The spin will be intense, it will be all-party, it will be relentless. They will squeal, they will plead, they will wriggle. In the end who will win?
Guido has at times during the last 5 years fought what some political journalists thought a quixotic battle. Don’t forget the Lobby wasn’t much interested on reporting this story until recently, Nick Robinson professed total surprise when he discovered MPs could claim £400 a month tax and receipt free for groceries. Michael White has only recently dropped his oft repeated line that British politicians, unlike politicians in Europe, are uncorrupted. The Lobby knew that MPs had plenty of fiddles, but by and large didn’t rock the boat and allowed them to get away with it, even in some cases justified it, arguing that their MP mates were underpaid, good blokes who they were happy to share a taxpayer-subsidised pint with.
MPs almost universally claim to be hard done by, that needs to be nailed on the head. The above chart is an income distribution chart; most people in this country have an income of under £400 a week, in comparison MPs can make some £300 weekly in expenses alone, add onto that their salaries of £800 a week and you have a total of £1,100 a week net of tax. This is before adding on the illicit perks of the jobs, such as employing family, or just plain old fraud. Let us not forget their gold-plated pension scheme either. The total compensation package comes in at £115,000 to £125,000 depending on how you value the pension and the tax-free portions of the package. So well done to Chloe Smith, at the age of 27 with no experience to speak of, she bags an annual six-figure package, 3 months summer holiday, another month off in December and the least number of working days in parliament since universal suffrage began. No wonder why every available safe seat has hundreds of applicants. Labour MP John Mann was right when he said recently ‘We’re not underpaid. We are well paid. MPs should stop moaning about their pay levels.’
MPs will nevertheless bemoan the unfairness of the it all. It was unfair. Unfair on taxpayers and voters. Those on minimum wage paying taxes for MPs to have servants might very well question the fairness of it all. How did John Prescott end up a multi-millionaire? How did Geoff Hoon end up with a property portfolio? How did we pay for the upkeep of the estates of Tory grandees and the clipping of Nick Clegg’s roses?
An election is coming, us the employers, will renew the contracts with them, the political class. We don’t expect them to even try never mind be permitted to renew the contracts of their spouses and offspring. We don’t want to see wife-swaps, or child trafficking, we want to live in a democratic meritocracy not a nepotistic kleptocracy.
There are so many fiddles and failings to be reformed (download Disinfecting Parliament : The Shadow Kelly Report, to get all the details). What concerns Guido is that IPSA, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, a new quango created in a panic by the Parliamentary Standards Act in July, shows little sign of being that independent. It is headed by a civil servant with no particular track record in this area, staff are being transferred to it from the discredited fees office – the very people who failed before to stop MPs running amok in the past. The governance of the IPSA is ultimately at the pleasure of the Speaker. It is packed with politicians who will make sure nothing too drastic happens and safeguard the interests of the parasitical political class.
Who will safeguard our interests as voters and taxpayers? The Lobby? Politicians? Quangocrats?
UPDATE : Some editing above clarifying that these are post tax figures and that the typical person is the “mean” in statistical terms. Clarifications reflect co-conspirator’s comments.