I wake to hear news that more MPs have been stung in a newspaper sting, one Tory, Malcolm Rifkind, and one Labour, Jack Straw. I am not going to repeat the Daily Telegraph’s allegations – you can read them yourself – but once again the public’s disillusionment with all politicians can only grow.
£67,060 a year (plus generous expenses), according to Rifkind, is not enough to persuade certain individuals from bringing their business experience to the House of Commons. Put simply, not in his words, an MP’s salary is inadequate.
I used to live in the Bristol East constituency where the MP was Anthony Wedgwood Benn, as he was known in those days. The constituency party secretary, when he wasn’t trying to recruit party members to the Trotskyist group Militant tendency, was quite open about an MP’s lot. Benn came to Bristol most Fridays, held a surgery, held a public meeting somewhere on the patch, stayed in the Unicorn Hotel and then went back to London the following morning. And that was pretty well it. Everything else in the constituency was carried out by volunteers and Benn’s paid staff. What he did for the rest of the week, travelling the country attending meetings, writing books, appearing on televisions, going on marches, was nothing to do his job as an MP. It was, essentially, part time work. It just so happens we paid him as a full time MP.
The same could be said of Benn’s Tory successor, Jonathan Sayeed. He actually lived in Somerset, in North Curry. He did buy a house in the new estate at the end of Hulse Road in Brislington, but no one ever saw him there. His visits to the constituency were even more scarce, but then who was to supervise him? Sayeed, like every other MP, was accountable only at the next General Election and unless he had committed heinous crimes, his fate would rise and fall with the national swing.
Having met Benn, Sayeed and various MPs where I now live, I am satisfied that they do not operate as I would like. Whereas I think they should act as servants to the electorate, they act as though they are doing us a favour. I still have letters from Benn going back to 1981 when I wrote to him about low pay in the civil service. His brief replies were always accompanied by a copy of a letter from a Tory minister which effectively said, though more politely than this, ‘Fuck off.’ My current MP, Jack Lopresti (Con) operates a similar operation. I suspect that, with few exceptions, MPs do much the same thing, which is as little as possible.
To hear MPs touting for extra work makes me feel sick. All right, to some MPs (on both sides of the house but mainly Tories), £67,060 is a trifling sum, certainly not enough to send their children to private schools and go skiing at Klosters (isn’t that right, Mr Osborne?) but to someone like, well, me, it’s an absolute fortune. I never earned anything like half of that, nowhere near. And, unlike Iain Duncan Smith, I wasn’t able to claim for my underpants from the taxpayer or even the costs of getting to work.
It’s one rule for them, one for the rest of us. I feel the system has to change. I really do want politicians who are in it for the right reasons.
The reply from politicians when they have been caught out is, “I haven’t broken any rules” as if that made everything okay. Well, it’s not okay if those rules are so open to interpretation, shall we say, so that wealthy people can charge us, say, £39 for a breakfast (like the aforementioned Mr Duncan Smith).
No wonder the public is so cynical about politicians many of them are considering voting Ukip, where Farage and his pals pocket huge amounts of salaries and expenses for not representing anyone other than themselves.