« 'We miss him' | Main | Cameron must be first to champion the anti-politician mood »

Comments

I am 100% behind this. We must announce our intention to freeze or temporarily reduce MPs' pay. It is vital to earn people's trust again. I fear many in Westminster are just as out of touch as Pickles though - who was absolutely dire. To think he has been hailed as a "man of the people" and "real communicator"...

If Brown got there first with cutting MPs pay it could be one issue that could really help Labour in marginal seats.

You'll never satisfy the Guido tendency. You'll never cut enough from MPs' pay.

Ed, you are being charitable. He looked and sounded awful. I have always rather been a fan, but he came across as arrogant and insensitive to say the least. He'll have cost the Party votes.

@TRG Tory,

You may be right but we can still persuade reasonable, middle ground voters.

Spelman.....now Pickles......

Tim,

What your recommending is another nail in the coffin of our democracy. We have seen people turning their backs on our political system over the last 30 years and if politicians carry on in their self-serving way it will collapse eventually.

You're entitled to your view but it is centralist and anti-democratic and as such is part of the problem and not part of ther resolution.

Whilst I see where you are coming from on this Tim (and I am afraid Eric did himself no favours last night!) I fear it would be little more than a PR gesture and, TRG Tory is right, The Guido Tendency will never be satisfied until all MPs are strung up from the nearest lamp-post (along, no doubt, with all the bankers). There is a very nasty, blood-thirsty tendency arising in this country and I greatly fear where it will all end.

Sadly last night was a dire performance by Pickles. None of his usual warmth and down-to-earth charm. It was one of the worst performances I ever have seen on Question Time, truly, truly awful.

No need to kick a man when he's down.

When in a tight corner it's always possible to simplY say "We obviously have to listen to, and consider, the sentiments being expressed here so forcefully tonight"

Won't help Eric today but a lesson learnt is still worthwhile. Better today than the day before polling

PS

A Counsel of perfection perhaps but could nobody at Central Office have seen this issue coming and put up someone else from further afield!

Having seen Tim's comments it seems clear that Conhome will not be publishing my latest platform piece which refutes Iain Martin's flawed justification for a reduction in the number of MP's so I will publish it here:

Now I have great sympathy for their desire to reform our wayward Parliament but reducing the number of MPs is simply wrong headed.

Martin argues that by reducing the number of MPs, weaker MPs would be weeded out. He says:

Better would be to increase the size of constituencies, to cut the number of seats to around 400 and bring down the cost. Supply and demand would ensure there were fewer seats for weak MPs.

Martin puts forward a fairly standard argument for meritocracy which is something I believe in. However, as has been highlighted on Conservative Home numerous times the political parties do not select candidates on a purely meritocratic basis. Incumbents are protected, single sex lists are imposed, BME lists are imposed and also there is a perception of nepotism and celebrity infatuation. How is that meritocratic?

This is the problem with Iain Martin’s ‘the cream will float to the top’ argument; it will only occur if it is allowed to by the Party machines. It has little or nothing to do with the numbers of MPs and much to do with Party selection procedures. It seems to me that in such circumstances reducing the numbers of MPs provides no guarantee that the quality of politicians would improve.

Furthermore, in shedding MPs how can we be sure that MPs are removed because they are incompetent. I certainly wouldn’t put it past a political leader to arrange for the removal of MPs who were politically embarrassing now matter how well they represented their constituents.

In addition, there is an underlying inference throughout the piece that there is not enough work to go around and MPs are sitting idly by just enjoying the lightly loaded day. Is that really the case?

How often have we read or heard of legislation that has not been scrutinised properly and indeed how often in the last decade has the legislation been badly drafted?

How often have we heard or read of the opposition parties being denied debates on critical issues?

How often do we hear or read of a bill being timed out on purpose?

How often do we hear or read of complaints that there is insufficient time to discuss or scrutinise EU directives?

Beyond that there is the consideration of powers that could be returned from Brussels in the future, the ever increasing complexity of modern Britain and its ever growing population.

It seems to me, especially in the aftermath of this recession, that there is plenty of work to go round. So if the workload is there, why did Parliament and Government seemingly fail so abysmally and leave the electorate with such a dreadful perception of them?

Now there are many views that could be expressed about this and I will not go into them in detail. Instead, I think there is one fundamental factor that should be considered. Who controls our political system and the way our Parliament works?

The answer of course is the Government (MPs), Parliament (MPs) and the political parties (led by MPs). What would we think if the players of the Premier League had control of the rules of football? What would we think if Andrew Murray could dictate the laws of tennis to the Lawn Tennis Association?

There would be an outcry. Yet that is exactly what is allowed in our political system.

It is the Government who decides the agenda (or lack of it) of Parliament. It is the political parties who select the candidates. It is MPs who decide their terms and conditions. This is the problem and until it is addressed it doesn’t matter whether we have 400 hundred or 4,000 MPs, the performance of Parliament will not get better simply because the problem will not have been addressed

First and foremost, before anything else, the control of the systems of Government and our political system must be taken out of the hands of our MPs and the political parties in order that they can no longer abuse the privilege they currently have. What is required is a second democratically elected non-political independent (no whips, no parties) body to manage our political system and the performance of our political institutions. Then perhaps we can start to consider what reforms are necessary once that body has made the system work as well as it can.

However, none of this actually justifies a reduction in the numbers of MPs and indeed unless someone can prove without a doubt that there is no longer sufficient work to do there never will be. As I have tried to demonstrate in the previous articles above within our democracy, the concept of elected representation is the most vital and precious right that the voter has. It is not for party politicians or journalists to interfere with that democratic right or to propose to punish the electorate (by diminishing that right) as a result of the sins of politicians. After all the electorate has done nothing wrong!

An MPs' job used to be only part time. As it became full time, we developed a professional political class, detached in their views and finances from the majority of the population.

So let’s go back a generation or three. MPs’ Pay should be reduced to just above the national average, say about £30K pa, and allowances limited to rail travel between constituency and Westminster whilst overnight accommodation in London paid only against receipt at up to 3 star hotel rate ; secretaries should be provided only at Hof C and paid for by the HofC. Pensions should be contributory, with employer and employee each paying 10% of salary up to and money purchase only. Redundancy should be paid at the rate of one month’s pay for every year in HofC.

Before you all cry foul, just remember that these conditions would seem quite generous to most people our MPs are supposed to represent.

Tim

Money does not necessarily equal pain.

Is taking something like £1500 off an MPs annual take home pay even going to be noticed?

Workers in the private sector people are downsizing homes, cars, holidays, food etc.

MPs are already justifying their dishonorable behaviour by citing pay rises that were recommended but not given. (To me that is like a kid saying they shop lift because they can't afford to pay - and should be treated with the same contempt).

If MPs want to share the publics pain they can give up foreign holidays until the books balance. Foreign holidays are non-essential luxuries, and spending thier massive holdiays in the UK will cut their carbon foot prints and be good for british tourism.

Yes Pickles was very poor on QT but the audience reaction was I think very typical of the general public. Even Davey and Charles Clarke who were both much more fluent than Eric received no applause when discussing the 2 nd home allowance.
If Cameron and Conservative MPs were to adopt your idea Tim, I think they'd win more kudos from the the public than on just about any other issue.

The debate should be whether we wish to have a professional political class. If yes, then how should we pay politicans? If no, scrap all their salaries and give them fixed allowances.

What factors would influence their pay rate? There is the trade-off between salary and job security, which was traditionally the reason for public sector jobs being paid less than private sector ones. When you add in the defined benefit pensions, both sets of workers should end up with equivalent lifetime earnings.

I feel that a multiple of the average private sector wage would be a reasonable basis to calculate an MP's salary, to encourage them to improve the performance of the economy. We could add a small premium for their limited job security, which would be reduced every 5 years until they have reached 15 years service.

There would be a basic salary to cover their constituency activities, and a fee for every vote they cast or every committee they are a member of, to cover their parliamentary activities. There would also need to be fixed support allowances for constituency and parliamentary work. All these fees would be index-linked on the same basis as old-age pensions.

There should be no additional salary for ministers, but they would get the option of free grace-and-favour accommodation and ministerial car/driver. They would also continue to get their Vote fee and their previous committee fee would continue to be paid until they resumed the backbenches.

An MP's pension should be based on their total salary, excluding allowances. It would be paid into a private pension fund so they would be subject to the same rules as the rest of us and suffer the same as we do for their financial incompetence.

While I'm in a radical mind, salaries and allowances should be funded by a precept on local rates. They would then have to publish and justify their salary every year to every household as part of the council tax bill. It should encourage people to get value for money from their MP and might improve the vote turnout.

Pickles should step down as Party Chairman after last night Question Time. He will never recover enough credibility to Chair the conservative Party during the lead up to the next election.
He dug a whole, you could feel the audiance animosity, but what did he do? he kept digging.

As one of his constituents, I didn't think Eric Pickles did do a particularly good job of defending his use of the second home allowance last night.

It is worth remembering though that he lives in one of the most expensive parts of the country (If I recall correctly, Brentwood, Ongar and Ingatestone made up three of the country's top 20 most expensive towns according to a report some months ago in the Telegraph). The commute from where he lives to Westminster is easily over an hour so it's just about reasonable that he should have a second home for it.

The smart ass comments on Question Time that now he knows what ordinary people feel like rather ignores the fact that most people in his constituency who commute to London can either get out of the office by 6pm or are earning a lot more than he is to start with.

"The Guido Tendency will never be satisfied until all MPs are strung up from the nearest lamp-post (along, no doubt, with all the bankers)."

I am a very moderate man, Sally, so I would only take action against corrupt MPs, including those who have claimed allowances which would not be allowed in normal employment, together with the former directors (including non-executives) of NR, RBS and HBOS. And, because I am so moderate, I would mitigate the punishment to 20 years in the Tower (no remission) and confiscation of ill gotten gains.


It is only part of the problem but I really don't see why MPs' expenses need to be the subject of a review body. The Inland Revenue could provide helpful advice, as could any firm of accountants or, as we do have some business people on our side, we have access to 'best business' practice.

No claim should be entertained unless supported by a receipt; David_at_Home provides most of the rest of the script:

"allowances limited to rail travel between constituency and Westminster whilst overnight accommodation in London paid only against receipt at up to 3 star hotel rate ; secretaries should be provided only at Hof C and paid for by the HofC. Pensions should be contributory, with employer and employee each paying 10% of salary up to and money purchase only. Redundancy should be paid at the rate of one month’s pay for every year in HofC".

I would add that constituency secretarial expenses be covered by the constituency.

Are not MPs' salaries already linked to a civil service grade and agreed by a review body?

David I am sure your leniency will come as a great relief to the very many decent MPs (including my own local representative, Greg Hands) who have done no wrong and do not deserved to be pilloried because of the bad apples in the barrel!

David at Home, your earler comments about staffing support ie, one assitant in the House shows a complete lack of knowledge of what the public expects and the help MPs and their staff give, I am a constituency based assistant, who has to help people all day on varied and complex issues, we are no longer the last resport, but often the first. The public created the demand for full time politicians, and should not complain when they have to be paid for.

Ed Davey's face is a picture!

'The commute from where he lives to Westminster is easily over an hour so it's just about reasonable that he should have a second home for it.'

I don't know which part of the constituency he lives in but there are frequent trains from Brentwood to Liverpool St taking 36 minutes, followed by a short journey on the Circle line to Westminster. Millions of his constituents commute daily (and have to work overtime) with no second home paid for by their employer, and I am sure that most of them are on a lower salary than he is.

I found the exchange with the `bluff no-nonsense northerner` astonishing. On another networking site I talk with a Tory supporter in my parents area of Upminster.

He was astonished that she should claim ACA. Whenever I go back I have to take a bus and then train to Fenchurch Street as do most working people.

After all if she HAD to stay late she could book into a 3* every now and then and claim.

No, she'd rather leech capital gains off the taxpayer. A nice little earner! Wait till I tell my Tory voting parents!

Glad to see the London Lib Dem MPs not copying the tories or Labour!

sorry - slight exaggeration - should have said thousands of his constituents, and millions all over London.

Pickles was dreadful; I had to stop watching. He was incoherent and had no logical argument. He had had a rather good innings up to then and had no need to get involved - a few perfunctory words and on to the next topic.
It was atrocious.

Giffin@14:04

The debate should be whether we wish to have a professional political class. If yes, then how should we pay politicans? If no, scrap all their salaries and give them fixed allowances.

I would not have put it quite in those terms but in general I agree with you.

By your lack of reference to it, I also agree that the question at hand (politicians terms and conditions) has nothing to do with the level of elected representation (including number of MPs).

However, I would suggest that we have no choice in our complex globalised society but to expect the our politicians adopt a professional approach and adhere to the de facto professional standards that exist.

To do this we need to analyse what is required of our elected representatives and consequently what skills and experience they need to have to undertake the role that is required of them.

Unfortunately, it seems the main selection criteria at the moment is that they have joined a club (political party) and have the audacity to put themselves forward. It doesn't matter what nonsense they speak or what skills and experience they are lacking so long as they seem like a good 'team player' (a quite ridiculous notion in democratic terms).

By inference to me it would seem that the answer would be to impose some basic pre-requisite requirements on electoral candidates in regard to their skills and experience based on what they are expected to do.

The sort of thing perhaps for MPs would be a mandatory period of experience at a lower level of government (say 5 years in local Government) and a requirement to have achieved certain general professional qualifications (e.g. ISO project management and service management) which can be attained in a matter of a few months at a relatively low cost (a few thousand pounds per candidate)and which they maintain throughout their further political careers.

On salaries, to address the issue of second incomes etc perhaps the way forward is to set a basic salary with the option of a means-tested top-up allowing those who do not have lucrative second incomes to have an appropriate standard of living. At the same time the second home allowance should be scrapped.

On issues like travel back and forth to constituencies an approach based on civil service detached duty could apply for those who cannot/ do not wish to commute with the taxpayer paying for a single return journey each week that Parliament is in session. In that way the travel allowance could be scrapped.

Now if such issues were managed by an independent body as I suggest above then these issues could be resolved relatively simply. Unfortunately while we allow the situation where politicians obfuscate and wilfully obstruct such reform all that will happen is that our political system will fall ever further into disrepute.

Point of information - can anyone tell me when the term "the political class" was coined? Did it precede Peter Oborne's book of the same name?

When you say `politicians` what you really mean is Conservative and Labour.

johnC - according to TFL.gov.uk it's 20 minutes from Liverpool Street to Westminster. Add that to your 36 minutes, and we're over an hour when you allow for time to get to the station and make the changes at Liverpool Street.

I am one of those who commute - but my employer doesn't expect me to be in the office at 9 and potentially keep me there until 10pm on a regular basis. And if they did, I'd expect them to pay accomodation costs in London rather than use another two hours a day commuting.

Mark@13.48.

"... I am a constituency based assistant, who has to help people all day on varied and complex issues... "

I’m sorry to have to write this but you part of the problem and a living example of Parkinson ’s Law in action (work expands to fill the available time). If you did not exist, your MP would have to get off his/her bottom and talk to his/her constituents more.

The vast majority of us do not go to our MP with our personal problems and, in fact, rarely even see our elected representative between elections. MPs are not there to act as or to provide therapists for the inadequate but to oversee the governance of our country. As recent events show, they seem to have lost the knack of holding the executive to account.

Pickles should try being austere with his own meals. Looks like he's in dire need of it.

Pickles comments last night were an utter embarrassment and the relatively muted response of the right-wing blogosphere does not bode well for how well you will hold any future Tory government to account.

I have transcribed the relevant exchange on my blog here.

David, How wrong are you, have you ever shadowed an MP? My boss does talk to his constituents, often we get over 300 + e mails and letter a week, not to mention calls many of them with real problems that Govt departments create, I do not know who your MP is, but I can assure you that mine is seen a lot. No the majority may not go to the MP, but a lot do, a lot of vulnerable people who need help, and I am proud to say that we do help, and serve the community. Do you?

John@14:51

When you say `politicians` what you really mean is Conservative and Labour

If that comment was aimed at my prior posts let me clarify. It is aimed at ALL political parties.

The Libdems are the most hypocritical and disingenuous of them all (just consider their advocacy of PR, their attitude towards the EU and why they have not published the expenses of their MEPs) and I have no doubt that all the other potential contenders (UKIP, Greens, BNP etc.) would self-indulgently manipulate the system in their own self-interests as well.

Not Eric Pickles's finest moment at all. He lost it completely and then appeared to sulk.

I think I know what he meant to say, that to him the 0930 start was absolutely critical so he would be making 110% sure he was there on time by aiming for 0800 arrival. (Hence the waspish exchange between him and the Lib Dem on the importance of being on time). In the intervening period, which should be most of the year, he can rattle through all the press clippings and overnight excitements so that at 0930 he hits the ground running.

I am afraid pointed questions were asked about HoC canteen and subsidised breakfast by the excitable youngsters sensing a lark at Grumpy's expense.

What did get me going later on the Andrew Neill show was:
(1) Dianne Abbott throwing out the statement that in APril (after Easter I think) FoI will allow publications of receipts and May/June will be occupied by ridiculous claim after ridiculous claim fuelling the calls for the rope and the strong street-lamp. Are the Party ready for this?
(2) Christine Hamilton claiming that the shennanigans of "cash-for-questions" was a drop in the bucket compared to the current MPs expenses. There also seemed to be a push saying that the expenses had rocketed since she and hubby left Parliament in 1997. Which leads to the question, how much of this current farrago has started since 1997?

In terms of ending it, I think the HoC institution is going to have to function more as a big HR and Facilities Dept through which provision of Office Space and Eqpt and management of staff salaries and general staffing issues is carried out.

On the Accommodation, I am against Dorms and Hostels in that one would feel sorry for the neighbours whose house prices collapsed. Hotels are not satisfactory as I do I do understand the need for a stable base if you have to be away from home. Don't quite know how to address it to balance security, good working environment and acceptable cost.

Posted by: Mark | March 27, 2009 at 14:38

The public created the demand for full time politicians, and should not complain when they have to be paid for.

Were they given a quote for the work in advance? no thought not - this is the type of attitude that really damns MPs. Telling the public that it is all their fault and they should be grateful shows the height of contempt for them. Dave at Home 14:58 has it right.

Regarding expenses - rather than just clamping down on MPs, I am sure the public would be less antagonised if they had the same benefits/tax rights.

The absolute amount claimed is a problem, but so is the special treatment that MPs get (and they clearly cannot be trusted with).

@John Leonard.

We publish diverse views on Platform and we've already been in contact about your Platform. We hope to publish it soon...

Regards EP's performance I'm afraid it was dreadful. However, to be fair to EP he is an MP and no doubt would have been constrained by Party guidance. His problem and political parties problem is that their position is indefensable.

Now David Cameron has admitted that he was wrong to to participate in the cosy economic consensus and he is to be admired for that.

However, if he continues to allow the Conservative Party to indulge in this cosy political consensus of self-interest he will be perpertrating an even greater mistake in terms of the status of our political system.

Too often the Westminster bubble seems like a modern impression of King Louis XVI's court (politicians, lobby journo's et al alike). If it carries on in the same manner regardless of the lectorate's concern, it may one day find it suffers the same fate as that now extinct court!

"If it carries on in the same manner regardless of the lectorate's concern, it may one day find it suffers the same fate as that now extinct court!"

to be replaced with....what?

Mark@15.06

"..a lot of vulnerable people who need help, and I am proud to say that we do help, and serve the community."

This is NOT the job of an MP and MPs are NOT employed as social workers. A very large number of people, vulnerable and otherwise, are now going to be greatly hurt because most of our MPs, Tory and Labour, have been fast asleep on the job of holding to executive to account for the past many years. Then there are the little matters of our underequipped armed services sent abroad to fight impossible wars, our failing and vulnerable energy supplies.

My MP, a well known Tory, refused to believe me when I warned him, during the GE campaign of 2005, of the impending economic collapse driven by excessive dept. The entire Tory party (or nearly all of it) was taken be surprise when the whole thing blew up in or faces.

Tim

I don't think you are being bold enough.

It is quite clear that MPs are talking to the electorate and not listening to the electorate.

People would be willing to be MPs even if the pay was the average mean in the country.
I would like MPs to feel the job is a vocation and if money is their prime requirement in a job then being an MP is the wrong profession for them. That is why I think it is better for people to be MPs when they have a business/academic/professional career behind them and have something to offer the country. Maybe this is being high minded, but being an MP is a very special position.

Tim,

Unreserved apologies, I misjudged the situation and retract the above comment wholeheartedly.

However, in my defence, such a reaction a sign of the frustration I feel that in their desperation, the Westminster bubble keep coming back to this drivel that reducing the number of MPs is somehow miraculously going to address the problems with our democracy. It is superficial mindless nonsense that is just a distraction from the real problems.

Now there is a case that could be made once power in a number of areas has been successfully devolved from Parliament in a reformed political structure that their could be a case for reducing the number of MPs but until such a devolution has taken place reducing the number of MPs is nothing more than a red herring that achieves exactly the opposite what the Conservative purport to support (localism and democracy).

Unrealistic!

You'll never get MPs to cut their salaries!

More sensible to go for the abolition of the second home allowance, with a lodging allowance for those living too far out of London or too far from their constituency.

Haven't we learnt anything from the trade union reforms of the 80s! Reform has to be gradual if it is going to be accepted by those who are going to be reformed.


David, You may feel that it is not the job of MPs to be social workers and I often agree, I would point out that many constituents here would disagree with you, that is what local representation is about. Otherwise why not scrap constituencies and have some crazy PR system that makes MPs more remote, and what about Govt departments and civil servants who abuse the system, and just how are MPs to know of the problems people face if they are not made aware of them? should they then not try to help. Do you advocate a political system where politicians ignore peoples problems, and that includes the examples you give and do nothing to try and help them? This has never been the way that the party has worked, MPs do need to eb avaliable and to do that they need help and support.

very many decent MPs (including my own local representative, Greg Hands) who have done no wrong and do not deserved to be pilloried because of the bad apples in the barrel

Sorry, Sally, the "bad apple" theory doesn't hold water any more.

It's been clear for a long time now that the entire expenses system is wide open to abuse and new examples come along regularly. If there were genuinely only a few people doing so, then the vast majority of (presumably innocent) MPs should be as appalled and disgusted as the rest of us and should be loudly demanding the serious punishment of the guilty and serious reform of the system. Are they actually doing this? Are they hell as like. Why not? The only rational explanation is that most (at least) are at it, and even the few that aren't, are so immersed in the culture that they still don't understand the problem - or don't dare campaign about it for fear of the can of worms they might open.

Actually, Alex Swanson, Greg Hands made quite a few comments in the media on the subject of Tony McNulty - perhaps you were too busy making witty remarks about spaniels at the time?

I was crushed by Eric Pickles dire performance last night. Until then I had thought his bluff man-of-the-people front was a bit of an act. Now I think he is crass and politically unaware.

If he did not anticipate the McNulty expenses matter to come up then he is also dim. If he did anticipate it then his thinking is muddied and he has no contact with the reality of his constituents.

I can understand why Cameron wants him around - apparently he is a good organiser but he must be kept away from the broadcast media. We have enough problems with Ken Clarke spraying in all directions.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7965195.stm

In case you missed it, Alex.

I am in complete agreement with the proposal to cut both MP's salaries and allowances. We should revert to the old situation where Members had a proper career during the day and politics was an additional activity with the commensurate small reward. Then the standard of MP (in all parties) was much higher as they had proved they could hold a proper job in the real world. Something that hardly anyone among the present incumbents has done or, indeed, could do. I wouldn't employ 99% of them in my post room.

Did you have to use a picture with the ghastly Lucas in it?
Enough to put me off my dinner.
As for MPs pay - let them do it for no pay until the economy recovers.
They are to blame after all.

Mark@15:49

How often do we hear complaints about the constituency aspect of an MP's work? I cannot recall any (although accept there maybe some). It is when they get to Westminster that the problems seems to occur.

So I think the problem is not so much whether the electorate should have access to their elected representatives (of course they should) but it is that there are so many representatives who all can be approached to do the same thing.

In parts of this country you can approach, your MP, your local councillor, your county councillor (or equivalent), your MEP and if you are lucky to enough to have one your assembly representative. That's not even considering the multitude of public sector functions, charities etc. that could be approached. There is so much scope for duplicated effort it is untrue and no professional organisation would stand for it.

Part of the failure of the political system is that its scope and responsibilities of Government and our political system have become vague and unconstrained and as a result it has become utterly confusing for the electorate. They don't know who is supposed to do what or who they are supposed to go to.

As a result, is it any wonder that all levels of elected representation are now devalued and is it any wonder that there are those who abuse the system?

In my mind, whilst there are many things that could be done to reduce the contempt that much of the public feel towards the political classes I think there is a strong case for a strategic reconsideration as to what our Government and Public Sector is there for. What is the purpose of our Government?

Because it seems to me that the disfigured, obese and sometimes dysfunctional beast that it is at the moment (and I know there are many good dedicated individuals involved in it) is heading in the wrong direction and will soon expire if it is not reformed.

In my view our political system has been left to drift, with politicians meddling unthinkingly, for far too long and needs to be radically reviewed at the most basic levels?

So let’s go back a generation or three. MPs’ Pay should be reduced to just above the national average, say about £30K pa, and allowances limited to rail travel between constituency and Westminster whilst overnight accommodation in London paid only against receipt at up to 3 star hotel rate ; secretaries should be provided only at Hof C and paid for by the HofC. Pensions should be contributory, with employer and employee each paying 10% of salary up to and money purchase only. Redundancy should be paid at the rate of one month’s pay for every year in HofC.

No constituency staff? That'll go down well with the constituents who badger MPs relentlessly!

And 4 nights a week in a 3 star hotel will still be v. expensive, surely?

Mark,

I don't advocate a PR system. I want to keep the relationship between an MP and his/her constituents. But at the moment that does not work very well because MPs are too rich (compared with most of their constituents, even in a Tory constituency) and too remote. The political class has become almost totally detached from the people on matters such as crime and punishment, on mass immigration, of the EU and, above all, on the economy. The way to pull them back is to pay them less and to take away their minders

It was clear to anyone who thought about it that the country was living beyond its means from about the year 2000; this could bee seen from the expansion in private debt, the expansion of public debt and from the trade imbalances.

It was clear too, to most people if not to the politicians, that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were going to be somewhere between very difficult and impossible and that our armed forces are grossly under strength and underequipped.

Almost everyone, except the insulated political class, can see that our politicised and overpaid Police “service” is becoming lazy and ineffective and that the laws of the land now really only apply to the law abiding.

Virtually no one, other than the political class and the owners of business which employ large numbers of unskilled low paid workers, favours mass unselective immigration.

It is clear to all the power engineers in the land that, in the next few years, our country will face an energy crunch.

THESE are the issues or MPs should be worrying about and if they took tea with more little old ladies, visited some of our threatened factories or even walked the streets, they would understand a lot better.

I am sorry to have to write this but your MP should not need you to do these simple things, to observe what should be obvious and to hold our government to account.

Our democratic system is teetering on the very edges of an abyss, it really is. The French revolution did not take place because Louis XVI had too few clerical assistants!

Better to cut the ministers wages by 50% for any MPs. That would not penalise the bank benchers and probably save more money.

David - I have counted that in your last post you have used the phrase "political class" three times and again, I ask what people really MEAN by it? I know what Oborne meant by it and although he claimed that he was referring to those from both major parties, it is very clear that his description fits NuLab to a "T"!
At the risk of being labelled a "spaniel", "a party machine hack", "an Apologist" or anything else, I would like to point out that not all Members of Parliament are out of touch or so lacking in empathy that they cannot appreciate the problems of their constituents. To name a few examples - John Major was the son of a circus performer. He also knew what it was like to be unemployed and claim dole. Margaret Thatcher was the daughter of a grocer and never forgot her humble background. David Amess, for whom I worked for five very happy years during the 1990s is a thoroughly working-class East Londoner. His father was an electrician and his mother a dress maker. He has never forgotten his roots and is proud of them. Sadly of course there are the "rotten apples" such as Derek Conway who also came from a modest background in the North East but did everything he could to deny his roots and pretend he was something he clearly was not. Regrettable but people should not forget the thoroughly decent representatives we have who are not out of touch with those they serve!

"nd 4 nights a week in a 3 star hotel will still be v. expensive, surely?"

More like 3 nights a week for, perhaps 30 weeks a year. At £100 per night this works out as £9,000 pa to be paid only against production of a receipt. Ditto travel between constituency and Westminster. The only other expense would be a secretary employed and paid for by the HofC.

The continents, if they want to contact their MP, could do so either through his Hof C secretary or constituency party organisation. This was roughly how things used to be until a few decades ago.

Ministers of the Crown, whose work is, or should be, a lot more onerous, could be paid salaries similar to those of senior Civil Servants. However, we need far fewer ministers.

David, you fundamentally misunderstand the point of MPs staff, either in the house or in the constituency, Mps do visit factories, schools, Little old ladies, although that is somewhat patronising, and walk the streets, knocking on doors, but when doing so, they are asked for help on why the pension is late, or why, they had a problem with the CSA etc, Not all these isseus Cllrs can deal with, and in some cases the Cllrs may even be the problem, The issue of pay and expenses is one that needs to be dealt with, but at the same time, the public, all of us must recognise that the world has changed and more is expected of MPs and for them to be more responsive. If an MP is for ever on the phone trying to help an old lady with her pension, then he is not dealing with other work. It is fashonable to moan about MPs, sometimes rightly, but a lot of MPs work hard, and do not rip off the system. By all means reform, and I can think of a few, but MPs do the things you criticise them for in case work, beacuse the public demands and expects it. I hope that whatever the reforms the pubic does rememebr that a lot of Mps work is unpublished and very personal to people, and can make a difference.

"If he did not anticipate the McNulty expenses matter to come up then he is also dim."

Yes, Careless and sloppy, he must have realised this topic was going to come up, but just didn't bother to prepare for it. But the dire performance by Conservative MP's on QT and Any Questions goes beyond Pickles, for the Conservative party has treated the general public to one shoddy performance in the this public debating forum after another , with May, Maude, Spellman amongst the many dire performances. It all suggests a lack of professionalism about the Conservative party, or contempt for the general public that they can't be bothered to sort out their arguments, its just too much like hard work. Worst of all, may be this is the best the Conservative party can come up with, in that case things are very dire!

As a matter of interest, how do MPs get on QT? Are specific people invited on by DD or do the three main parties select who is to be their champion for the evening?

Either way, I do agree with Iain that our MPs have been poor to dire on the whole and that we have had to rely on Ian Hislop, Simon Heffer, Fraser Nelson and the like to represent true conservative values in any robust way.

Eric Pickles sounded out of touch and looked out of his depth. He had to be rescued by Charles Clarke.

The problem is that he has been employed by the public sector for so long, as a council leader and now MP, he just thinks it is his right to have his expenses paid. He has the public sector mindset of entitlement - first class travel, additional costs allowance, gold plated pension, expense claims without receipts, etc. He doesn't put two-and-two together in his brain that the money he spends has to be earned by the productive part of the economy - i.e. his constituents and millions more who do not have such a privileged financial status.

There is no sense that he recognises it is the public's money being spent here. Not once did he look ashamed or embarrassed - just rather petulant and angry with Dimbleby for mentioning it! Not once did he say the system needed to be reformed or that taxpayer funds were not being spent wisely. He looked rather bemused when people shouted at him.

We are going to have a real problem convincing people we are serious about controlling public expenditure when our own chairman cannot see the outrage in claiming thousands of pounds a year in expenses for a second home when his constituency is only 30-odd miles away.

Finally, his comment about the Commons working to clockwork and him needing to be there by 09:30 was ignorant. Many people have to be in work by 07:30 or 08:00 and they pay their own expenses out of earned income after tax. It should be no different for MPs.

These days Parliament hardly ever sits late and doesn't sit at all for three months during the summer and a month each at Christmas and Easter.

For those nights mid-week there is a hotel at the back of County Hall (opposite the House of Commons) which charges £60 a night with a full English breakfast included. That should satisfy even Eric Pickles.

I'm putting my money on a Snowball being found in Hell, but I sure as sugar will not be betting that Pickles will Chair our party in the run up to the next election.

The man is of what I call the "Lib Dem" calibre of Local Government Pols' who are simply unable to communicate strategically and win Policy arguments at a National Level. Sure great if you want to organise a local leafleting campaign, but a stellar media performer or political operator NEVER!!

I always had him marked as a Lightweight, now I know this to be true.

To be honest, In-a-Pickle was under a cloud for me anyway, by his, how can I put this tactfully now, let's just say his less than enthusiastic embrace of the internet and electronic campaigning techniques (a simply unforgiveable sin in a modern party chairman surely??).

Pickles MUST be kicked into before next General Election, we need a First Rate Media Performer and Political Operator at the helm of our Election (Must Win) Campaign.

Recently Eric said he would like to be forgotten about as Party Chairman, to paraphrase Francis Urqhuart, "You might think that"....Mr. (Current) Party Chairman "But I couldnt possibly comment!".

Sally. Don't beat up on yourself because some cat lover called you a Spaniel. Anyone who knows field dogs can recite the old saw, " A Labrador is born half-trained, a Spaniel dies half-trained." You are clearly fully trained. Consider yourself a Labrador. Consider me the personification of "Wuffles".
More to the point. The majority of Tory MP's, (saving the Cameroons) have had real jobs in industry and commerce, so have not only an understanding of the real world, but also marketable skills to supplement their incomes. The majority of socialist MP's have always been in the Public Sector, and see no future apart from living on the Public Purse, as they have always done. Reducing their share of the trough, by trimming allowances and axing QUANGO'S, will be spun as a cheap tory bankers trick to do the working person out of a fair days pay for an honest days work. ( You cannot conceive how difficult it was to complete that sentence. I had to be really impartial). Mark at 1648 makes a valid point. However, expenses for carrying out Parliamentary duties have little in common with using research expenses to fund one's children through Uni., hiring nannies, shacking up in your sister's spare room and calling it your main residence, or abusing your parents by claiming expenses for staying with them. At conference, DC said he was going to stop sleaze. He's had SEVERAL opportunities to make an example from his inner circle but has missed them all. When doorstepping, the remark "they're all the same" is very difficult to refute. Something had better happen before May 2010.

Sally,

People tend to lose touch with their roots as they become richer than their contemporaries but I am no class warrior and some of the traditional aristocracy certainly retain an ability to communicate with ordinary people.

By the “political class”, I really mean whose financial wellbeing depends upon the continued success of their political career and, for this reason, they reflect back the views of the party establishment rather than the filtered views of their constituents (or, to put it crudely, they “brown nose”). This is surely a comparatively novel development and certainly fits most New Labour types. Sadly, it seems to have infected the Tories too.

If you accept my premise, it is not really wealth but exclusive income, or the potential for income, from politics which defines the political class. Thus Maggie was never a member of this class, nor was Alan Clarke, nor Lord Camborne (one of the best PMs we never had, in my humble opinion). Nor were those splendid Old Labour types (Ray Gunter, Bessie Braddock etc.) of whom there are still a few around as there are some conscientious honest Tories. Nor indeed are Frank Field, Kate Hoey or your very own Daniel Hannan because they have all retained the capacity to communicate with ordinary non political animals, to think their own thoughts and speak out for what they believe to be right.

We in UKIP have lost 3 of our 12 MEPs since 2004. One had a monstrous ego but it is difficult to avoid the feeling that the other two were really in for the money, much more money than they might otherwise have earned. We see the same phenomena in all parties and it is dangerous, or so I believe.

PS: I derive absolutely no income at al from my political activates but it costs me more than a wee bit. I guess it is the same for you so, I am pleased to acquit either of us as being member of the “Political Class”!

I think you've hit on something that David Cameron, the Conservative Party and Parliment as a whole need to agree to - and quickly. It was painful watching QT last night - I have never seen an audience so angry - we have to act and I think the "Montgomery Solution" is the right one.

A symbolic pay-cut would be a good idea, but I'd say that 10% for MPs and 15% for ministers would be a better idea. Proposing only 5% might lead to the public reacting the wrong way.

You are all being ridiculously kind. Pickles was shocking. Despicable. He tried to defend the utterly indefensible. As a Tory voter I was disgusted by his arrogance and total selfish, deluded detatchment from where public opinion is on this issue. What is fundamentally wrong is that the foxes should not be in charge of the chicken coop. An independent body is needed to set, review and police MPs remuneration. I have listed a seven point plan on a recent blog post (http://howdidwecometothis.blogspot.com/2009/03/camerons-new-rules.html) that Dave should think about. He needs to seize the initiative before NuLab or the opportunistic Loony Dems do. I was ashamed to be a Tory voter last night.

" we have had to rely on Ian Hislop, Simon Heffer, Fraser Nelson and the like to represent true conservative values in any robust way. "

Yes, just like in Hospitals we had bed blockers, in Parliament we have seat blockers, people who have washed up in Parliament that aren't much good, don't have an ideological grounding that informs their arguments, in a sufficiently safe seat that means they aren't kicked out, but just hang around taking up space. Here the Conservatives seem to be overly represented with useless career politicians as a result people of the political right don't have their views represented or arguments made. There are just too few Daniel Hannan's but to many Maude, May and Spellman's.

"Sally. Don't beat up on yourself because some cat lover called you a Spaniel. Anyone who knows field dogs can recite the old saw, " A Labrador is born half-trained, a Spaniel dies half-trained." You are clearly fully trained. Consider yourself a Labrador. Consider me the personification of "Wuffles"."

Thank you "Wuffles" (formerly known to me as Grumps)!!

http://www.winwithchris.org.uk/news/2009/Feb/mep_expenses.htm

That's my MEP and I'm proud of him.

As for the PR thing that's debateable and nothing to do with expenses.

David, thank you for that very full and clear explanation. As to your final paragraph - yes, you are right!!

Good idea Tim - agree with Sally. Need to take the lead and MPs need to share the pain till this issue can be looked at in more favourable and rational times. Being an MP should be a privilege. If I had only a fraction of their income I would count myself fortunate. Dave has a chance to take the high ground here. This may be the only antidote to the pickle.

While any reduction in the cost of filling Parliament with MPs, I don't believe that their salary is the main problem. It's expenses that get the public riled, particularly the 'rules' which seem to say 'milk the system for everything you can'.

Forget salaries. Do something about the unwarranted expenses. Parliamentary expenses should be issued under the same sort of scrutiny and rules that would be adopted by most companies. In other words, you don't get it unless it's REALLY justified and all claims are scrutinised by someone who's raison d'etre is to save money.

There should be only 400 MPs, they should be paid £100k p.a., out of which they would have to pay for all their expenses, staff, travel, second home, etc., all of which would of course be allowable expenses for tax purposes to the extent that they could persuade the Inland Revenue that the claims for them were justified.

'We publish diverse views on Platform and we've already been in contact about your Platform. We hope to publish it soon...
Posted by: Tim Montgomerie | March 27, 2009 at 15:23 '

Well, dear old Englandism appears to have been thoroughly persona non gratersised. But, hey ho, on we go...
Saving money:

The House of Commons has 656 members

The House of Representaives has 435 members

The US Senate has 100 members

The House of Lords has 743 members

Ergo. We have 1,399 v the US 535.

Relative to populations of 60 million v 300 million.

Now, factor in the 87 MEPs, the 129 MSPs, the Welsh/NI Assemblies and we have over-representation of quite bewildering proportions. In fact, ever expanding overkill of UK public sector proportions.

Let's talk US State representation. California, alone, has a more powerful economy than the entire United Kingdom and yet Scotland, alone, has over three times the representation of the Californian State Senate. California: 40. Scotland 129. Why?

5% off the salary cheque? Me don't think so. It requires a cull:

UK Senate replaces House of Lords. Can we cope with 100 Senators? To mirror the US ratio we should be happy with 20.

English Parliament replaces H of C with infrastructure in place at no cost. MSPs etc go to Hollyrood etc with expenses to Westminster saved.

Share the burden of recession?

Just match the US 'burden' of representation.

@Englandism

"Well, dear old Englandism appears to have been thoroughly persona non gratersised."

Why do you say that?

Will Cameron acting like a father, saying no to his children (the party), change politics? Only temporarily. Only for gloss. It won't wash. Haven't politicians as a whole been corrupt since... always? When have they ever not been on the take? What's missing is the substance. Ethics.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-ethics/

Hey British M.P's! Put Aristotle's Ethics on your reading list! Keep a copy with you at all times. Don't brag to the world that you're reading from it, just quietly act in a decent way, even when nobody is looking. Everyone's human and you're going to screw up sometimes, but just try your best because you're there to represent us and we need you to do a good job for Great Britain. Thank you!

Hi Tim,

I am not and have never been a member of the BNP of the United Kingdom and indeed have fought them tooth and claw. The BNP was why I closed down englandism.com because the nasty people were lurking too feverishly.

We do need to change the rules and temporarily reduce MPs pay. Firstly simplify the renumeration taking away the expense elements and simplifying around an allowance. However this needs to go hand in hand with real devolution, transferring powers down the chain to communities. The whole lot needs to be put into a package like "the Plan", the book written about localism.

Better I think to propose a drastic cut in the number of MPs. 100 could be cut - then rationalise expenses vs salary ie. a rise in salary (most public are amazed at the expenses, but would also be amazed at how little MPs earn) but a drastic cut in expenses.

It was a genuinely cringe-worthy few minutes of television, the basic fact is that MPs have been in the trough for far to long, the only vote winner on this will be to tell MPs to do something revolutionary that a small band called 'commuters' have been doing for years. The second houses at tax payers expense for all but the most far flung MP's is ludicrous. There are millions of people up and down this country with busy, stressful, powerful jobs who commute 1000s of miles a week to a from work without complaint... I can't see why MPs think they're different. The government could simply use one of it's (many) empty office blocks, convert it into a B&B near Westminster and the problem would be solved.

"Yes Pickles was very poor on QT but the audience reaction was I think very typical of the general public."

Every time I think that I might be able to support a political party I come across an arrogant comment like this. I am a member of the general public and I'm insulted that my membership of that group seems to invalidate my opinion despite the fact that we are allegedly a democracy.


I originally wanted to respond to this;

"I'm about to lose favour with every Tory MP but there is no way that MPs can keep their pay and their allowances while the public sector is being slimmed down."

Number of Tory MPs <<<<<<<< Number of voters.

Start your own party, stuff the Tories.

good old eric.
join the list of other vote losers in the party
SPELLMAN
HAGUE
DUNC SMIT
MAY
AND PIERS FLETCHER OSBOURNE.
ITS 50/50 FOR THE NEXT ELECTION.
this 10 point lead is nothing.trust me.
when alan johnson steps in the torys will be totaly shafted

Why are you all having a go at Eric Pickles?Don't you know that all MPs have to have homes in their constituences? If they don't, they get criticised!

Some journeys into London are difficult because of frequent public transport delays. When I occasionally visit London, I don't go by car, for obvious reasons. I travel by train, and by the time I get home I am exhausted.

I have commuted to London, at one time in my life, and I am quite convinced of the accuracy of Mr Pickle's account. As a senior Conservative he cannot afford to be late because proceedings would not be halted until he arrived. If he was late you'd all be criticising him for that! He can't win, can he? I sincerely believe he has done nothing wrong - I don't believe that anybody is suggesting that anyway!

As for the "Question Time" programme, I don't usually watch it because I don't like the way the panelists are interrupted by the Chair.I did see some "snippets" from the programme and I don't see how Eric could have avoided problems!

On this one occasion, he wasn't brilliant, but I think that even the best debater would have had real problems. This is not too big a deal, however, because if it was it would have been mentioned in today's Daily Mirror etc.

To suggest that Cameron should sack Eric for something that is not his fault is almost as absurd as arguing that we should elect Dan Hannan as party leader on the strength of one speech.

Anyway, Eric has superb organisational skills - remember the Nantwich and Crewe by election and the 2008 local election results? You never know, he might be able to improve the Party structure in England - now that does need improving!

Government these days needs a professional staff all the way down to PUSS level, otherwise you will not get the talent even standing for Parliament. The Tories most of all need men of stature if they are going to win the next election and sustain a government over a number of terms.

We can't go back, we can only go forward. I think the current expenses system should stay in place (though not with an increased salary beyond any figure commensurate with inflation) and I believe that although there are currently a lot of scandals, there will always be something going on, whether it be sex, money or other frauds.

As regards the Tory frontbench, they could start being less amateurish and more professional, as it is otherwise going to cost us an awful lot come any general election.

Simply, we need to cut MPs' pay and perks before Brown does. It's an easy call, would be very popular with the electorate and has absolutely no drawbacks.

@Cleethorpes Rock

Nice idea, but how do you convince our MPs, or at least stop them making a very public fuss about it?

@Freddy (isn't it weird how we're all using twitter-lingo on here by the way?!)

Deselect anyone who makes a fuss, telling them that if they don't like it they can try their luck out of Parliament in the current job market.

"No constituency staff? That'll go down well with the constituents who badger MPs relentlessly!"

Maybe they could get a life?

@Cleethorpes Rock

Sorry, don't understand. Have never used "twitter-lingo." Have only been online for a short time.

I think I know what you mean though - it's all good fun. I like a good old political argument!

I agree with what you're saying about the MPs - trouble is that it would cause big trouble - some in the media would love that and would stir up a lot of trouble - might set us back in the polls quite a bit.

I dread the thought of 5 more years of Brown!

Actually, Alex Swanson, Greg Hands made quite a few comments in the media on the subject of Tony McNulty

You're missing the point. One Tory MP criticising a Labour minister is going to impress nobody. The point is that we need a mass revolt by Tory MPs against the whole system. If Mr Hands wants to lead such a revolt, more power to him, but this isn't it.

- perhaps you were too busy making witty remarks about spaniels at the time?

Got that point across, though, didn't I?

Personally, I do believe in debating on the basis of reason and evidence, politely and courteously. Unfortunately there are people around here who don't, who defend Cameron blindly and totally, and when pushed resort to abuse, mistaking politeness and courtesy for weakness and lack of self-confidence. Well, it isn't, and I'm fed up of only ever being at the receiving end. If you want to be treated like an intelligent, independent-minded person, behave like it. Otherwise, I reserve the right to treat anyone who walks like a duck, and quacks/speaks like a duck (*) as ducks deserve to be treated.

((*) This is a reference to '1984', for anyone who missed it.)

Alex Swanson, there are many courteous and thoughtful regular posters here but I have rarely if ever seen evidence that you are one of them!
The George Orwell quote is not lost on me and I am sorry that believe that I and others only indulge in "Duckspeak". Have you never thought that perhaps the reason I support David Cameron (and I do not do so "blindly") is that he represents the strand of Conservatism that I have wanted to see in our Party for a long, long time? Rest assured, if Mr Cameron makes a mistake or does something I do not agree with, I will certainly speak up.
I see you wrote your comment at 2.50 in the morning. Commiserations if you have trouble sleeping - we all do from time to time - but may I respectfully suggest that posts written in the wee small hours, perhaps accompanied by a glass or two ...or three... of the amber nectar are not always of the best? Perhaps it would have been better if you had tried to get a good nights sleep.

Hear, hear Sally.

Sally,

Remember what the BNP troll, "Peter", said in the other thread. If they win fewer than seven seats, he has promised you lunch at the Ivy.

Time to investigate the menu and nearest Tube;),

Stephen.

I won't get my hopes up that he'll deliver, Super Blue! Trolls never do.

Sally,

A question if I may be so bold.

If by some miracle, Daniel Hannan (whose views on many things are at variance with Mr Cameron’s) became your party’s leader, would you be as loyal to him as you are to David Cameron?

I do not try to trick you. I think loyalty is a good old fashioned virtue and, except in purely personal matters, nothing of value can be achieved without teamwork; for successful teamwork, loyalty is essential.

As for me, I’m in a different team but my ultimate loyalty is to Queen and Country; I suspect yours is too.

"Trolls never do. "

What stories are behind this plaintive post?
Call on that Graeme Archer to edit and publish them all for Party Funds.

"except in purely personal matters, nothing of value can be achieved without teamwork; "

Oh dear, oh dear

"What stories are behind this plaintive post?
Call on that Graeme Archer to edit and publish them all for Party Funds."

Don't ask me, snegchui - I'm only a spaniel....or a duck, depending on what time of day it is! ;-)

The comments to this entry are closed.

#####here####

Categories

ConHome on Twitter

    follow me on Twitter

    Conservative blogs

    Today's public spending saving

    New on other blogs

    • Receive our daily email
      Enter your details below:
      Name:
      Email:
      Subscribe    
      Unsubscribe 

    • Tracker 2
    • Extreme Tracker