The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Please, Sir, Can I Have Some More?

Posted by The Futility Monster on August 25, 2009 @ 06:27

A young Sir Patrick Cormack goes up and asks Sir Christopher Kelly for more.

A young Sir Patrick Cormack goes up and asks Sir Christopher Kelly for more.

In recent days there have been a number of stories bubbling in the background regarding MPs’ submissions to Sir Christopher Kelly’s inquiry into the MPs’ expenses system and general issue of pay.

This morning there’s another one. A piece of “analysis” from The Times suggests that many MPs are using the inquiry as a long awaited chance to get across their point of view that MPs are overworked and underpaid.

We have long heard the view that are MPs are exceptional talents that have sacrificed six and seven figure salaries in the private sector to turn their hand to public service. For that, we should be grateful, and we should, accordingly, offer much generous salaries than they currently get.

There are a few responses to this. Not all of them critical though. In fact, I have a little sympathy to the MPs’ claims.

First of all, Guido is right. A political career as an MP should be considered an honour and a privilege. To serve in such a venerable institution (a reputation from my experience is undeserved) should be the equivalent of a serious chunk of salary anyway. Being members of such a small, elite club is reward in itself. That is one excellent reason to keep the pay levels lower than they should be.

Secondly, having met many of these MPs, I have to tell you that for a significant amount of them, if not the majority, they aren’t that special really. Shocking, I know. Some of them may well have been high fliers in business, and have traded it all in for politics. But most of them are average Joes and Joettas who are relatively bright and diligent workers. Worse, some of them are actually pretty thick and should never have been elevated to Parliament. So to argue that they could have made more money outside politics is, perhaps, stretching credibility a little.

But thirdly, I have a lot of time for this point of view put forward by Patrick Cormack:

I thought the tidiest solution for all this nonsense would be to abolish all personal allowances completely, travel, the lot and roll it up in the salary.

Expenses systems are invariably complex, as anyone who is self-employed will tell you. It never seems to work as it seems it ought to. There always have to be exceptions and other arrangements that have to be made to cover a wide range of peculiar circumstances.

I would be very much in favour of doing away with every last expense relating directly to MPs and increasing their salary to, say, £80,000. The only ones that should remain are for travel – covering only the cost of going between the constituency and Parliament, and staffing – which should remain at its current levels.

That would make a simple system, whereby MPs have to stick their hands in their own pockets to pay for things. It might make them relearn the principles of budgeting. No more relying on us to pay for their mortgage and living expenses.

It would do away with our annual league tables and MP bashing for the sake of it. But that might actually be good for our democracy. I think we’ve made the public cynical enough as it is.

Any more and we might as well just scrap the whole thing…

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