Not had much chance to blog anything last couple of days (busy time at my school – and also getting used to leaving the house at 6.45 again sort of saps your strength at the other end of the day) I had been intending to blog on David Cameron’s July speech regarding Autism (see my earlier blog Still no response to David Cameron on Autism, Disability ),( and hopefully still will) – however he’s had a rather more high profile speech since then: Cameron vows to cut ministers’ pay and end subsidised food and drink so here’s a quicky :
Although I’d have thought that the key point of this speech was rather more about ‘fessing up to the fact that the Tory’s intend to make cuts to public spending; it is interesting that the Guardian (amongst others) have fixed on to his proposals to cut pay for ministers and end subsidies on food and drink.
Clearly it’s an attempt by David Cameron to wring a little support out of the public on the issue of the ‘expenses scandal’. I’m not impressed though. David tells us that : “far from politicians being exempt from the age of austerity, they must show leadership” - ( neatly changing the subject a propos of nothing in the middle of the sentence by the way – but lets not be pedantic. ) With all due respect David Cameron is a man who can don his metaphorical hair shirt and talk about austerity with relative impunity – he is after all, a very wealthy fella !
His comments reminded me though of a man I spoke to several months back when the expenses furore was at it’s height. He was a politican. A local one. A conservative, holding an executive position in a local authority. I don’t particularly share his politics, but he’s a good man – honest and approachable and professional in his approach to dealings with everyone – whether they support him or not. I asked him at one point whether he’d ever considered running for parliament. I was surprised at his answer.
He said he had run for parliament twice, narrowly losing each time, whilst increasing his party’s share of the vote. He was however not intending to do so again. Why ? I wondered. Surely third time lucky would be worth a shot.
He had his reasons though. He explained that he had his own business, and whilst it did not make him rich he felt it made him comfortable. He was not, he said “independently wealthy”, and in the current climate he felt that he could not afford the inevitable pay cut which he would need to take if he entered parliament.
That’s really sad. A Conservative politician with his own successful business who can’t afford to enter parliament. So I wonder whether if David Cameron increases the canteen costs there’ll be many lower paid people – factory workers or nurses for example - going into parliament ?
Or will it be more likely that we’ll reach a stage where the only people who want to go into parliament will be people rich enough to be able to afford it. Old Etonians perhaps – you know, like the ones that make up much David Cameron’s shadow cabinet.
I believe that representing a constituency in parliament should be one of the highest honours and privileges in the land, and that it should be remunerated accordingly with every effort made to facilitate the work of members. Every MP whatever their party has been selected by the people and entrusted with a great responsibility which they should discharge with honour and honesty, but for which they should also be rewarded adequately.
Bottom line – our MP’s must value the voters, but the voters should also value the MPs.
I think it’s difficult to argue against the greater transparency that The Daily Telegraph’s revelations on MP’s expenses, and the publication today of expenses details by the Government, have brought and also will continue to bring. It seems clear that some MP’s were taking advantage of a very lax system.
There are downsides though. An MP’s basic salary is around £63,000 per year. A lot by many people’s standards, but for those working in Central London it’s certainly not a massive amount. Considerably less than most headteachers for example, in Inner London. They also have an unusual need to HAVE TO work in two different places. They need to work in their consituencies, and they need to work in Westminster. They also keep some of the strangest working hours known to mankind.
Bearing in mind that a Season Ticket by rail from around 40 miles from London costs around £4,000 and you start to realise that the expenses are going to be rather large however you do it – if they don’t have homes in two places they are going to need hotels – which may well cost more.
There’s also the hidden factor that many MP’s actually need a third home – because they are representing a consituency that they didn’t orginally live in – but are there because their party considers them worthy of a “safe” seat. I hear lots of people saying that this shouldn’t happen – and I can sympathise to a point – it’s nice to have someone local, but does that mean that a Labour Party activist from say Henley on Thames can never be Prime Minister ? or a Tory from Barnsley ? of course not – that would be ridiculous.
Last night I was fortunate to talk with a Conservative councillor – mainly about politics. I asked him casually if he’d considered standing for parliament, and was surprised at his answer. He had indeed considered this, and in fact had stood as a Conservative candidate more than once – losing narrowly each time. He’d now decided against it though – he felt that in the current climate, if he became an MP, due to the fact that he was not “independently wealthy”, then his family would be seriously disadvantaged financially.
Now bear in mind that this is a man who lives an a rather nice part of inner London, and may not be independently wealthy, but is certainly more independently wealthy than headteachers like me (in other words a sight more wealthy than most). His logistical difficulties would be less than those faced by most MPs.
Yet this issue alone has put him off standing again. And here’s someone who isn’t just being philosophical – he has a real chance of becoming an MP should he so wish, and he’s done his homework
This is a great shame.
Taken to it’s conclusions I can see a situation where only the rich and the foolish will endeavour to become MP’s. So I urge my readers to think about that before they go vilifying the next batch of MP’s to fall prey to the Telegraph.