MPs’ Expenses: Don’t they get it, yet?

I lay awake the other night unable to sleep, I was so angry after reading pages and pages about our MPs’ egregious expense claims meticulously reported by the Daily Telegraph. This whole episode fills me with such rage that I can barely describe it.

I listened in disbelief to an MP on BBC Breakfast this morning who claimed it was only a “small minority” who had milked the system and that it would be sad if the parties lost out in the European Elections. How exactly is nearly a week of revelations about myriad MPs and pages of minutiae of spending on second, third and fourth homes, luxury furniture, dog food, manure, artex removal, feather dusters, swimming pools, mortgages – genuine and imaginary – and helipads a “minority”? Others ask voters not to blame individual MPs when it was the “rules” that were to blame.

I invite our MPs to logon to our petition to raise the Jobseeker’s Allowance and read the comments people have left about their own difficult financial circumstances and those of their families and friends. Here are a few of them:

“You try living on £64 a week – it’s an insult. It’s time to give something back to the people who need it.”

“MPs’ expenses are obscene compared to the pittance they expect people to live on.”

“I’m out of work because of the recession and knowing the government are squandering taxpayers’ money on something they can pay for out of their own pocket disgusts me.”

“My son is out of work and is 22 years old and gets £50 a week. If it was not for us, his parents, he would have to sleep on the street and starve. Contrast that to an MP paid £64,000 a year plus screwing us the taxpayer for a further £23,000 in spurious expenses.”

“I am a 72 year old grandmother and recently applied for a community care grant to get my mobility scooter and my cooker mended. I was refused help. Yet MPs can get away with all sorts of scams and claims.”

Now do they get it?

Some commentators have argued, why should it matter what MPs have claimed? Stephen Fry was reported as saying – don’t journalists fiddle their expenses too? Lord Foulkes attacked a BBC presenter, demanding to know how much she was paid for “talking nonsense” about MPs’ expenses. She admitted she receives £92,000 a year but never made personal calls at the BBC’s expense, let alone claimed for furniture or mortgage interest. I too wonder how I would have behaved in the same circumstances. If I were an MP, could I have resisted the temptation of claiming thousands on stamp duty or sweet corn for our pet chickens?

But that isn’t the point. What none of these people seem to grasp is that it doesn’t matter how any of us would have behaved in their shoes. The point is our MPs must be above this kind of corruption. They are our lawmakers and our representatives. They must be better than this. What’s more, it is particularly insulting that they have behaved like such pigs in the trough at a time when many people are struggling to make ends meet. Haven’t they noticed that there are 2 million unemployed? It’s all very well for them to promise to pay the money back now or for David Cameron to insist on expelling any Conservative MPs who refuse to. Good on him, but if the Telegraph hadn’t carried out its painstaking investigation we would be none the wiser and the corruption would have carried on for years to come.

How some commentators can suggest axing the allowance system, and giving MPs £30,000 pay rises to make up for it, beats me. We keep being told that MPs work very hard. I’m sure many of them do. So do their constituents working on building sites, in supermarkets, as secretaries, teachers, road sweepers, cleaners, IT workers, cab drivers, business people, you name it, to feed themselves and their families. Isn’t £65,000 a pretty extraordinary wage? It’s an awful lot more than most people in the UK will ever hope to earn. Why should MPs earn £95,000 a year just to stop them from looting taxpayers’ money? Yes, some people running large public corporations earn that and more, but they are at least subject to their shareholders ire.

Shouldn’t representing your people be honour enough? Many of those working for charities or in the religious ministries have a calling to do so. You don’t hear vicars demanding £100,000 a year. Maybe this is why the House of Commons has attracted such money grabbers and we fail to see any inspirational leaders emerging. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pay MPs at all. Not paying them would make them even more vulnerable to corruption, if that’s possible. But what planet are they on, exactly?

When I was an A-level pupil studying Government & Politics we learned a number of quotes to trot out in our exams. One by Lord Acton in 1887 which seemed particularly fitting came back to me this week:

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  

If you were an MP, would you have been tempted by the House of Commons trough, or would you have stood firm? Is it enough for MPs to pay back the money they owe or should they be prosecuted?  Leave a message and let me know. Thanks for all your messages and comments this week. Keep them coming.

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17 Responses to MPs’ Expenses: Don’t they get it, yet?

  1. Rik says:

    I\’d like to think I could resist it personally. I think I\’d have an above average chance too, I\’ve never been keen on money seeing it as a necessary evil. (But if anyone wants to send me any for nothing who am I to refuse….lol, don\’t worry, I\’d probably give most of it to charity anyway!).

  2. Bill says:

    Hi there, piper!Do we spell your name with an upper, or lower case, p?I am reminded, that those who live by the sword, so shall they also die by the sword.For my money, they should all be arrested & held in custody, to prevent them skipping bail. All their assets should be frozen, also those of their spouse. They should then be prosecuted, & serve a suitable custodial, in the hardest, dirtiest top security accomodation, where they automaticaly serve the most inedble food. They should be denied even the most basic luxury, including nicotine, & be denied all live visiting, as also phone calls, with a maximum of 10 minutes/month video visit.They should also be castrated on the day of sentence, & should not be released until they have learnt a real skill for their future employment in the real world. Any misbehaviour during sentence should be rewarded by tripleling the original sentence, & they should also prove their ability to swim at least 500 metres unbroken, before release, which should be a minimum 2 years.They should be found adequate accomodation/employment before release, & should remain on probation for at least 10 years.They should never be allowed back into any form of admin or responsibility, & should never possess a pass-port or driving licence.What they have done to the elderly, infirm & other vulnerable cases is more than despicable, no other living creature would even dream of such extreme foul play, not even those that stalk & kill others to eat. They do not terrorise or torture, but utilise much more humane/compassionate modus operandi.

  3. Nervous says:

    Surely an MP is there to represent the people. Shouldn\’t that mean that the people should be able to trust them? To blame the system for MP being allowed to get away with these ridiculous expense claims is an insult to us all. If they have betrayed out trust – boot em out!

  4. Christine says:

    It seems sad to say that if any MPs are jailed for fraud then we, the taxpayer, will still be paying them because we will pay for them in prison. Then of course they will be unemployable until the conviction is spent as it\’s fraud. So we could end up supporting them for some years. Mind you – at the normal dole rates I can live with that. I\’ve said for many years that no-one should be able to stand for election until they have spent 18 months on the dole and their savings are all spent. It would give them a totally different point of view.

  5. Tom says:

    Power corrupts. There are some bad apples in both the public and private barrels.

  6. Bill says:

    Hi Christine,We should not blame them alone, they were only following the (self-imposed) Red Tape. Before they just follow any more Red Tape, they should possibly study both the opening, as also the closing speech of Lord Shawcross, as British President of Nuremburg in 1945.By freezing all their assets we would have more than enough hard cash for the custodial sentence to be self-financing. They should not be released until they have served a full Trade Apprenticeship, & should then be found full-time employment/accomodation of at least 5 years contract duration, by the probation service, pre-release. They should spend at least 10 years post-release on probation.No one should ever be entertained for any post of responsibility/trust until they have achieved a Trade Master Brief, & have served at least 10 years as a Trade Master. No current civil servant/politician has a Trade Master Brief. We would not employ a non-swimmer as a swimming instructor, or yet a non-driver as a driving instructor.We do currently employ driving instructors/examiners who have only held the Group 1 (B) licence for at least 3 years. They have no record of any experience/mileage, & are completely incompatible/incompetent to share the tarmac with Group 2 vehicles & their drivers. No one should be allowed to instruct/examine drivers of any level/description, without at least 5 years full time as a Group 2 PSV driver. No one should be allowed/employed as a PSV driver without at least 10 yeas full-time on Group 2, Class 1, (C + E).

  7. Kerri says:

    Its all very well MPs offering to pay back some/all of these expenses, but at the end of the day, if this had not blown up in the public eye how many would suddenly be suffering a flash of consience and be queing up to hand over cheques of their own accord? I hazard a guess that that particualr queue would be a lot shorter than those at Job Centres due to the recession…

  8. Christine says:

    Looking at the situation, I wonder how these MPs managed their money prior to going into Parliament. It strikes me that these are people who have lost the art of balancing the household budget (if they ever had it of course). An MP of either gender only needs two good suits for work as they are in the public face (one on, one being cleaned). Surely they too can do the grocery shopping at one of the discount chains, use the Pound Shop and possibly even cook their own meals of an evening. If they can\’t travel on the train and find the best value ticket between home and work there\’s something missing in their basic economic training. If their wage does not cover the running of their home, perhaps they need to downsize to a more affordable home just like the rest of us would have to do. Or maybe their partner can go out to work like has to be done in many families (and not in the constituency office either). They can do their entertaining at work (both houses have decent facilities for this) so their London residence if they live distantly doesn\’t need to have fancy furniture but can be stocked from the charity shop, Argos and Ikea just like many of us have started out our homes. If they lose their seat at an election they will then not have a house full of fancy furniture to dispose of – doesn\’t sound to me as if incoming new members are actually going round buying up the second hand left over furnishings from those MPs who have lost their job. Perhaps these items are sold on eBay to recover the costs that seem to have already been claimed via expenses? But all in all being an MP is only a job and it can be lost just like any other job. You live on your wage to the highest standard that you can or end up in the same situation as some of us – in debt that we can\’t pay off, out of a house we can\’t afford to pay for and without a job. It\’s rather basic really. At least these are people who have enough of an income to be able to make choices above food, clothes, heating, rent, council tax, repairs and water rates with nothing left over after the bills are paid. If people need to have had other jobs and time on the dole before becoming MPs they would possibly have more idea about how to manage their personal finances as well as more idea about the real needs of the country.

  9. Shelley says:

    Hmmmm, correct me if I am wrong, but if people would get a job at say, hmmmm, Burger King, and actually work, I do believe, even with minimum wage, they will earn more than £65 a week. Can this be done? YES! If you want work. Personal experience, out of a job for 4 months, worked in a bakery for minimum wage for those months instead of getting public support.

  10. Shelley says:

    OOOOppppsss, more important. Didn\’t WE ELECT/PUT this MPs there? IS there REALLY anything such as an "honest" politician? Folks, no one should really be surprised at what was done. What should be surprising is that WE elected stupid ones who got caught! 🙂

  11. Bill says:

    It is a relative simple situation. Based upon the Law of Einstein, over 50% of the British public, where-ever they hail, are born to be civil service/politicians/clergy/monarchy, the remaining minority of us are born into the real world, possibly complete with genetic/inherent housekeeping/budgeting skills, as also a certain sense of decency.They dare us to vote, & therefore we do vote, a form of Reverse Psychology. We could employ Inverse Psychology, in order to completely change the system, we could abstain from voting, thereby joining the vast army of civil service, who are not permitted to vote, under the vow of neutrality.This should give us, the Abstention Party, the absolute majority in both houses.Just imagine a top business entrepeneur, possibly Richard Branson, running the country single-handed. He would not do it for charity, but would skim a clean fair profit for himself. In order to do this, he would avoid ripping us, the consumer, off, & would run an extremely tight, efficient, economic, therefore, equally Green ship. With such a large scale, free hand, he could bring his fantastic talent to bear in no uncertain terms. A win/win situation for both us, receiving the the very best service, as also for himself, enjoying the very best salary/pension in the world. And all in rpivate enterprise.We could review his contract every 5 years, by simple election ballot.

  12. Bill says:

    Hi there, piper!Just thought you would like to sign my petition to the PM: need to do it for his own good, the sooner the better, or he could easilly end up behind Swedish Curtains, serving hm pleasure , for grand fraud.

  13. David says:

    Try being late paying your council tax. These robbers have the law on their side, regardless of any circumstances, they will send in the bailiffs. We should evict them all !!!

  14. Robert says:

    Mark Twain wrote of politicians \’A good politician should be able to stay in the public eye without irritating it\’ I am completely sickened when I hear these latter day followers of Ali Baba defending their actions. They are so out of touch and cushioned from the realities of life that they are absolutely unrepresentative of the man or woman, or even dog in the street. We get mugged, burgled, annoyed by yob culture they get there own private protection. We pay for everything in our first or second houses, they pay for nothing. They will never be trusted again by the general voting public, the only decent thing for the whole unworthy band of them is to resign en masse and the country replace them with people who are truly representative. Even the fair employment act is flouted and ignored when sons, daughters, wives, are all employed in the family business of robbing the public purse!

  15. miro says:

    Stand up and be counted!(Not "Stand up and deliver!")Become a politician, Cameron is looking for new bods.Get in there, only then you will know what it is like to be in power.Stand as an independent.Bugger the big parties for a while.But please do not steal from us.

  16. therese says:

    Like most other people, I pay my accountant out of my own funds. MP\’s earn far more than I do. Why should I be expected to contribute towards their accountants\’ bills? Are they prepared to contribute towards mine?Who wrote these stupid "rules" thay they keep hiding behind? Mickey Mouse?

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