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May 22, 2009

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Kay Tie

"In the present state of anti-MP hysteria, it's impossible to win."

The public have stopped listening. Something major is necessary to lance the boil.

Paul Flynn

Thanks for those contributions.

It's the small items that inflame passions. I have no idea what a toaster costing £169 would be like. If Roger is as rare and innocent a shopper as I am, he might have thought it was the going rate.

Having been taken to task for claiming two taxi fares (the first claim ever in 22 years) I hesitate to publish more details. How much I have not claimed must run into £1000s My intention was to publish a summary of my claims over the past four years. But it might only inflame more petty objections. It would take a couple of days work to publish them in full. Not much point as they will be available to everyone in a few weeks time.

In the present state of anti-MP hysteria, it's impossible to win.

HuwOS

There seems to be this thought that an MP cannot be claiming for a toaster and trying to make positive improvements to the government of this country.

Why is that?
Even if you have strenuous objections to MP's having used their expenses to buy things that you judge frivolous or luxurious do you really in all honesty think that thats all they're interested in doing?

Personally, I think that where an MP has to have a 2nd place in london because they live elsewhere in the country, they should be comfortable there.
No call for them to live like they're in youth hostels, despite what some of the public and apparently some party leaders think, representing a constituency is a very important job, in a representative democracy it is in fact the most important job. Moat cleaning and duck houses may be ridiculous, house flipping may be heinous, but an overpriced toaster is an irrelevance.
I also cannot afford a thousand pound tv or much at the moment, to be honest, but all this jealousy and envy is really getting on my wick.
If people are going to criticise, please give some indication of whether you know anything else about any particular politician, what level of work they've done, what stands they've taken.
By all means feel free to attack those who do nothing and take everything, but whinging and carping about every item claimed on expenses is a pointless exercise demeaning to everyone.

For those who do get steamed over every little item, please remember the maximum amount of expenses an MP could be claiming is costing you personally less than 1p assuming you pay income tax and get a grip on yourself.

Tony

In todays Times ..

Fellow Labour backbencher Roger Berry has also come under fire today after it was revealed he claimed £15,000 for furnishing his two-bedroom townhouse with luxury items, including a £169 toaster.

The MP for Kingswood, a deprived area of Bristol, claimed the money over four years at his second home in Southwark, London.

He claimed £3,425 of building works, £1,880 towards decorating his lounge, spent £2,264 on carpets and bought a £979 television and a £1,000 washer dryer, according to the Bristol Evening Post.

I can't afford a grand on a TV .. or a grand on a washer dryer ..
So why should I pay for this guy to have one ? Or is he just so much better than me that he deserves it ?

I don't want a witch hunt so what happens in this case ? Was it a mistake ? or is he just a free loader out to milk the tax payers for all their worth ?

Was this what MP's voted for - the right to claim for a £169 toaster ? Gosh and in my stupidity I thought they went in to make a difference to our lives

HuwOS

I believe Tony is at least partly right on the cause of the problem has been poor communication with the public. Only I would extend it further, MP's are too distant from their electorate. Even in the rather remarkable instance of Paul Flynn, who makes himself very available to both his electorate and the public at large, it is hard for people to know him (through no fault of his own).
If we have, as we do, a representative democracy can votes be meaningfully cast if the people voting do not know the position, stance and beliefs of the people they are electing.
I believe that part of the problem is that it takes too many votes to secure a seat in Parliament and for me the obvious solution is to increase the number of MP's so that the ratio of electors to MP's is such that it is easy to know your candidates.
Currently it takes between 10 and 20 thousand people voting for a candidate to get them elected, this leads to simple electioneering using slogans and soundbytes as opposed to any discussion of details.
So when some situation arises that is perhaps unexpected, we have no idea what our representatives will make of them as we truly know nothing about them.
The illegal Iraq war gave us a very good example of this, with people falling over themselves to support a call to war on the basis of no evidence and assurances from people who were obviously lying that they were not lying and that they "truly believed they were doing the right thing".

Despite many who seem to believe that politicians are some kind of seperate species or class, the politicians who are in Westminster well all elected.
The ultimate responsibility for poor performers is with those who keep re-electing those same poor performers and perhaps one way to help people make better choices would be to have a more direct connection with and knowledge of their candidates and representatives.

Richard

Not so different from what the Labour party have been doing though - spying on personal lives, not listening, and talking over the electorate.

Tony

I don;t think anyone could accuse you of spending like a drunken sailor Paul, in fact they look a lot like I'd have expected a set of expense claims to look like in the way I think the system intended.
And maybe there is a point about the court of public opinion being in 'mob mode' at the momnent..
But, if this is going to stop
a) there is needs to be an alternative system imposed now and stop the impression of dragging of feet
b) remove the fraudsters - ducks, moats, trees , mortgages claimed..

I think you have a situation here where piss poor communication with the public has led to the point where only drastic action will do because lets face it the House of Commons has fought tooth and nail to stop the expenses details coming out and the public seem to have had enough
- and MP's have voted consistently to support the current system

So, no a witchhunt is not right, but look at the process that got us here and then you'll see the source of the anger (Question Time _ Thursday was a good example)

JOhn

Well done Nadine norris and I hate to say it as I thought she totally overreacted about the Mcbride emails. I heard her on 5 live yesterday morning and she is totally right about the exagerrated claims made against MP's by the Telegraph without any chance to explain the allowance procedure.
The Telegraph has been guilty of sensationalising this whole affiar.

Sure many MP's took advantage of a system designed to maximise their allowances and these should be exposed as should those commiitng fraud when claiming for a non existant mortgate. But the drip feed of misinformation like the chandalier and GB's cleaner have now been shown to be false yet are indelibly held as truth now by the public. Many innocent MP's are unfortunately now trarred with the same brush as their corrupt fellows and have no recourse to defend themselves.
Our media has for so long driven the Political agenda often on exaggerated claims and misinformation and Policies have been made to assuage their clamour.

Seamus

Why is it taken for granted that MPs must have two homes?

Why can't they make do with
1. a London office
2. a London flat
3. London staff
4. Luncheon vouchers
5. Train and taxi fares
etc.

Or, even keep them in hotels with a gym, pool lounge, bars, swimming spool etc.

Or they could even have chambers (like Justice John Deed) where they could be pampered - if it made them more efficient.

They could go to their homes on Thursday night and get back late Sunday or early Monday.

What's the problem ?
I have colleagues that live far away and have worked like that for years. 4 days a week at the office, ten or twelve hours a day. That's what real people do.

Long haul airline pilots, stewardesses, army personnel, truck drivers ... if you work far from home you don't automatically get a second home. Unless you're an MP.

From what I read, MPs are on 64K GBP per annum. Isn't that good enough? It's the double of what I'm on. I think any JOB-RELATED expenses should be refunded but a second home, and all that goes with it, is not IMHO a job-related expense.

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