenged on the BBC’s Question Time last week to pay back the £100,000 she wrongly claimed by designating a room in her sister’s house in London as her “main residence” and her real family home in the West Midlands as her “second home”. Forget the porn films her husband claimed on her expenses, what about the public money she misappropriated? Ms Smith accepted that she had been “disgraced” for what she did, but curiously her contrition stopped short of actually paying back the money she accepts she should never have received. McNulty says that he “doesn’t have the money” to pay back the expenses, despite him and his wife earning £300,000 and living in a £900,000 home.

The Tory MP Roger Gale said that Sir Christopher Kelly, whose full report on expenses is published on Wednesday, “doesn’t live in the real world”. I’m sorry, but it is MPs who are clearly on another planet. In the “real world” of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, tax evasion is a criminal offence. If anyone other than MPs had been caught claiming expenses that they were not entitled to, they would have been prosecuted, even if their employers had agreed to pay. Perhaps it could come to that. The Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd, who sits on the parliamentary standards committee, said last week that “three of four MPs ... will end up in jail”. If they go down, might others follow?

After his not-my-fault-but-sorry-anyway speech, McNulty said it was “time to move on” as if this were all a tiresome and insignificant affair blown out of proportion by the press. People say that hacks like me should be concentrating on the real issues – like housing, unemployment and the postal strike, and not the peccadillos of MPs. But there is a connection. We are now seeing the mechanism whereby our elected representatives – who rarely go into politics for personal gain – were compromised by a system of petty corruption. They lost touch with the “real world” they talk of to such an extent that they thought fiddling expenses, evading capital gains tax and employing their relatives was perfectly normal. No wonder they can’t understand why a postie earning £14,000 might go on strike.

MPs have allowed house prices to inflate to such a ludicrous degree that a first-time buyer in London now requires a salary of £93,000 to get an average home. The average wage in London is £26,000. If MPs had had to buy their own London homes out of their £65,000 salaries, instead of having them bought for them, would they have allowed this to happen? Well, we’ll see, because after the next election, after the duck house generation of MPs have stood down, there will be a new wave of MPs coming into politics who have not been speculating on the London property market.

I suspect the housing crisis may suddenly rocket to the top of the political priority list.

McCHATTER: Emperor Blair assassinated just as he steps up to the throne

Napoleon. Hitler. Tony Blair. The first two tried and failed to become emperors of Europe, and it looked as if Blair might just have succeeded. They were even calling him “El Presidente”. That was until Gordon Brown stepped in with his fulsome endorsement last week. It was the kiss of death.

Within hours European leaders were taking fright at the thought of George W Bush’s poodle becoming the face of the European Union. By Friday, the game was almost over for Blair as the cheese-eating surrender monkeys got together to block him.

The French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the German chancellor Angela Merkel – both conservatives – decided that the former Labour leader was far too right-wing. Then there was the thought of Cherie getting her hands on all those Euro-freebies and buying up houses in Paris, Berlin and Milan. Soon it was only rational and sensible Silvio Berlusconi, the priapic Italian prime minister, who was still batting for Blair.

In the nick of time, Europe ­remembered that Blair is a paranoid egomaniac who might just decide to declare war on Iran. Or invade Norway for refusing to accept the Common Fisheries Policy. The President of the European Council doesn’t have any armed forces or any real executive power. But that wouldn’t have stopped Blair behaving as if he did. He might have invited America to place nuclear weapons in Belgium; annexed the Balkans; demanded reparations from Russia. Anything could have happened.

So why was he ever taken seriously? Why would Europe want to be represented by an unpopular politician who led his country into an illegal war? Well, he’s got “motorcade appeal”, apparently, meaning that when his limo passes people crane their necks to see who it is. This is a good thing – so long as the punters aren’t too disappointed when they see it’s not Simon Cowell.

Given the history of Britain’s frosty relations with the EU – and our refusal to adopt the euro and join the Schengen group of borderless nations – it was always a big ask for a Brit to become president. Like electing as chairman of a club someone who doesn’t want to be a member of it.

But the intriguing question remains: why did Brown support him so eloquently, only hours before he was unceremoniously dumped?

Did the PM sense that things weren’t going Blair’s way and that it was the moment to highlight his misfortune? Was this yet more pay-back for the “Granita” deal? It would have been excruciating for Brown, just as he is about to be thrown out of Number 10, to have seen his arch rival being hailed as the first ever leader of the EU. Now Blair is just another ex-politician looking for a job. He who laughs last laughs loudest.