I can understand the basic historic principle of the need to pay MPs and the need to cover their essential expenses. Until the turn of the 19th/20th Centuries the House of Commons had little to differentiate it from the House of Lords. Especially in the make up of its members. Democracy came at a cost. Only the rich could afford to sit in the House of Commons and not get paid. Consequently only the rich had the vote that counted.
The role of MP first became a paid employment in 1911. The first MPs were paid £400 per year. It was a good racket, even then. The average wage would not cross this £400 threshold until well into the 1970s. In 2008 the salary for a Member of Parliament was £61,820.
In the present day, amongst other allowances MPs are entitled to claim, are the cost of staying away from main home (up to £23,083), office running costs, they have a staffing Allowance (to a maximum of £90,505), they can claim stationary expenses, (£7,000), there is a communications allowance (£10K). The Green Book, which lists MPs entitlements, (defensively) states: Members of Parliament are provided with financial support in the form of allowances to enable them to work effectively in Parliament and in their constituencies.
The average salary in the UK in 2008 was £32,785.85.
Jacqui Smith was elected to parliament in 1997, following her selection via the now-illegal all-women shortlist process. She became Home Secretary in 2007. Three years ago Smith bought herself a £300,000 house in her Redditch constituency. The average price of a house in Redditch in October 2005 was £160,000. He web biography states: Jacqui lives in Redditch with husband, Richard and sons James (13) and Michael (8). Smith has stated to Parliament that her main residence is in fact her sisters house in London. The Redditch house, where her constituency is and where her family lives, is, she says, her second home. This has allowed Smith to claim £116,000 since 2002 on the Redditch property under the second home rule. Ker-ching.
As Home Secretary, combined with her MPs salary, Jacqui Smith earns £141,866.
There is an argument that politicians should be paid highly in order to attract the best candidates. Well. Its one way of looking at it. Considered under those terms, the mind boggles what paying less would get us.
Amongst Jacqui Smiths expenses claims submitted in April 2008 was the cost of downloading Raw Meat 3 and By Special Request. Adult-rated scuzz on Channel X. Smith blamed her husband. Sat at home having his own cabinet re-shuffle. But the wank fodder aside, I ask myself whether the Tax Payer really needed to stump up the cost of the Smith family downloading Surfs Up! Which the Home Secretary also claimed for. According to Amazon, Surfs Up! is a computer-animated sports mockumentary about penguin surfing contests. OK. I see. Perhaps Jacqui was putting in some research for the 2012 London Olympics and felt the claim was reasonable. Fair enough, I say. Dont you?
Smiths husband is also her constituency office manager. He is paid from her expenses fund. He gets £40,000 per year.
Lets face it, the average UK Taxpayer has the piss ripped out of them. Paying into a National Insurance scheme that will never make good on any return because its funds are already being squandered. And still having to fork out for prescription fees (in England, that is). Taxed on money earned, money spent, money saved, money inherited. We fertilize the swathes of Benefit Fields with our taxes. We create fortunes for local councils so that they can chuck it away left, right and centre and still only manage to empty the bins once a fortnight. We pay for the Home Secretarys husband to watch skank. We pay for the Home Secretarys family to watch Oceans 13. Why? Dont we care about what happens to our taxes? Do we just accept it? Is public expenditure a rolling juggernaut that we cant stop? Too big and too complex to understand. Is it too vast and unaccountable to take note of the massive number of small claims that gobble up the cash? Are there too many snouts in the trough? MPs expenses should be means tested. Theyre not a right. Theyre not a perk. Theyre not a bit of cream to fatten up a wage twice the national average. I put a little cherry on top. Were a long way from 1911. Democracy wont be snuffed out if your MP has to pay for their own pornography. Does Jacqui Smith really need more help than her average constituent to make ends meet? When was the last time you handed your employer a receipt to claim back the cost of a visit to Cineworld and a big bag of Minstrels? Gordon Brown earns £194, 250 a year. Does he really need to claim back the cost of his TV license? Which he does. Is that £142.50 going to break him? Is that £142.50 going to compromise his ability to raise his sturdy Caledonian voice for democracy? Iz it back darn t pit for our Gordon if he dunt get that free TV license? Or does he get paid enough to get his hand in his pocket and pay for himself?