In an interview with the BBC’s Radio 4 flagship news programme, "Today", Speaker Bercow admitted that it had been a disastrous year for the reputations of politicians. Using words like cataclysmic to describe the situation, he said that he wanted to see reforms that would put MPs above reproach. He indicated that he didn’t see the situation as irreversible, but said that without any “payback” there would be no “comeback”.
I agree with him. It has been a terrible year for the reputations of our politicians and BOTH houses of parliament. They have made themselves the laughing stock of the world, and to some extent dragged us down with them.
The system has had to take a lot of the blame and in all fairness so it should. Who among us is capable of total self regulation? They should never have been left to decide their own terms and conditions. It was also irresponsible to refuse proper salary increases to MPs in order to appear “prudent” but to turn a blind eye to the use of “allowances” to top up salaries.
Drastic changes to the way that the Commons and the Lords are run are required. Allowances and expenses need to be brought into the 21st century and MPs and Peers must be treated like other government employees. That is, after all, what they are. We need to remember that, but above all, THEY need to remember it.
Many of them are fond of telling us how hard they work, for very little money and that is why they took the expenses system which they set up and they policed, to the limit, and then some more. Those that think that they could get more money in the City or the Law Courts or private industry, and care more about the money than the job, should resign immediately and make way for people who wish to serve.
The incoming government should promise to continue the work of modernising the Lords into a 21st century senate, without all the titles and flimflammery. It’s maybe pretty but it serves no purpose and it’s expensive and classist.
MPs’ and Senators’ salaries should reflect their job descriptions, and their expenses should reflect the fact that they may require temporary accommodation in the English capital, but should also be mindful that they are public servants of a hard up little country. They need to remember that they work for us. They are not our rulers. They do not require to travel First Class, to live in large prestigious London apartments, or to furnish these places from John Lewis, at prices 3 or 4 or 10 times the cost that the average person would pay.
All over the country, what they like to call “ordinary” people are losing their jobs, taking reductions in salary or hours, working extra for nothing. MPs and Peers, many of whom are held in contempt by us “ordinary” people, must be seen to do the same sort of thing. They should do so with humility. They’ve had it good for a long time, now when they are asked for pay back they should show some dignity.