Friday, 6 November 2009

None So Blind…

…as those that will not see:
The familiar question asked of all MPs these days is: "Do you get it?" Well, yes, I do. I got it a long time ago; and, unlike colleagues who have been under the cosh – whether justified or not – I am therefore better placed to comment on Sir Christopher Kelly's review of expenses, which was launched today in parliament.
Brace yourselves…
I have to say that I'm mystified. Not at his general conclusions – driven as they are by public outcry and clamour for blood – but at what seems a misunderstanding of the nature of an MP's job.
Not really.

It’s just that we’ve cottoned on to the fact that you think your job is filling your boots at our expense.
To punish MPs because of the distance they live from London – those with fast train journeys quite close to London as well as those at some distance from both the capital or an appropriate airport – is perverse, but also dangerous to democracy.
Oh, noes!

Democracy is in danger because MPs won’t be able to claim housing allowance! Who knew democracy was so fragile?
So let us take the most bizarre result of Sir Christopher's robust recommendations. An MP stands on the platform with his or her partner, computer in hand, ready for several hours' essential work on the way down to – or back from – the Palace of Westminster. Alongside the MP is a familiar and formerly friendly senior civil servant (some of whom do actually spend time out of Whitehall).

The MP and the civil servant get into the first-class carriage, waving farewell to the MP's partner, who must travel in standard class (even though, with a bit of forward planning, a first-class ticket could have been purchased at a lower price than that of the standard-class ticket).

I’m not seeing any threat to democracy here.
During the journey, the civil servant talks about his imminent retirement, saying with some embarrassment how pleased he is with his large severance package and his pension – which is bigger than the MP's annual salary.

When they alight at the station, MP and spouse are reunited and the civil servant gives them a lift to Westminster. The civil servant goes off to buy a meal at public expense – before booking into the hotel, which, of course, is paid for. The MP goes off to negotiate with the whips so that they can avoid the mid-evening vote and return home to make something to eat.
You know what, Blunkett? You’re right. It is indeed an injustice that the civil servant gets to eat at the state’s expense and you don’t.

Let’s remove their rights to do so, to make it more ‘fair’. How’s that?
No, being an MP is not a desperately hard life, like going down the pit or working in the steelworks – with which I am all too familiar having been brought up in the city of Sheffield; and it certainly isn't badly paid compared with any of my constituents. But it is the kind of disrupted life in which appropriate support – rather than the kind of farcical arrangements described above – helps you to survive.
‘Appropriate support’ being duck houses, I guess?

But he’s getting to the meat of it now:
We wouldn't be here if we didn't love the cut and thrust of politics and we didn't want to make a difference. We wouldn't be in it if we didn't sufficiently enjoy it to put up with the undoubted inconvenience and disruption to normal life.

But increasingly, as we see from the announced retirements, many people – including those with experience – have simply had enough.
You’re not kidding, Blunkett!

The people who’ve ‘had enough’ are the general public, who are sick and tired of you bloated parasites sucking the life out of them and then whining when you are caught with your snouts buried so deeply in the trough you can hardly manage a squeal…
Kelly's recommendations are understandable on the back of the whole allowances shambles. But we must address the long-term future, not just the immediate reaction.
I don’t think the likes of you have a long term future…
I will be standing at the next general election for my party, and I hope to continue to be able to bring to bear a lifetime's experience; but I am able to do so because after the years I've spent inside and outside parliament, I have sufficient comfort, support systems and family and friends to see me through. Others are not so fortunate.
Boo hoo!

Well, I’m convinced by this little paean to the cause of MPs continuing to wallow in our money….NOT!


TheBigYin said...

Tears are now streaming down my face after reading you post Julia...of laughter!

I can think of loads of jobs, a lorry driver for one or a soldier, where family life is disrupted for a pittance.

No, he really doesn't get it, does he!

Anonymous said...


Weekend Yachtsman said...

"The MP and the civil servant get into the first-class carriage"


Why don't they travel steerage, like the people who have to make the money these swine p**s up against the wall?

They still don't get it, do they?

TDK said...

I hope to continue to be able to bring to bear a lifetime's experience; but I am able to do so because after the years I've spent inside and outside parliament

Let's examine that lifetime experience:

He entered local politics on graduation. He worked as a clerk typist between 1967 and 1969 and as a lecturer in industrial relations and politics between 1973 and 1981.

Blunkett became the youngest-ever councillor on Sheffield City Council, being elected in 1970 at the age of 22 whilst a teacher. He served on Sheffield City Council from 1970 to 1988, becoming Leader from 1980 to 1987 and on South Yorkshire County Council from 1973 to 1977. This was a time of decline for Sheffield's steel industry. The Conservative MP for Sheffield Hallam, Sir Irvine Patnick, coined the phrase "People's Republic of South Yorkshire" to describe the left-wing politics of its local government; Sheffield was designated as a nuclear-free zone. Blunkett became known as the leader of one of the furthest left of the Labour councils, which was regularly denounced as "loony left" by the newspapers of the right. He built up support within the Labour Party during his time as the council's leader during the 1980s and was elected to the Labour Party's National Executive Committee.

from Wikipedia.

So a lifetime of working in and around politics, punctuated by teaching about politics is the sum of his experience.

Such breadth!

James Higham said...

The people who’ve ‘had enough’ are the general public, who are sick and tired of you bloated parasites sucking the life out of them and then whining when you are caught with your snouts buried so deeply in the trough you can hardly manage a squeal…

Go to it rightly, Julia.

John said...

I think this highlights a hidden benefit of the expenses scandfal:

MP's being the bitter pricks they are won't stand for the civil servants making hay; so maybe their expenses will get trimmed as well...


Sue said...

Kelly has obviously sampled "real life". He must have done. These tea leafs have been at it for so long, they actually think they're hard done by.

I'd swap positions with any of them and I bet I'd do a better job for less pay and less whingeing!

banned said...

Senior Civil Servants next methinks. Self-aggrandising pricks, poncers on the public purse.

David Gillies said...

It's the utter tone-deafness that amazes me. The public have had, for quite some time now, a sense that the whole ship of state is rotten from bow to stern, and all these Tribunes of the People can do is stand around bleating about how beastly unfair it is for them to be expected to play by the same rules as the rest of us. The sense of entitlement is breathtaking. There is, of course, an argument to be made that the rules are being changed arbitrarily and that MPs cannot be blamed for following the guidelines as they were written. That is missing the point, spectacularly. The rules were written by MPs. It's like letting John Prescott loose in a pork pie factory. Of course unconscionable acts of venality (and pie-scoffing) are going to occur. The lackwit politicos don't seem to grasp that just because they ruled it was OK for them to have their hands in the till, we aren't going to slam it closed hard on their knuckles.