Tuesday, April 14, 2009


If MPs Want to Get Rich They Should not have gone into Politics

That a root and branch review of MP’s expenses is overdue is beyond dispute, as the kerfuffle over James Purnell’s food bills have made crystal clear. The central point is that he is within the letter of the regulations but way adrift of what voters think is reasonable recompense.

What is seldom realised is that expenses represent a kind of tacit ‘deal’ between MPs and the whips going back to the late 1960s: they would accept being relatively poorly paid compared with the private sector and overseas comparisons, but they would get generous expenses. So expenses have tended to be seen as a means of ‘levelling up’ and so exploiting every loophole is seen as virtually 'fair game'.

Now when MPs get paid three times the national average wage, this seems to the rest of us-recall half of the workforce receive under £21,000p.a.- to be unjustified. MPs have to realise that if they want to get rich they should not have chosen the very public service of politics.

‘They just don’t get it’ is often used to describe the attitude of MPs to the subject and if anyone doubts this, I would direct them to the brilliant diaries of Chris Mullin, A View from the Foothills. It is peppered with MPs refusing to countenance any reductions in their expenses; the attitude of members of select committees to the suggestion they should fly economy rather than club class is indicative of much which underlies the current ‘crisis'.

After much discussion Edward Leigh reckoned:

‘We weren’t doing ourselves any goo by spending 30 minutes on this subject…We should bear in mind that we were spending millions of pounds of public money. He added that Nick Winterton’s comments [he had argued ‘economy’ would demean status and place MPs alongside the wrong type of people] were pompous and ridiculous…One could almost hear the expulsion of wind as Sir Nicolas visibly deflated’. (p391)

Put links in the story Skipper, then we can follow up on the details.

Here's one for you, for starters:

Thnanks Roy: have done.
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