Wednesday, 28 October 2009
WE GAVE YOU A LONG ROPE: YOU HANGED YOURSELVES
Moan, moan, whine.
That’s what we got when the Legge letters started landing on the doormats of MPs a couple of weeks ago. They moaned again about not having done anything wrong. (Like we hadn’t heard enough of that!) Then they moaned about having to pay the money back, and then, as if they hadn’t moaned enough, they whined about how unfair it had been because they had been expecting, indeed had been promised, the letters at 2 o’clock and then at 4 ... and you wouldn’t believe it.... the poor wee mites, some of the letters didn’t arrive until after 6. Bless them. What a to do. Fancy having to wait around half the day for a letter!
They moaned that it wasn’t fair that they had to pay back money for having their houses cleaned and their hanging baskets watered, and they moaned that it wasn’t fair because the rule book hadn’t said that they couldn’t. And in a way, they were quite correct.
From what I could see of the rule book it never once said. “You cannot have your house cleaned at the public’s expense. Nor may you have your garden looked after ditto”. I’m guessing that the rules’ authors assumed a modicum of intelligence in the MP class and/or just a smattering of the much vaunted moral compass. On that basis the House of Commons Green Book made clear that expenses could only be claimed if they were “incurred wholly, necessarily and exclusively in the performance of their parliamentary duties”.
Enough said, I think. If you can’t be an MP and carry out your duties without having your garden watered, then you have a choice: don’t be an MP; don’t have a garden; pay for the garden to be watered out of your own pocket, like the rest of the country has to do. That's not so awful, is it?
Now with today’s Kelly Report, another wide range of recommendations which the Prime Minister (when he set up the enquiry) promised would be accepted in full, and another outbreak of moaning and whining. No more mortgages interest; no more spouses and offspring employment; no second homes within London. You can hear the whining from here and the report hasn’t been released yet.
But nothing unfair is being proposed (at least from the leaks, or disclosures so far). Nothing that wouldn’t be considered quite fair in “ordinary” people’s lives. I mean, no one else can buy a house and speculate with tax payers’ money in the way that MPs can (except perhaps peers), and, in no other public service can close relatives work directly with each other. No public employees are paid arbitrary amounts; nor do they work away without a close check on their absenteeism, time keeping, conduct and performance. Why should MPs' staff be any different?
Accusations that the proposed new regulations will make it impossible for poorer people to be MPs are ill-founded. Accommodation will still be provided in London for those who are in need of it. It will now, however, be rented accommodation. MPs will still be able to employ people to work for them, but now they will have to be employed on a regulated basis. Just like everyone else. What’s off putting in that?
What I say is: You get paid three times the average wage for a job which requires no training and no qualification. You start on the top rate. All you have to do is satisfy your constituency party that you’re a good bet for winning. In the bulk of constituencies you are guaranteed a job for life. Now stop whining, stop moaning and get on with your jobs of holding the executive to account. So far you've been useless at it.