Saturday, February 20, 2010


Winterton Right Over Rail Travel for MPs

I recall one time Nicholas Winterton was a guest on Any Questions and in response to a question on public schools replied he supported them totally as they 'had made me the man I am today'. The great Paul Foot, also a panellist, at once replied: 'That's precisely why I am so opposed to them.' At the time I couldn't have agreed more and don't feel so much different even now. However, I did think he had a point regarding first class travel for MPs.
He claimed it to be 'infuriating' that MPs would no longer be allowed to claim first class travel on the grounds that standard class are 'for a totally different class of people.' This has echoes of a remark made about public transport by Steve('Shagger') Norris when he was Tory Opposition spokesperson for Transport and was consequently accused of snobbery. It could well be that Winterton is a snob to some degree but on this point I think he is justified in claiming MPs should be allowed to travel first class.
We should not allow our anger at MPs' profligacy and venalty over expenses to blind us to the fact that they do in fact do a viotal job for the nation and shouild be allowed to use what is often a long weekly journey to London to read, use a lap-top and everything else a busy senior professional needs to do. Standard class is very crowded Manchester to London and he is right that children can make a bit of noise and interupt people trying to make productive use of the journey time. But it seems this privilege has gone and the reason? Exactly the kind of expense claims made so frequently by the Wintertons.

I'd suggest that they should be allowed to upgrade themselves to First Class at their own expense if they wish.

On many trains it is not a major expense.

I'd put Winterton in the Guard's Van until he's returned his fiddled expenses.
They now expect us to take this lot serious, after Blair brown and his gang called me and people like myself the scroungers of society because I'm disabled, I now take pride in the fact that for me to get benefits I have to be seen by three different doctors not my GP as Blair said, I'm classed as disabled they are classed as thieves.
You have got them the wrong way round Skipper. Private schools - good. Taxpayers being asked to pay for First Class rail travel for MPs - bad.

You see the point about private schools is that people spend their OWN money on them. No reasonable person can argue with this in a free country. We really should be asking ourselves why so many (not all that wealthy) families choose to turn their backs on free state education and pay considerable sums to go private. Could it be the complete lack of discipline in a lot of our schools(chavs ruling the roost)? Could it be the abundance of second-rate teachers(lower-second rate at that)? Could it be that noone believes GCSEs and A-Levels mean a thing now? Take your pick. But let's not blame the people who understandably choose a better life for their children.

But Winterton and his odious wife are exactly the kind of people we don't need in Parliament. Rather than Parliament, he should be in a prison cell for what he did(re the trust and the expenses fiddle).

The truth is we want successful people in Parliament. If a person hasn't been around long enough to build up some private wealth, then he is too young for Parliament. If he has been around a while, but has not been successful enough in life to afford the odd First Class rail ticket, then he is hardly the calibre of person I want running the country. Either way, it is simply not reasonable to expect hard working people to watch their taxes being wasted on (relatively) wealthy public servants to travel in (relative) luxury.
As ever Skipper, I agree with you - up until a point.

Winterton, and others, may very well do an important job, although I do have my reservations about Nicholas.

However, in the wake of such a crisis of confidence in politics, with the expenses scandal, it simply can't be allowed that MPs - by virtue of their position - can demand first class travel around the country.

Why do I say this? Well, simply put: let's compare being an MP to say another high paid, highly pressured position...

In any other line of work, travel is often a requirement of the position but one which is unfunded and largely up to the individual.

Please don't get me wrong. I understand of course how important a travel allowance is for an MP. After all, would we really prefer that it was just those that could afford to attend Westminster? No.

Rather, the luxury of first class travel should not be an automatic requirement - rather one dependent on the time and distance, for example - not simply because there are a 'different type of people' in second class.

Come to think of it, if MPs sent a little more time in second class talking to people we may never have ended up in the situation we face today.

Just a thought...
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