When George Orwell wrote “Animal Farm”, he set the pigs as the ‘politicians’, and never has the aptness of that analogy been more amply demonstrated, than this week, with the unedifying spectacle of our UK politicians, being exposed with their snouts firmly in the public funded trough.
This came to light, following a sequence of events that illuminate the self-interest and hypocrisy, at the very heart of the self proclaimed “Mother of Parliaments”.
The first of these events, was the attempt by some Members of Parliament, led by Speaker of the House Martins, to block the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act applying to MP’s expenses or activities (such as second homes). This is not the first time the Speaker Martins has featured in these blog pages and never in terribly complimentary circumstances.
This attempt was finally defeated, but only after they had spent over £200,000 of tax payers money on a high court action to defend their privileges against tax payer scrutiny.
Then came the revelations, that various MP’s had been playing incredibly fast and loose with the MP expenses system (if not actually breaking the letter of the law).
The Second home allowance for example, was introduced to allow ‘poor MP’s’ from places outside commuting distance like Glasgow (i.e. Labour Party), to purchase a modest flat in London to stay whilst they were working. It was never intended that London MP’s would use it, nor that every MP would generally abuse it as a fundraiser, but ‘lo and behold', that’s what happened.
Examples of the total scam, and free for all that this has become, have appeared in a regular drip, drip, drip, of greed stories.
The Home secretary Jacqui Smith (and her Husband), have been caught a couple of times.
Firstly, she claims that her ‘main home’ is in fact her sisters back bedroom – this so she could claim her ‘family home’ as a second home, and get the mortgage paid by the taxpayer (and not out of her salary).
Secondly, she has furnished this “Second home” i.e. her ‘family home’, not her Sisters bedroom, at tax payers expense, including a ‘reclaimed (Not ‘Antique’ - Its important to note this as ‘Antiques’ are banned), Habitat, stone model sink - £550 and Bath plug (88pence) for it.
Thirdly, she has been found to have been submitting expenses that included on demand ‘Adult Movies’, that her husband watched. He has since apologised for any embarrassment he has caused his wife. Oddly no one seems surprised, or disgusted, that her husband is also employed at the taxpayer’s expense, as her “Assistant”, at the princely sum of £40,000 p.a. ($60,000), which seems to this blog to be just another form of skimming the public purse.
Then came another Government Minister (McNulty), a London MP, who was actually claiming that his parents home, in his own constituency, was his main home, so that he could also claim taxpayers money, to pay for his ‘family’ home just eight miles away.
And just in case it looks like only the Labour party are involved in this ‘jamboree’, well the Winterton’s, a husband and wife set of MP’s, were caught claiming the second home allowance, on a house that they have finished paying the mortgage on, and transferred to a trust.
Another MP, John Conway, has been forced to pay money back for ‘employing’ his son as and assistant, who actually did not work.
The most shocking thing is that each MP caught with their noses in it, is complaining about it “Being within the rules” when caught, and the fact that it’s the press digging, not the MP’s owning up, that is exposing the scandals to public gaze.
Finally to cap it all, they have just awarded themselves a 2.33% pay rise, and this when figures released, show that MPs claimed an average of almost £145,000 each in taxpayer-funded allowances last year, a rise of more than £8000.
Late Edition: Geoff Hoon the transport (but ex defence) secretary, has shown that the lesson is not being learnt, with news just out that he claimed second home allowances for his Derby home while letting out his London home. Whilst at the same time, he was living in a taxpayer-funded Whitehall flat (known as "grace-and-favour residences"), which came with his then job of defence secretary.
Recession, what recession?