LONDON (Reuters) - Embarrassing disclosures about the vast expenses claims of British members of parliament amount to a "McCarthy-style witch-hunt" that risks driving politicians to suicide, a lawmaker warned on Friday.
Nadine Dorries, a member of the opposition Conservative party, wrote on her blog that the two-week scandal, in which the Daily Telegraph newspaper has drip-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 recession-hit Britain 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 toward fringe parties predicted.
"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. If someone isn't seen, offices are called and checked."
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 to say the last day in parliament this week was completely unbearable. 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 apologizing.
Conservative Party 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 disclosures have focused on MP's use of second-home allowances to charge a host of ordinary items to expenses and sidestep capital gains taxes. On Friday one MP who used his expenses to pay for his daughter's home in London today faced a closer examination of his records and said he could stand down.
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 behavior and police are investigating whether there should be possible criminal charges.
Additional reporting by Adrian Croft