...a blog by Richard Flowers

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Day 2640: On Expenses


The House of Commons continues to do itself NO FAVOURS over the business of MPs' expenses. Even as we learn that MPs can spend £23,000 on a second home (or £700,000 if you happen to be Mr Speaker Housemartin), the Speaker's committee are off to the High Court (more expense) to prevent Freedom of Information being told about the expenses of 14 top MPs including Mr Frown, Mr Balloon, Sir Mr the Merciless and, er, Mr Mark Oatcake.

The STICKING point is, apparently, revealing the addresses of these MPs' second homes but surely the AMOUNTS involved would be okay? After all, it is how much public money they are spending that is the important question. No one REALLY wants to know that Mr Frown lives at No 1, The Bunker, Much Glowering, State of Denial… or Mr Balloon lives at The Fairy Castle, Silver-on-the-Spoons, Cloud-cuckoo-land… oops! A good thing they don’t have to declare that on the electoral ballot then.

I'm HAPPY to say that Mr Clogg agrees with me, and is calling for the fullest disclosure as soon as possible.

It's not like the MPs in question even WANT the Speaker's Committee to go round wasting public money and making them look sneaky for wanting to keep their expenses secret. According to Mr Oatcakes, he hadn't even been CONSULTED before being dropped in it.

MPs ARE paid quite a lot when you compare it to the national average. And the scheme for expenses seems very generous.

But then we expect quite a lot of them – not only do they have to be on top of all the new legislation that the government pumps out like a sausage machine, they also have to be the social services, citizens' advice and fourth emergency service for fifty to a hundred thousand constituents, week in week out. AND they have to campaign hard to keep their job every four or five years. They don't get to go off on a long holiday just because Parliament is closed and it's the UNRELENTING, UNGLAMOROUS work that doesn't get reported.

And the expenses system is a legacy of the days when only the gentry were expected to go into politics: it's really about ENABLING ordinary working people, or even unemployed people, to be able to provide the same service as some super-rich toff who's inherited a third of the Home Counties.

If you want TOP PEOPLE you have to pay TOP DOLLAR. Looking at the people who work for US and have loads of responsibility (unlike the "Captains" of Industry who pay themselves SILLY MONEY): we pay the forty thousand-some GPs an average salary of one hundred thousand pounds; there are upwards of twenty-five thousand schools' head teachers who we pay on a scale up to one hundred thousand pounds; and the five-hundred-some backbench MPs earn sixty-five thousand pounds.

Properly disclosing all of the pay and perks and expenses paid to MPs is absolutely the right way forwards. Confidence in our public representatives is low and getting lower with every new bad apple that is uncovered. And it's OUR money.

But let's make it a PROPER level playing field: I'd ALSO like to see published the pay and expenses of the JOURNALISTS who spend so much time commenting on – and sneering at – our MPs.

The likes of Mr "Mate of Dave" Robinson, Mr Paxo and Mr Humpy actually have a much BIGGER soap box to address the public on a nearly daily basis and they constantly get to put their point of view across. Oh, it might not be PARTY-POLITICAL but they HAVE a point of view, that sinister sneering point of view that says all MPs are rogues only in it for the money.

I am SURE that these CRUSADERS for honesty and not-being-in-it-for-the-cash would not object to telling us what they get paid, and revealing that they could do so much better if they were "greedy" MPs rather than poorly paid journalists.

Oh do you think?

And remember, all of the researchers and production staff on the shows that they appear on quite naturally count as part of their expenses too, just like MPs' researchers and staff count on theirs.

Of course, I don’t think it should stop with the BBC staffers: the editors of the Torygraph and Grauniad and Windy and especially the Scum all ought to be fair game too, as is Mr Adam Boulton at Sky and whoever it is at ITN if they even still HAVE a political editor. Of course, it is trickier to FOI those people working, ostensibly, for private concerns… but they should be held to account too.

It is the old principle of "who gave them power and how can it be taken it away?"

1 comment:

Niles said...

AND they have to campaign hard to keep their job every four or five years.

Well - some of them. Most of the ones we know. But there's a fair few out there who don't really have to exert themselves greatly.