Monday 21 December 2009


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.


  1. It will only be a disaster if they don't put it right. I have my doubts they will and it may well see an end to parliamentary democracy in the UK to be replaced by an elective dictatorship where we're told to put up and shut up.

  2. That's pretty much what we have now QM:

    FPTP voting system means most of the seats are seats for life;

    A whipping system that rewards loyalty with ministerial jobs and seats in cabinet, not to mention Knighthoods, seats in the Lords and Privy Council seats up for grabs as rewards for being a good lad/lass, and your secrets divulged to the News of the World if you really annoy them;

    A Prime Minister who is de facto President with the head of state a mere figure head;

    An upper house with no democratic legitimacy and no real power due to the hereditary and appointed status of its members

    If you have a decent majority you are a dictator.

    No wonder they don't want an upper house with teeth.

    I don't think they will be prepared to accept new rules that will put any faith back in them. Everything will be watered down. They will still expect to be treated like "gentlemen" and "ladies" even though they are not. They seem to have no idea how much we ‘dislike’ them.

    But, you know, the more that they continue to act like some Victorian relic, the more reasonable the Scottish Parliament looks, in touch with the people, democratically elected, housed in a parliament not a palace, with an expenses system that requires a receipt for a pint of milk.

    Roll on independence!

  3. Good post Tris.
    I think they should do what they do in the US. Senators have a designated apartment in Washington. It's basic but covers all their needs. They tidy it up and move back out if they lose their seat / sacked etc.
    Bercow is the wrong man to try and change anything as he is part of the problem. You say that we can all be guilty of poor self regulation. But the difference of course is if we're guilty it's our own money we waste or if it's our company money then we are fired.
    Looking at how much it cost us to keep Bercow as an MP is quite staggering.
    £143,455 in 2nd home allowances. This allowed him to flip homes and move up the housing ladder at our expense. Oh and he couldn't remember if he paid any CGT when asked by the Daily Telegraph. Yes most folk would forget a £10K hit minimum at each house sale. Aswell as his previous salary of £64K he got £40K a year as an advisor to an offshore ( Cayman Islands ) private healthcare company. On top of that he claimed for the usual. Food, council tax etc. Even £1200 to get a tampax removed from his toilet (sic).
    Now as Squeaker he will get £120K a year and the biggest bonus of all. Even if he gets booted out at the election ( Nigel Farage of UKIP to stand against him ) he will get £60K for life as his annual pension. After a years work ? Madness.

  4. Anon.

    Thank you.

    Yes, I agree with you. He is the wrong person to do it.

    I don’t know who I would like to have seen as Speaker. I had thought of Anne Widdecombe, but someone came out with some story about her which put me off. But Brecow is indeed part of the problem.

    The problem really is the whole thing:

    First past the post; whips; government jobs from back benches; titles; honours; freebies; chairmanships of commissions; grace and favour; a parliamentary house dependant for its members on the aristocracy and the patronage of party leaders; the parliament being in a royal palace which is outside of the normal rules and regulations that govern the way we all live...

    There isn’t a thing that’s right with it.

    So. Will they change? Will they hell

  5. Oh Tris, the very thought of that Bercow man raises my hackles. He's an out and out chancer as far as I can see.

  6. Subrosa: Yes, I agree with you. I don't much care for him either. But I do agree with what he said in this interview. There must, absolutely MUST, be big changes, and all the petty whining and "poor me" nonsense has to stop. If we are to have any faith in this institution which gets its legitimacy from us and the fact that we trust it, it needs root and branch change..

    It must not be swept under the carpet and compromise solutions found.

    Then when they have done it, they need to work the same sort of change on the House of Lords, the BBC, the Civil Service and Quangoland.

    Then they can have a tea break ;¬)