British Politics’s Blog

The ravings of an individual, UK voter frustrated with our politicians

Posts Tagged ‘mp’s expenses

David Cameron’s Amnesty for wrongdoers

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Am I the only one that believes that Cameron is actually weak, not strong on wayward MP’s? Yes, he has told us how he is taking a strong line, but does the evidence back that up? I think not. If you are in the shadow cabinet, according to Cameron, it is sufficient to pay back anything that may not be considered “reasonable” and all will be forgiven. If you are a backbencher, then you may be referred to Cameron’s “kangaroo court”, if you have been a good boy or girl, but a little greedy, then you may be asked to pay some money back, but you will be exonerated. On the other hand, if you are a bit of a maverick, then Cameron will use this as an opportunity to get rid of you. At least that is my take on it.

So, are we to believe that tough man Cameron is going to tell all burglars and car thieves that so long as they return their ill-gotten gains, then they will be forgiven and can get on with their lives? Is it possible that Cameron’s so called tough approach is a bit of a misnomer, designed to deflect attention. A cynic might suggest that by telling everyone that he is a bit of a tough guy, he has successfully diverted attention and at the same time, ensured that it is not the court of public opinion that decides on whether an MP has misbehaved, but the court of David Cameron.

Sorry to all those that like Cameron, but I just don’t trust him, the more I see him in action, the more he gives off the air of an opportunist. I have noticed that whilst he says a lot, if you dissect what he has said, it is rarely tangible of even measurable. I really want to believe that Cameron and the Conservatives are a worthy alternative to the discredited Brown, but if I am honest, there is little that he had done or said that impresses. I think it will just be more of the same. I recognise that because I so want Brown gone, I am almost prepared to accept that the devil himself could do a better job…..but, I said almost! No matter how much we may want to have this country put back on track, we cannot just will someone to succeed, they first of all have to have the wherewithal to make it happen, and I do not see that in Cameron.

Also, where has all the talk of reform gone? Cameron is pushing Brown into an early general election, great, but not before we have had some electoral refirm. What is the point of being able to put in a new government if we are obliged to accept the people put before us by the party machine? That is not democracy. It means that our choice is limited to our preferred party, not candidate. If Cameron wants the people to support an early election, then he must allow the people to select their preferred candidate at the next election, not afterwards. We all know that when party’s win power they seem to forget about everything that said to get them there.

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Boycott the mainstream parties

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I have often advocated to friends and colleagues that the best way to deliver a hard-hitting message to politicians is to vote for fringe parties rather than mainstream. The reality is, at least for the most part, leaders of the main parties take our votes for granted. They know that there is a hardcore of supporters, but it is floating voters that really decide results, so that is who they target with populist policies. The thing that they fear most, is something that upsets the status quo, that is, the voters responding in an unpredictable or uncontrolledable way. Whether we like it or not, most voters are predictable, the mainstream parties like that.

This is perhaps why Lord Tebbit urged disaffected voters to “teach the big parties a lesson” by endorsing one of the smaller parties. Now this has been admitted by a former Conservative Party Chairman, perhaps my friends and colleagues will start to realise that a vote for a fringe party is not a wasted vote. As a fellow blogger stated in a recent post; “Politicians of all parties would do well to listen. They rule by consent, not as a right. The public could scupper all of their plans by simply voting for fringe parties, it may not give us a joined up government, but lets be honest, we haven’t had one of those for generations!”. There is no need to vote for extremist parties, in the EU Election there are quite a number of choices, including, but not necessarily limited to; UKIP, the Greens, the English Democrats, the Christian Peoples Alliance, NO2EU, Libertas, and the Jury Team.

Truth be told, MEP’s have very little power, so using the European elections to deliver a message to our domestic politicans carries very little risk and a great deal of upside. I know that I may be criticised for this comment, but the real power in the European Union lies with the unelected Commissioners, not the MEP’s. Our domestic MP’s have disappointed us, many have either abused or stood by whilst others abused an expense system that was actually designed to be abused….by the abusers! Ironic isn’t it! – Clearly our MP’swere quite prepared to treat the very people that elected them with contempt, but why not, they only needed us once every 5 years?

I dislike being taken for granted, both in terms of my goodwill and my vote and I am sure many people will feel as I do. So maybe we should all consider delivering a very explicit message to the mainstream parties, that we cannot, nor will we be taken for granted. And, if they don’t start to listen following the June 4th results, then there is a very real possibility that people power will ensure that the vast majority of current MP’s will lose their seats at the next election and I mean from all parties. If existing MP’s are unwilling to listen, especially those from New Labour, then I will consider standing as an independent MP and I will urge others to follow suit. If there are enough independent MP’s, the people of this country may actually regain their voice, because massive majorities will be replaced by the need to gain a consensus. Authoritarian rule will be replaced by a democratic process. Now that would be nice.

I am happy to be accused of being naive. But I will say this, MP’s abused their expenses because we let them, we assumed that they could be trusted to self-regulate. We have accepted an electoral system that favours the larger parties, a system that provides these party’s with massive majorities, even if they get just 35% of the vote, in turn we get what amounts to single party rule. The ruling party, as evidenced by the New Labour Party Machine, want ever more state power and control over the people. New Labour, for example, has become completely disengaged and out of touch with the people, they have introduced a raft of  new laws, well over 3,500 in 12 years, many removing long-held rights to privacy and liberty and the New Labour delivery has become authoritarian, not inclusive. 

If we have to vote for fringe parties, or independent candidates to deliver a harsh lesson to our self-serving MP’s and political parties, then I am up for it. I want to return to a democratic process where our views are taken into consideration, not one where we are controlled or spied on; I want our government to be truly representative and, above all, I want to feel proud of our democracy, our politicians and our government….and I am sure many people would agree with those sentiments, so lets take the “necessary action” to repeat the overused phrase by our illustrious leader…and “do what’s right” to use another!

Voters must boot out self-serving MP’s

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Based on recent press reports, it is quite clear that many of the ‘honourable members’ are not as honourable as we every right to expect. When it comes to expenses, it seems that many MP’s see this as a right (as opposed to out of pocket expenses), something they are entitled to claim and money that they must and will use to supplement their income. Of course, when you have a system that has been designed by MP’s and is subsequently sanctioned and voted on by the same people, it is not too difficult to have an expense allowance programme that can be easily milked.

Now, far be it for me to suggest that any of the MP’s that are claiming a second home allowance are corrupt, clearly they are not that stupid, but I can say with virtual certainty, that in the court of public opinion, dipping into public funds in this way is insulting to the taxpayer and far from honourable. As a fellow blogger stated in a recent post, it is not the MP’s that are corrupt, but the system that they introduced and then vote in. Some would argue that there is little or no difference of course. However, those in power seem to be in no particular hurry to do anything about this gravy train. Why would they I hear you cry? Instead, it is proposed that another committee be convened, which will take too long, will doubtless have a limited remit and will almost certainly not judge, but instead, suggest higher salaries in place of the discredited allowance programme.

There are a few and I mean a few, members of parliament that have not been tempted to milk the system, but by and large, it would appear that the majority do. Senior members of the political elite appear to be the worst offenders. As voters, we must not forget that we are being fleeced at a time when we are having to tighten our belts, little wonder that the public finances are in such a state.

I believe every voter has an obligation to establish what their sitting MP has been doing. If they have been milking the system, then we must vote them out, regardless of the party they represent. There can be no place in politics for people that treat the public with such utter and complete contempt. If 61m are to permit just 648 people to represent our interests and create new laws, then trust must be 100%. Anything less is unacceptable. If MP’s cannot be trusted with public money, how on earth can we trust them with our security, well-being, economy, laws, liberty and general well-being.

The people of this country must not limit their sights to a reform of the corrupt series of allowances available to MP’s. We must go much further. What we need is a wholesale reform of the political system that will allow the constituents to boot out MP’s if they fail to deliver, not just the party hierarchy. The people of this country must, once again, take charge.  I am not suggesting anarchy, just that we must make a stand, ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear.  Because, above all, we need a system that allows ‘real’ people to stand for office, not simply those that are selected based on their race, their gender, who they know, who they are related to, which union they worked for, who they went to school with or their public profile.

The public are getting angry…it is time for a change to our political system and politicians of all parties would be well advised to remember that they rule by consent, not as a right. The trust and confidence in politicians is an an all time low, instead of being shame-faced when they are caught out or fail to deliver, politicians are brazen, almost arrogant. Jacqui Smith’s 10,000 Tasers will not have much affect if 61m people start to get restless. This Government and most of our MP’s shepherded us into an economic mess, they were paid to PROTECT our interests and they failed (yes, I know we must also shoulder some of the responsibility), they now risk making another mistake, that is to ignore the will of the people. It will not be so easy to shrug off the effects of a disaffected and angry majority.

Jacqui Smith, it time to resign

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I am not normally one for calling for an MP’s resignation, albeit I am sure I, like many others would consider that there are a good number that should do so voluntarily. That said, I am of the opinion that Jacqui Smith needs to go and soon, not because of a single misdemeanour, but a series.

The bottom line is Jacqui Smith is not very good at their job. She is the first to try and manipulate the press and public opinion with elements of “good” news from reports, whilst blatantly ignoring those aspects which are critical or not self-serving, either for her or the government. Fair play some might say, but ministers must be judged on what they add, not what they claim.  Further, Jacqui Smith is something of a puppet, if the police want something, she believes that by giving it to them, she is helping the public, because the police only want to fight crime etc., this is utter rubbish. The police want more powers to intrude, monitor and spy of ordinary citizens and Jacqui Smith is seen as a soft touch. As a consequence the people of this country have seen a massive erosion of their civil liberties, right to privacy and freedoms.

My issue with Jacqui Smith is the utter and barely concealed contempt she has for the public at large, not just in terms of her actions is respect of her ministerial responsibilities at the Home Office, but also, her actions in respect of maximising her personal finances via the public purse. Whilst Jacqui Smith may be able to claim that she has operated “within the rules“, to quote one of her colleagues, “in the court of public opinion“, her expense claims are not acceptable in the least.

First she claims up to £24,000 per year because she says that her main residence is the room at her sisters house in London, not Redditch where her husband lives and her children reside and go to school. There is little or no credibility in this explanation. Then she claims for electrical goods, which includes two washing machines, why does she need two washing machines? Why should she feel the need to claim for two flat screen TV’s, what is wrong with one, why do they have to be flat screen? £550 for a kitchen sink….£1,000 for an antique fireplace, are these truly essentials, I think not. In the old days, expenses were referred to as “out of pocket expenses“, for an MP, they are nothing of the sort, instead they are used as a method of supplementing salaries.

What I find difficult to believe is that Jacqui Smith seriously expects the public to believe that she did not know that her claim of £69 per month was only for the internet and nothing else. It would suggest that she is both out of touch with the real costs we face everyday and implies that her attention to detail is very badly and sadly lacking. For a Minister in charge of the Home Office and therefore our security this is a very real worry. Moreover, someone that claims to operate within the rules whilst ignoring the spirit of the arrangement is, at least in my opinion, lacking judgement and credibility. If Smith was doing a good job, perhaps the public would be more forgiving, but she is utterly useless. The only consolation is that most of her fellow ministers are as inept, therefore she fits in well, but that doesn’t make it any better. She will survive, but only because Gordon Brown know that the by supporting her he can benefit from undying loyalty and that having a cabinet full of incompetents makes him look better.

I am further angered at the way that Gordon Brown has insisted that there should be a review of MP’s expenses, yet it cannot start until the end of the summer recess and has no need to report until after the next election. Once again, we are all being taken for fools, it simply does not take that long to review MP’s expenses. The bottom line is expenses can and must only cover ‘out of pocket’ expenses, they can and should be based on those in the private sector and second home allowances must stop. MP’s can be provided with an overnight allowance for when they are in London on parliamentary business, but his should be weighted based on private sector allowances for accommodation and food.

The review of expenses ought to be carried out by a firm of accountants and the brief include a requirement that they revise them to fall in line with the private sector. I reckon it will take about 2 weeks, but of course, we know that these self-serving MP’s are going to insist that they receive a salary increase in place of any ‘sacrifice’ they make on expenses. They also know that they will then get a doubly whammy, because a higher salary means a better pension, all funded by us. For a government so focused on targets, why don’t they pay themselves performance and results based rewards? Simple, not one of them would earn the bonus, they know it and we know it!

If MP’s don’t like the terms or rewards of a parliamentary career, then they must resign and make way for others that do. One thing is for certain, based on the rank incompetence demonstrated by the majority of our MP’s we shall be no worse off and in all likelihood, we will end up with real people that represent the interests of the public at large, not just themselves. It is time for change.

Anyone that is angered by the information contained in this post may also like to be aware that there is a new Bill going through parliament which seeks to provide MP’s and all other public servants with what amounts to an immunity from prosecution (civil and criminal) with a legal definition of the term ‘reasonable discretion’. You can find out more here: Bill to Exercise Reasonable Discretion

Tony McNulty and an expense claim too far

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I am angry with Tony McNulty, because, although I disagree with most of his party’s policies, I always considered him to be sincere and committed to the policies adopted by New Labour. He was believable and one of the few ministers who could hold his own when challenged by the likes of Jon Snow’s  on the Channel 4 News programme, without sulking. Therefore, to find out that he was one of the members of parliament exploiting the rules related to second home allowances (which was designed to cover rent, mortgage interest payments or hotel expenses) was a great personal disappointment. I do not suggest that McNulty has done anything in contravention of the rules or regulations, but to claim as much as £60k in expenses for a home his parents live in, when it is just a few miles from his home, is truly stretching what could be termed, at least in my judgement, reasonable.

Members of Parliament are supposed to set an example to the rest of us, they are in a privileged position and as such, we are entitled to expect the very highest standards from those who are elected to serve the people. By and large, MP’s tend to vote and decide on their own salaries, perks, pensions and expenses, therefore is it essential that they are seen not to put self-interest first. It is quite clear, to anyone with half a brain cell, that second home allowances were intended to assist those MP’s who lived in their constituency and needed to cover their additional costs in terms of travelling or overnight accommodation in London. It was never intended to be a tax free perk, but that is precisely what it has turned out to be for many. They know that and we know that. Can Tony McNulty really justify his claim, when his permanent home is so close to Westminster, not in terms of the ‘rules’, but in terms of the spirit of the allowance? He may be an excellent debater, but even he will not be able to come up with a set of words that would convince me, let alone the public at large. To his credit, however, he has suggested that the home allowance rules ought to be reviewed.

This discredited expense system, that has become a method for MP’s to boost their earnings, needs to be overhauled NOW! Not by members of parliament, because most of them have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to demonstrate objectivity, much less intelligence and independent thought, but by a committee of lay people. No longer is it acceptable that MP’s should receive benefits that those in the private sector could only dream of. MP’s need a reality check, they are so insulated from the people they govern, that they seem to have no idea how to act responsibly or appropriately. There is a recession going on out here, people are losing their jobs, companies are closing, families are becoming homeless, personal wealth is falling at an alarming rate and no-one in power seems to give a toss, so long as they are okay.

Ask the average MP why he decided to go into politics and you will get dozens of different answers, but I guarantee that they will not say they did it for the money, yet on closer analysis, it appears that greed (if lawful greed) is the order of the day. If MP’s earnings are so low that they feel they must maximise expense claims whatever the morality, then I suggest they step aside and let ordinary people take their place at the next election. God knows, this country needs people that are in touch with reality, rather than on a different planet.

Gordon Brown needs to get his house in order and Cameron needs to come off the fence and make some recommendations regarding a review of expense allowances, not simply insist that MP’s publish an account of their past expenses. Sometimes I think Cameron is even more removed from reality than Gordon Brown, now that is scary, especially given he may be our next prime minister. The bottom line is, however, that there are few people in this government that deserve their positions, starting at the very top, but I am becoming more and more concerned that there are an increasing number MP’s, from all side of the house, that do not deserve to be described a honourable nor are they fit to represent the good and predominantly honest people of this country.

UPDATE:

Anyone that is angered by the information contained in this post may also like to be aware that there is a new Bill going through parliament which seeks to provide MP’s and all other public servants with what amounts to an immunity from prosecution (civil and criminal) with a legal definition of the term ‘reasonable discretion’. You can find out more here: Bill to Exercise Reasonable Discretion