Thursday, 22 November 2012

Politicians, perks and public transport

Nadine Dorries is whining again today. She says she was given permission to take four weeks off while Parliament was sitting, but admits she didn't disclose that she wanted the time off to go to Australia and appear on I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here. Now everybody is picking on her. Boo and also hoo. But there is an element of hypocrisy - no Member of Parliament should be allowed to take additional time off unless they are ill or there are genuine personal reasons for taking extra leave, such as bereavement. This is how it works for the rest of us. Why should MPs be any different?

And while we're at it, how about we make the working lives of MPs more like the working lives of the people they represent? Perhaps we should view Parliament as being like the London head office of a company that has branches across the whole nation. Below are a few pointers on how MPs can live like the rest of us, not make outrageous expense claims and maybe even save taxpayers some money. This is how it works for employees, especially in the private sector. Surely the Conservative Party cannot object to Parliament being run more like a private company...
  • If you live and work in London, you generally get public transport to work at your own expense. MPs who live in the Oyster card zone should do likewise. This is not at all unreasonable on a salary of £65,738.
  • If you work for a private company with a London head office but you're not based in London, your company will most likely reimburse you for travel expenses when you need to be in the capital for work. As such, MPs, apart from those not based on the mainland, should be able to claim train travel between their constituency and London, provided they travel by Standard Class.
  • However, if you do need to travel to London for work purposes in the private sector, you're probably not allowed to claim for the rent on a second residence in London. Chances are, you will be put up in a hotel and, in this age of austerity, it probably won't be the Dorchester. Instead of MPs having second homes in London, how about a few empty buildings get transformed into budget hotels for MPs? Surely all they need is a clean, comfortable room, a desk, a phone, wifi, and somewhere to shit, shower and sleep?

    The process could be put out to tender so that private companies, such as Premier Inn and Holiday Inn Express, can bid for the contract to develop the buildings and offer rooms to MPs at a guaranteed reasonable rate so the taxpayer is paying for the sort of rate a reliable corporate client would pay. What Tory could possibly object to such privatisation? When Parliament is not sitting, the hotels would be open to the public. This is London. The rooms will be booked. The hotels would create jobs during the construction phase as well as when they are operational.
  • MPs who are not based in London will receive an Oyster card for travelling around London and can only claim taxi fares if they have to attend late night Parliamentary sessions, which are rare.
  • No MP should be allowed to claim for maintenance and repairs on their constituency homes. Everyone else pays for their own home repairs. Why should MPs be any different? Seriously, they are no better than the "benefits scroungers" many of them claim are wasting the taxes of hardworking people.

    This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways that we can ensure MPs lead lives that are more like those of their constituents, but it's definitely a start. Any more suggestions are warmly welcomed. One of my favourite writers, Fleet Street Fox has explained how George Osborne lives in no way like anyone I know but can't seem to apply the same acumen to the economy.

    After all, if the current government is obsessed with cutting spending and reducing benefits, surely they can set an example? We're all in this together, aren't we? Aren't we? Hello? Tumbleweeds...
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  1. I agree on removing all the perks to match, as you say, the way everyone else gets treated by their employer. But I'd compensate by a significant salary increase to be at least in the ball park of senior management of large private companies.

    My understanding of the history of expenses for UK politicians is that the base salary has been kept low by world standards due to intense and shallow media reporting of any increases. This has lead to more covert effective salary increases via expense entitlements, making the effective overall package hard to determine and put in a headline. That approach has of course backfired spectacularly with the resulting PR hit probably worse than simply having a higher baseline salary.

    Pay them well and be honest about it then hold them to the highest standards of professional conduct.

    1. "...the highest standards of professional conduct..."??!!Politicians??!!

  2. Georgia, where you lead the Indy follows!! Worth a read, if only to get the bile rising to a suitable level!