MPs' expenses: things for policywonk to say if she gets the chance

(259 Posts)
policywonk Tue 19-May-09 17:15:35

So I'm off tomorrow afternoon to this panel discussion thing: here are the details

I'll go through the old thread tonight but post any more stuff here. Y'know, if you want to.

<yawns> I'm SO OVER MPs' expenses. wink

Scootergrrrl Tue 19-May-09 17:18:41

If the MPs televisions, enormous sofas, tennis courts and so on are being paid for with public money, shouldn't they technically belong to the country and have to be handed back if an MP leaves office? And can the Government not buy various flats in London to be used as MPs accomadation, rather like halls of residence but so VERY much posher?

KayHarkerDoesNotSimper Tue 19-May-09 17:22:58

Can you say 'Up the revolution!' please.

And I'd like a MN in-joke in there somewhere.

policywonk Tue 19-May-09 17:23:57

I think I'm only going to get the chance to speak once. And that's not guaranteed either.

LeninGrad Tue 19-May-09 17:25:20

So the question tomorrow is 'How can the reputation of politics be restored?'

They should quickly issue a plan for how they are going to manage expenses going forward, or at least publish a time frame of what they are going to do and when.

LeninGrad Tue 19-May-09 17:26:53

10 points if you get glasnost in.

rubyslippers Tue 19-May-09 17:28:39

I am interested in the mindset of someone who is so mean but clearly has such an enormous sense of entitlement as to claim 89 pence on a bath plug

have they never worked in an office where you occasionally but the odd thing without shoving it through expenses? y' know like a pint of milk, a coffee etc

i suspect the answer to that is "no" and they are career politicians

i do feel that the politicians who have behaved correctly and with some moral compass clearly intact are having their reputations damaged by this

Oh, and this i am interested in - how do your FORGET you have actually paif your mortgage off and claim anyway?? Do you not have to submit statements <<boggles>>

rubyslippers Tue 19-May-09 17:29:57

oh, if you can only ask one question, Leningrad's is good

KayHarkerDoesNotSimper Tue 19-May-09 17:34:01

Transparency, there's a buzz word.

Mumsnut Tue 19-May-09 17:41:09

100 points if you get bumsex in.

MollieO Tue 19-May-09 20:40:13

Why can't MPs expenses be like my company's expenses - if I spend money on a non-consumable item (ie not hotel, travel, food) then it is company property which they can choose to allow me to keep or not.

Also why do MPs who have second homes also claim food expenses. It isn't as if they are eating twice as much is it? Or is it? hmm

Good luck for tomorrow PW. What are you wearing <asked in a fashion interest sense rather than some schoolgirl crush, slightly pervey sense>

nickytwotimes Tue 19-May-09 20:45:30

I am far too dim to come up with a worthy question.
Just wanted to wish Ms Wonk all the best, you fox you!

wink

P.S will you be submitting expenses and will they include receipts for Hobbs and M&S a la G20 wossit?

IwoulddoDrWho Tue 19-May-09 20:48:41

Could they all live in a Hall of Residence, like maybe in Battersea, and share a minibus in?

how is it that MPs are allowed to claim up to £1000 for a bed, whereas those needing a social fund grant for a new bed will get £150.00?

IwoulddoDrWho Tue 19-May-09 20:52:32

Could they use the AIBU test when considering new purchases?

GentleOtter Tue 19-May-09 20:53:49

I would like to know how much in
total their greed has cost the taxpayer?
To the nearest million would do.

nickytwotimes Tue 19-May-09 20:54:04

Fab idea, Iwoulddodoctorwho!

SOrt of like "What would an mner do?"

IwoulddoDrWho Tue 19-May-09 20:57:11

Yes. They could have wristbands with WWMND on one side and AIBU on the other just to remind them.

Go on, suggest it PW.

smittenkitten Tue 19-May-09 20:59:56

the best summary of the situation i have heard so far came from a colleague of mine today - "if you put a trough in front of a pig then it's going to stick its snout in" - classic

HerBeatitudeLittleBella Tue 19-May-09 21:00:09

Have they seen the benefit fraud ads? Have none of them got the grace to feel enough shame to resign as MP's?

foxinsocks Tue 19-May-09 21:01:19

I warn you Westminster MAD at the moment.

Police everywhere due to Tamils and the satellite news vans have taken over due to the speaker resigning.

10 points if you get searched by the police or barged at some point on your walk there wink

nickytwotimes Tue 19-May-09 21:03:11

Wristbands, car stickers, baseball hats, ties...the possibilities are endless!

SoupDragon Tue 19-May-09 21:05:31

I agree with rubyslippers. How the hell do you forget you've paid your mortgage off??

policywonk Tue 19-May-09 21:08:08

Thanks for these - I like Martha's comparison with the social fund.

Dunno what I'm going to wear yet - feeling premenstrual and suspect the trousers I want to wear would cut off circulation to legs.

Foxy - thank you - I'll set off half an hour early!

IwoulddoDrWho Tue 19-May-09 21:09:03

I've forgotten loads of stuff - perhaps he drinks?

LeninGrad Tue 19-May-09 21:20:04

Yes second the social fund comparison. Cannot believe there isn't a cap on these common items (if they should be claimed for at all).

Paolosgirl Tue 19-May-09 21:27:47

Why do all other public sector workers (in the NHS board I work for anyway) have to adhere to the following:-

1. A max. of £20 for food a day if away on business - £5 for lunch and dinner and £10 for dinner. And that includes your drinks.

2. Taxi fares must be justified in writing, or else they will be automatically rejected.

3. Expenses must be claime within 3 months. If you lie on the form you will be sacked.

4. If I submitted all my receipts and asked finance to sort them out and pay me what I was due, they would send them straight back to me and tell me to work it out for myself.

Oh - and can you please ask them when they are going to buy or build a block of flats in London so that MP's can have the use of an apartment only for as long as they are actually an MP.

jkklpu Tue 19-May-09 21:31:24

Following on from Martha's comment, how about them all donating their stuff to the social fund in their constituencies? (ie NOT giving them the choice as to whether it's the one nearest to their 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th "home".

jkklpu Tue 19-May-09 21:35:00

How about a good indicator of which is the real "home" for those with children being the place where the kids go to school? Would be hard to argue with that, don't you think?

And definitely agree that any profits on houses sold, if the mortgages have been paid for by public funds, reverting to the State, even if it's for reinvestment in MPs' justifiable allowances.

The public sector has to make savings to justify new spending, so how about doing away with all the subsidies of food and drink inside the Palace of Westminster at the same time? Make them pay the full whack for their gin and jam doughnuts.

policywonk Tue 19-May-09 21:57:14

Thanks for all this, am making notes

Is there a tariff for social fund items (I can't find one) or is it discretionary?

edam Tue 19-May-09 22:00:56

Why can't the House of Commons buy a block of flats and provide accommodation for MPs, like halls of residence?

And don't they wish they'd listened to Norman Baker...

CMOTdibbler Tue 19-May-09 22:03:45

Paolosgirl - those are the HMRC rules ! I work for a private sector company and we can claim only what HMRC say we can - down to precise details of car start and stop places to satisfy their demands.

MPs expenses and allowances should be fully subject to taxation and scrutiny by the IR, just like the expenses of everyone else

EachPeachPearMum Tue 19-May-09 22:08:05

Scootergrrrl and IwoulddoDrWho next to the two Polish Parliament buildings in Warsaw, the Sejm (Lower House) and the Senate (Upper House) is the Parliamentary Hotel. Members of both houses of Parliament from outside Warsaw stay there when Parliament is in session. It has restaurants, bar, shop etc. - a good solution?

EachPeachPearMum Tue 19-May-09 22:09:59

x-posts... all you others mentioning it too....

MoatCleaner Tue 19-May-09 22:12:18

hall of residence in westminster

govt to buy ex-council houses in constituencies - big outlay but once they're bought they are "for" the sitting MP

if they are not London MP they can only claim for reduced council tax plus cheapest rail return once a week

London MPs - oyster card

Lenin, Surely you meant, Perestroika

I want to know who was opposing the FOIA requests that Heather Brooke submitted. And why.

pointydog Tue 19-May-09 22:12:29

open to terrorist attack, edam?

I've not been paying attention lately. Are you now our official political journo/lobbyist, PW? (very good too)

Leningrad's 'what now', or Martha's social fund comparison both good qus imo. Although I would be rather tempted to go 'wtf? Seriously?'

policywonk Tue 19-May-09 22:17:41

Oooh NO fp. Just volunteered again and almost nobody else did.

Shouldn't you be sitting in a bathtub of ice or something?

re: social fund.

there is not a published tariff for items. people have to request an amount for an item, which is then granted or not. The social fund works on the following guidance:

"In considering what is an appropriate range of prices, use those currently charged for guaranteed items of serviceable quality available in national catalogue outlets and/or national high street chain retailers. Do not formulate a range using prices that go beyond the yardstick of serviceable quality (e.g., luxury goods with non essential extras). Note that using the prices of everyday national retailers to establish the range does not mean that the applicant is obliged to buy from these retailers. Ensure too that the items are available at the range of prices locally."

In practice this means that if you can get a basic bed in Argos for £150.00, £150.00 will be the ceiling for payments. I assist people to make a fair number of these applications and have yet to see a bid for a flat screen TV, patio heater, or elephant lamp (yes, you, Gove) be successful.

policywonk Tue 19-May-09 22:20:18

Thanks Martha. My mother used to work for the CAB; I remember her fuming at people having to beg for basic stuff.

dollius Tue 19-May-09 22:23:14

Definitely ask Martha's questions re social fund.

I also wonder how MPs who feel so entitled to claim for having their chimneys swept when they are married to multimillionaires and only live in Hertfordshire anyway, really think they can have any idea about the life of the average family in this country. And how they can possibly hope to represent them in Parliament?

Good luck tomorrow Policywonk - am sure you will do a marvellous job.

Grumpy0ldWotz Tue 19-May-09 22:27:44

I like some of these questions. I like the idea that they should all live in apartment block and pay rent. Part of me is even enjoying the thought that if they were all in one place, they could get zapped up like that Doctor Who episode or have a big pirate ship land on them!

[evil cackle emoticon]

Hope it goes well PW.

MollieO Tue 19-May-09 22:29:15

Interesting point about the Social Fund. The 'reasonableness' (at least to cost) of MPs expenses was known as the 'John Lewis' list. I wonder what catalogue the SF use and why JL was chosen for MPs.

MollieO Tue 19-May-09 22:31:26

I think that MPs should either rent their second home or live in a tied home like farm labourers do. Why should they benefit from capital appreciation of their house when they aren't paying the mortgage?

policywonk Tue 19-May-09 22:31:47

Thanks for all the good wishes.

Mollie, yes - that's it isn't it? It's John Lewis vs Argos (according to Mollie's post below).

policywonk Tue 19-May-09 22:32:13

Sorry, Mollie Martha's post below

I'm applying frozen peas at will, don't worry.

Good luck for tomorrow.

edam Tue 19-May-09 22:37:08

we can only hope, policy...

yeah, thought that'd be the objection. But what's to stop the Commons buying four buildings, in different parts of London? Or just buying 654 flats, minus the posts that take grace and favour accommodation around town?

us ordinary taxpayers already have to stump up for security at the residences of some politicians, might work out cheaper if we could lump them all in together. (And make sure they are near failing schools, then the buggers might have to send their own children there and actually DO something about education..)

LeninGrad Tue 19-May-09 22:39:01

No ilove, I definitely meant glasnost. From Wikipedia:

"Glasnost Russian: &#1043;&#1083;&#1072;&#769;&#1089;&#1085;&#1086;&#1089;&#1090;&#1100;, Russian pronunciation: [&#712;&#609;lasn&#601;s&#690;t&#690;]) was the policy of maximal publicity, openness, and transparency in the activities of all government institutions in the Soviet Union, together with freedom of information, introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev in the second half of 1980s. [1]"

Good luck PW! Is the podcast live?

MoatCleaner Tue 19-May-09 22:41:17

there are about 70 london mps - surely they don't need a flat in london?

edam Tue 19-May-09 22:42:54

Actually, the really interesting stuff is will MPs take the once-in-a-generation chance for real reform and actually start holding the executive to account?

We have one of the weakest parliaments of all the Western democracies. If they get their act together, and come up with ways of really examining what the government is up, this could be the start of something really important. Especially if the lazy sods get off their arses and start looking at EU Directives.

policywonk Tue 19-May-09 22:43:01

I don't really understand the security argument (not saying it's wrong, just don't understand it). They keep Parliament and Whitehall secure; why couldn't they keep a residential building secure?

Lenin - not live I don't think - will try to find out for sure tomorrow.

edam Tue 19-May-09 22:45:58

Maybe it's the symbolism of having MPs in some massive building, protected by armed police, that worries them.

What will they do if vast numbers of people stay away from the polls for the local and EU elections? (As in, if even fewer than the usual derisory numbers turn up?)

Also, I don't think security concerns is a valid reason for saying they can't all be housed together. Surely they're all in the one place during the day, and it would be just as easy to target the House of Commons as a block of flats.

slow typing.....

I think the argument was a defence to the FOIA request to reveal MPs expenses; that MPs expenses included a 2nd home/address which would be part of the FOIA. Security is a legitimate concern, and if it was revealed the private addresses of MPs homes, then this could be a (potential) problem. In the end, it was decided that the addresses were not an important matter for public record, but expenses were.

policywonk Tue 19-May-09 22:48:43

If vast numbers stay away we're in trouble, BNP-wise. Let's hope it has a galvanising effect. The Greens are getting some encouraging numbers I think (much higher than BNP nationwide).

BigGitDad Tue 19-May-09 22:50:31

I agree about the block of flats, security issue is codswallop, they can protect parliament and 10 Downing Street so what is the issue? It would save a fortune in claims by the MP's too, in fact it would probably pay for itself.
Goodpoint about the John Lewis list too.
Transparency is important for me too, if it had not been for the leak we would all be none the wiser.MP's have to be accountable.

policywonk Tue 19-May-09 22:50:37

ilove... - I'd understand that argument if spouses and children lived at the address, but not if we're just talking about tiny Japanese-style pods with fold-up beds and showers hidden in the curtain rods <goes overboard> -

MrsWednesday Tue 19-May-09 22:51:45

The Olympic Village is now publicly owned, why don't they use that for MPs accommodation after 2012?

MollieO Tue 19-May-09 22:54:07

They could buy one of those tower blocks in Kennington which is in division bell area. smile

Could you also ask why the Speaker chose to resign today? Cynical moi thinks it was well timed to take the heat off the publication of the 7/7 intelligence report - confirming what I at least have already experienced first hand that our protection from would be terrorists is crap.

Oh, I see. You are wondering about the future hypothetical security concerns.

Have to make it unappealing for public school boys though, and all this talk of showers/boys gets them terribly excited wink

<<warms to theme of MPs in small cramped quarters>>

Good luck, policy. Agree that Martha's question and the John Lewis/Argos divide very good angle.

Agree too with Mollie that rents not mortgages should be funded.

The huge indignation that is focussed on MP's at the moment is surely fuelled in part by the rather more diffuse and impotent anger felt at the way in which wealth (on a far far greater scale) has been transferred from the many to the few during the excesses of the boom and consequent bust. If confidence is to be restored in politics it needs to go much further than reforming MP's expenses. I would want to see politicians starting to talk in very direct terms about social justice.

policywonk Tue 19-May-09 23:01:55

(What do you mean by 'first hand' Mollie - were you caught up in 7/7?)

MollieO Tue 19-May-09 23:02:46

What about one of those prison ships? It could be moored the other side of Tower Bridge so short commute to Westminster.

MollieO Tue 19-May-09 23:04:52

PW yes - on the Aldgate train and about 15-20 feet from the bomber other side of tube bulkhead in neighbouring carriage. Just annoys me that what should have been today's main news item has been buried.

policywonk Tue 19-May-09 23:08:38

shockHoly shit. Don't blame you for being pissed off.

policywonk Tue 19-May-09 23:09:32

Thanks Iorek.

Think I'm going to turn in now but will check this again tomorrow morning.

shock

wow MollieO. don't know what to say...

MollieO Tue 19-May-09 23:13:03

Sorry, I don't want to distract anyone from the message of tomorrow - PW what will you be wearing (if the trousers are too tight?!).

policywonk Tue 19-May-09 23:18:00

Could I get away with M+S £12 jeans? I'm not going to suffer MN-scrutiny-by-live-streaming this time (I think...)

EachPeachPearMum Wed 20-May-09 06:29:41

Lol@ £12 jeans... are they claimable do you think? Do MNtowers have a M&S list?

re renting- of course you know many more wealthy mps (and therefore the ones who don't actually really need the expenses scheme anyway) will just rent from another family member, so we'd be paying mortgage and funding appreciation anyway.

GL PW smile

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 06:45:12

Will you be Twittering pw?

How exciting, will be great to hear Helena in person.

Grumpy0ldWotz Wed 20-May-09 08:17:30

Please (if it allowed) could someone tell me where PW is on twitter?

FabulousBakerGirl Wed 20-May-09 08:18:56

Have only read the OP so apologies if repeating.

They need to stop saying the rules were wrong. The rules were fine, it is the people putting in claims and those okaying them that have acted wrongly.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 08:24:22

It's all being discussed (today, not sure how the process works?)

MPs to debate changes to expenses

news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8058736.stm

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 10:04:47

Lenin - yes, I think we might be slightly overtaken by events today!

Will be Twittering from the MN account - MumsnetTowers I think.(If my phone doesn't die.)

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 10:56:36

OOI, what are EI and the panellists hoping to achieve today?

ronshar Wed 20-May-09 11:03:00

MollieO. Crickey love.

PW, could you try and ask why alot of MP's have to have a second home in the first place. We all have to commute why can't they?
Also no property should be bought if they cant afford to pay for it themselves. Exactly the same as the rest of us.
They should be following the same tax laws as we do. All expenses etc should be the same as everyone else.
If they were to change these things then most people would be able to put their trust back into a badly corrupted system.

Good luck. M&S £12 jeans are great I have a pair.

slug Wed 20-May-09 11:30:29

On a lighter note: Could we play mumsnet bingo?

5 points for mentioning Dear Husband/wife/child
10 points for fruit shoots or Greggs sausage rolls
And a massive 100 points if policywonk manages to mention cocklodging. grin

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 12:52:37

Watching PMQs - they've said all the right things, it's a matter of the proof being in the pudding now.

Not sure what the angle should be later. Big issue seems to be about being careful to not skew the rules to encourage buying over renting...

Peachy Wed 20-May-09 12:59:30

Will there not be sufficient residential premises available post- olympics for MP purposes?

It's all just a disappointment.I gave up on the idea of politics as I didnt like the grabber associations and it seems I was right sad. The rep is keeping genuine people who want to really make a difference away. rather shite, no?

Good luck PW

Peachy Wed 20-May-09 13:01:19

M&S £!12 jeans may be great, but their £12.50 linen mix wide leg trousers are really great <<strokes new trousers>> LOL wink

Someone on another thread had a brilliant suggestion: Olympic Village. grin

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 13:03:56

M&S jeans surely only a 1p today? smile

Have you seen what's for 1p hmm

Not good.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 13:10:35

Query on BBC site re: external audits of future expenses being inaccessible to the general public due to Data Protection Act.

That cannot be allowed to happen. They must publish, listen to feedback and review at regular intervals.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 13:12:32

Spink wants limitations on second jobs. Harriet agrees re: conflict of interests and distraction.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 13:15:43

Here's another angle: £1250 cap on mortgage interest to generous - Harriet says those who became MPs in 2005 when the market 'was at its height' - boo, tough! (nicked from BBC site)

Harriet dismisses one night stands as constituting a partnership - quite funny!

MollieO Wed 20-May-09 13:15:52

All MPs expenses should be published on a website (some MPs already do this on their own sites).

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 13:15:57

too even

Jux Wed 20-May-09 13:18:26

Agree with Leningrad. £1250 is a huge amount; some people (ordinary ones) have trouble finding £400pm.

Unless, of course, the property becomes the property of the people once the MP leaves.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 13:19:48

Laing (con, female) furious at notion of 'barracks' - where would her kids live?

Must admit the halls idea, whilst funny, is a bit silly!

Harriet and Laing both say they don't want to encourage only young, single, child-free people into parliament.

Jux Wed 20-May-09 13:23:06

But if they live in East Anglia, for instance, why are they bringing their kids to London? Male MPs would leave their kids in the constituency home with wife and nanny. Surely female MPs can do the same?

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 13:23:55

Some con MP: Either MPs are elected representatives with outside interests, or professional politicians, which is it to be?

Peachy Wed 20-May-09 13:40:39

nobody should be prevented rom becoming an MP because they don't have access to a willing spouse or live in Anglia! however, halls can quite easily become flatlets; as students with famillies have specially provided accomodations so can they.

The olympic village idea was broadcast on GMTV the day sfter all this leaked


I used to commute from Somerset to London once a week when working; if we were there more than a night we were given £20 for an evening meal (daytime was caterd in), train ticket and HR booked us a room at a motel in Kennington. They were a charity so it seems to me had "exactrly" the same duty of care to the purse as the MP's, the difference is they managed it- amazing the impetud a checking system like the charities commission has.

jumpingbeans Wed 20-May-09 14:17:40

pleaseeeeeee get in fango, and i will vote for you to be the pm even if you have to camoflage(sp).. you know, "freinds of mine "fran and joe" type thing

England really isn't that big. You can get to one part from a nother and back plus do a working day. I have plenty of experience.

Where this is difficult or tiring, then arrange meetings on consecutive days and stay overnight in a reasonable, but not luxurious hotel.

This is what everyone else does fgs.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 16:08:54

They be Twittering...

@MumsnetTowers

<knows it's tweeting really, but prefer twittering>

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 16:11:49

They are here, waving out of a window:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Portcullis.house.bigben.arp.jpg

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 19:10:06

Am back.

Eastbound Jubilee line is a bugger at rush hour, non?

Was very interesting

Sorry for non-response to Tweets, couldn't see what was coming in.

I asked two qs (was quite competitive to get a question in - once again swotty seating placement in middle of front row was helpful):

1) should the disciplining of MPs be removed from the Standards and Privileges Committee and be made the responsibility of an independent body, or would this be too big a breach of parliamentary sovereignty (nobody answered this one); and
2) mumsnetters are very interested in Heather Brooke, and would particularly like to know how we can find out which MPs were blocking her FOI requests (this one was ilovemydog's I think). Normie Norm started bouncing in his seat when I asked this one. It also prompted the following exchange:

Julia Hobsbawm: So this is a hot topic on MN then?
Me: Oh yes.
JH: MNetters are interested in Healther Brooke? Is she a mother?
Me: ?
Jenni Russell from Grauniad: Don't be underestimating the intelligence of mothers, Julia!
JH: Oh God no sorry, that's not what I meant. It's just that Heather Brooke's not a mother, I don't think.

(She came up to me and apologised afterwards, and we had a little huddle with Jenni Russell who's a mate of Justine's apparently and very pro-MN.)

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 19:16:38

Great stuff, the woman deserves a medal! Heather, and you, of course pw.

OlympedeGouges Wed 20-May-09 19:23:12

well done wonk. Interesting slip from JH....
What were their answers?

morningpaper Wed 20-May-09 19:31:12

Wonka, I love your:

ME: ?

Is she a mother fgs

Well done!

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 19:44:38

Thanks Len

Anyway, Norman made a point of answering the second q - he obviously wants the bastards to be named and shamed.

He said: a) look at the list of MPs on the Commons Commission. That's Martin (bye-bye now), Harriet Harman (she really has not covered herself in glory over all this), Nick Harvey (LibDem, North Devon), David Maclean (villain of the piece: Cons, Penrith and the Border), Stuart Bell (co-villain, Lab, Middlesborough) and Alan Duncan (Con, Rutland and Melton).

b) Go to Hansard and look at the MPs who supported the third reading of David Maclean's private member's bill to exempt Parliament from FOI legislation. That's a long list, but I can post it here if you like, or stick it on my MN blog.

Hilarious!

Did you get an answer for who was blocking the requests? Was it the Speaker's Office?

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 19:46:47

Thanks mp. I was quite nonplussed by the question. But she did apologise a lot. And I like her dad (the only person whose autograph I have ever solicited).

justaboutspringtime Wed 20-May-09 19:46:48

Ooh PW, well done.

"IS she a mother." Well that MUST be the only reason I look at politics these days, I only listen to people who have utilised their reproductive organs successfully hmm

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 19:48:42

I need to do a shout out to An MNer Who Seems To Wish To Remain Anonyous But Who Gave Norman Baker's Exact Answer On A Thread Several Days Ago, if she's reading this.

justaboutspringtime Wed 20-May-09 19:48:42

Who is Julia Hobsbawm? If I google her all I get is supercharged PR conductor or something. She sounds like an overfunded international scientific experiment.

(And who is her dad? Is he a parent?)

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 19:49:58

anonyous?

Did I mention that Julia H apologised? grin

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 19:51:49

Julia H is a PR person - used to run Hobsbawm Macauley (sp?) with Sarah Brown but they had a big old falling out.

Her dad is Eric Hobsbawm, Marxist historian extraordinaire and fantastic writer.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 19:54:31

grin at 'Is he a parent?'

If you didn't see my Tweets, the hot news is that a lot of the MPs in the room were supporting John Bercow (Conservative but famously independently-minded) for Speaker (although apparently there's an odd situation in which Conservatives, broadly speaking, are supporting Labour's Frank Field (silly person IMO) and Labour is supporting Bercow); and the General Election is going to be on May 6 2010.

justaboutspringtime Wed 20-May-09 19:55:54

Oh. Is she the person who wrote a book about how jolly hard it was being a working parent when your (male) partner was SAH?

I'm afraid if it was I found the extracts less than tear-jerking.

But I'm delighted she apologised, maybe she can offer you a job PW? You are doing such a good job of PRing for Mumsnet.

(P.S. I am waiting for my lucky break when the Pope invites a Mumsnetter to the Vatican)

ronshar Wed 20-May-09 19:58:47

Two questions. Didnt you do well.

What exactly has being a mother got to do with anything? Surely we are sentient human beings first, then slaves to our offspring second. I have so much more time on my hands now so I can I can keep up with most of the shite coming out of parliament!!!!!

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 20:04:40

That's the one justa - think it got ripped to shreds on here (there's a surprise!)

Thanks Ronshar

Helena Kennedy was ruddy marvellous. I told her she has a lot of fans on here (did not specifically mention Pan's wish to lick her face). She is tremendously tiny, brilliant speaker, very quick and fluent (lawyer).

She said that this is a political moment that could be seized to great effect, but that at the moment too many MPs don't 'get' how furious people are. She said she's been speaking to doorstep canvassers, many of whom are knocking on a bit, and they are saying that they're being met with real fury on the doorsteps and a lot of them are saying they don't want to do it any more cos they're intimidated and pissed off.

She commented (as a Labour peer) that Labour have failed to engage properly with the constitutional reform agenda, but that one thing they have done - Freedom of Information legislation - led to these details being revealed, so they have done some good.

justaboutspringtime Wed 20-May-09 20:04:58

If the election is going to be on May 6 2010 are you going to cover that for Mumsnet too? We could have a special "PW reports from Westminster as Gordon Brown leaps into the Thames" sticky-thread.

justaboutspringtime Wed 20-May-09 20:06:58

ooh, I've always liked Helena Kennedy too. Not sure about the face-licking though, that's a bit familiar. I'd like to offer her a chocolate biscuit at toddler group and ask her if she got any sleep.

ronshar Wed 20-May-09 20:11:23

I'm glad Julia is a PR professional! We need more people in PR, really there arent enough people to tell us what we want and what we dont want.
I cant get rid of the feeling that it is PR professionals who have helped to create alot of the mess we are inhmm

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 20:12:29

HK also said that there's a misperception that voters are apathetic. She reckons they're not apathetic; they're unhappy, feel voiceless, fed up with stage-management of politics, know that politicans promise the earth to get elected and then don't do half of what they promised, feel that the major parties are too similar, distrust the culture of professional politicians and the conveyer belt from politics into the private sector (she gave the eg of Blunkett widening the use of DNA sampling hugely while Home Sec and then stepping directly on to the board of a DNA testing company when he left the cabinet. Which does stink to ruddy high heaven.)

She wants: written constitution (written with input from the electorate, not solely by politicians); funding of political parties (she admits this is a non-started in present climate); reduction in size of Commons and particularly Lords (she says the Lords expense scandals have yet to come out); greater powers for Select Committees, less power for whips; immediate moratorium on all appointments to Lords (including Martin) until situation has stabilised.

ronshar Wed 20-May-09 20:39:01

I think I would also like to lick HK faceblush
That all makes good soundbites and is probably what we would all like to have implemented.
I had forgotten about Martin and his elevation. Great just what we need more incompetant Lords.

Jux Wed 20-May-09 20:39:14

Fantastic. And two questions! Policywonk for Pope! er PM I mean.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 21:00:02

Thanks jux.

Do you think people agree with all those things, ron? I do, but it's a fairly liberal/reformist agenda. I think the public at large barely understand this argument, let alone support it (this probably sounds insulting but I do think it's true - say you want a written constitution and the average person will go 'eh? I thought we already had one?')

MollieO Wed 20-May-09 21:05:17

Not sure if I am surprised or not about HK advocating a written constitution. USA has one and I'm not sure I'd want any part of that.

Lords don't get paid so the only money they get is what they claim in expenses. Would make interesting reading I'm sure but not the double standards of MPs being paid to do a job and then effectively claiming another salary in addition.

Well done for getting two questions in PW.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 21:10:03

And so to Normie Normster. I still want to lick his face, he was marvellous. (For those who don't know, Norman Baker (LibDem, Lewes - fab town, fab MP) has been ploughing a lonely furrow on political transparency and Freedom of Information for years now, and he's been saying for ages that the public need to know what's been happening behind closed doors.)

Said that this is a Berlin Wall moment in British politics. He commented that the Commons 'feels' better today because MPs know they've begun to tackle the issue. The next Speaker will have a mandate because, for the first time, s/he will have been elected by private ballot (something that was unthinkable even a few days ago - I heard someone pshaw-ing the very idea of a secret ballot only a couple of days ago on the radio).

To some extent the new Speaker will be chosen by the public at large (in that MPs will take a close interest in any published opinion polls about the candidates); the public is finally taking ownership of the parliamentary process.

There needs to be a rebalancing of the relationship between the executive (government) and legislature (Commons/Lords); powers of appointment and declaration of war/peace need to be given to Parliament at large. No more guillotining of bills; they don't do it in the Lords so it's not necessary in the Commons either. (He gave the example of a debate yesterday in which just half an hour was allocated to the use of DNA samples.)

Importance of freedom of information; transparency is the key to a modern society and to giving power to the electorate. This whole issue has only come to light because of transparency measures.

He also sees more independents being elected at all levels, and a corresponding diminution in the power of the big parties.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 21:12:48

Is this all a bit too much like an A-Level politics seminar? grin [1989, Oxford and Cambridge Board, 'C', appeal comprehensively rejected]

It's an interesting debate Mollie. Why wouldn't you want one?

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 21:14:11

Good point re. Lords payment. I think HK is particularly incensed by peers selling themselves to lobbyists - she reckons it's endemic.

artichokes Wed 20-May-09 21:24:31

Hi Policy, this is all v interesting and good on you for getting two questions in. Sorry to disappear off the last thread but "blink-blink", all is well save my paranoia. I was going to suggest meeting you afterwards and taking you for a celebratory drink in one of our many bars but paranoia (& childcare probe) prevailed - sorry!

ronshar Wed 20-May-09 21:31:55

O&C 'B' heregrin. No appeal because I was amazed. So was my teacher.

I have to say I am not quite sure exactly how a written constitution would work here. So much of our life is "unwritten" IYSWIM.
Would more independant MP's be a good thing. I would like to think so, however it could have the effect of making the decision making process even more difficult.
I am loving this now. It has re awakened my love of politics.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 21:39:03

hi artichokes - shame, that would have been fun! I tried to break into the Portcullis House central atrium bit but my crappy photocopied drone-level pass would not get me in.

I think more independent MPs would be brilliant. Would really love it if the next GE saw a big influx - enough for them to form a little caucus of their own and start throwing their weight around.

artichokes Wed 20-May-09 21:43:47

The canteen in that Atrium is well worth breaking into - especially on jerk pork day. Prezza loves the jerk pork and is a sight to behold when eating it (btw it was childcare probs not a childcare probe, the latter sounds painful).

BigGitDad Wed 20-May-09 21:48:53

Wasn't Labour and Tony Blair elected on a mandate of reforming the House of Lords? In my opinion he bottled it and that is part of the trouble we have now. Our legislature is so large it is ridiculous.
I am not so sure we will see much of a change afterall this. British politics always seems to be a fudge and I feel this will be fudged too. There really needs to be a truly independant panel looking into this affair. Independant assessors to assess whether mp's have claims in appropriately and so on and what they should be allowed to claim for in future If the MP's choose their own assessors etc how can we expect impartiality?
I think in the upcoming euro elections the polling will be dire and UKIP will have a lot of supprt within that turn out.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 21:49:49

I did wonder about the probe

Are you going to have to get that post deleted? grin

Prezza pork-chomping saliva-spray-shock!

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 21:54:19

BGD, Helena Kennedy agrees with you re. Labour bottling constitutional reform agenda. To be fair, the Tories have not been helpful either - but let's face it, Labour could have got it through if it had wanted to.

She also agrees (as did the Tory on the panel) about reducing the number of MPs - but there's a big BUT with this one. One of the few things that the electorate like about our system is the availability of their MP through regular constituency surgeries. If you reduce the MPs and make each constituency correspondingly larger, it's going to be much more difficult for MPs to perform this role. Kennedy and the Tory (Jonathan Isaby from ConservativeHome.net) both pointed out that to compensate for this, you'd need to give a lot more power - and, crucially, MONEY - to local councils.

I think independent assessment is what's going to be happening from now on - can't see anyone accepting anything else at the moment.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 21:55:12

(artichokes, I'm going to come in to Westminster in the next session to start watching Select Committees for my blog so maybe we'll get the chance then?)

Yes, I understand who in the HOC objected to the FOI being implemented as far as MPs expenses.

But who was defending the requests in court as it got to Judicial Review stage...

ronshar Wed 20-May-09 21:58:43

I really really do not want that image in my head any more. I am still a little shaken by seeing Prezza eating at his favourite Chinese.

Artichoke can you tell me what you do or would you rather stay a bit shadysmile.

Are the majority of the Lords honest and competant or are they all a bit wanting?

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:03:22

Oh tish ILove, now you ask...

Shall I try emailing the Normster to ask?

<<<wishes that Lord Scarman was still around>>>

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:06:22

ILove... the answer 'the Speaker's office' doesn't do it for you, I suppose?

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:07:30

I remember reading John Stalker's book back in the 80s about his thwarted inquiry into the shoot-to-kill policy and thinking he was the bee's knees. Now he sells patio awnings with his dog. What's that about?

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:11:07

Just heard on the news a con MP has resigned over expenses - details in Telegraph tomorrow, must be bad if he's jumped.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:13:57

They did say someone was about to resign Len but the name didn't ring any bells.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:14:29

All this resigning malarkey - who has actually stopped being an MP (and being paid) right now, apart from MM?

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:15:49

Might be Viggers, but he'll see out the job until the next election, so another year on the payroll. I don't suppose they give a month's notice like we do.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:17:04

Jonathan Isaby of ConservativeHome wants: a recall mechanism (such as that which resulted in Arnie being elected Governor of California - think this is an interesting idea); more power to local councils; open primaries so that public has a greater say in choosing candidates (I guess this would require US-style registering of voters as party supporters?); abolition of the communications allowance (politics geeks will know this is a contested one because of 'Ashcroft money'); in the future, when dust has settled, higher salaries for MPs - comparable to, for example, GPs (who earn about £150,000 apparently!!) and headteachers (how much do they earn?)

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:17:20
policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:18:03

Good question Len, I dunno the answer. I guess they carry on getting paid until they actually resign their seats.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:18:23

Steen, that was it.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:20:46

Also, this seems incredible to me, can't they be kicked out/unknighted? A suspension is hardly enough for taking backhanders, why isn't it illegal?

news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8060003.stm

I don't understand the process.

So, Heather Brooke applies under the FOI for MPs expenses to be put into the public domain. This is rejected. She then lodges a claim through Judicial Review. What happens in the 5 years in between the initial request and Judicial Review which is why the expenses are being made public.

Who is defending the action? Who is funding it? Who has been consulted? There are some MPs who I am sure have nothing to hide. Is there general consultation amongst all MPs?

Sorry for all the questions, but since I'm on a roll: is Elvis still alive? smile

Oh and Lenin -- I meant perestroika as far as restructuring...

NormieNotSoSqueakyClean Wed 20-May-09 22:23:36

just for info Norman Baker expenses

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:23:40

Ok, so they were journos and the Lords didn't actually take the cash (very Damages!), still the intent was there, terrible.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:26:23

Can't believe you fancy him pol, hope he let you down gently...

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:26:53

Helena was furious about that case Len, and she reckons there's a lot of it going on in the Lords - that's why she wants all appointments stopped until this whole crisis has been resolved.

Re. your question about discipline: that's what my first question (below) referred to. Basically, Parliament is the highest court in the land; nobody can kick out a member of Parliament (Commons or Lords) except their peers. The Standards and Privileges Committees (one for HoC, one for Lords) are the ones who dole out sanctions where necessary. Lots of people might think, especially now, that this is a function that ought to be farmed out to an independent body. BUT then you've destroyed parliamentary sovereignty, and left Parliament vulnerable in the case of swivel-eyed maniacs taking over the independent disciplinary body (as opposed to swivel-eyed maniacs taking over Parliament - we're used to that).

Joshua Rozenburg was in the audience and asked a question about sovereignty. He reckons that farming out decisions about MPs' pay to an independent body is unconstitutional 'cos of the sovereignty issue.

It's interesting I think. Don't know what the answer is. (Better MPs and more transparency, I suppose.)

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:31:04

Are they going to publish expenses on a quarterly basis?

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:32:12

I DO NOT fancy Stormin Norman. But I would put my nice new Monsoon coat over a puddle for him to walk over. I'm sure he would demur though.

ILove... 'Who is defending the action?' The Commons Commission and the Speaker's Office, I think.

'Who is funding it?' We are, sweetheart! Thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on the best lawyers in the land.

'Who has been consulted?' Basically, the Commons Commission decides, presumably after taking soundings from party leaderships. There's no open debate among MPs, but as you'll see from the long list of MPs who voted in favour of FOI exemption, this sort of anti-transparency action had huge support among MPs.

'Is Elvis alive?' If Elvis were alive, he'd be dead by now.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:33:59

Righto ilove, I was thinking openess/transparency!

Good article in G2 recently about Heather Brooke and how it all came to pass (online), she's a bit peed off that it looks like someone leaked/flogged the raw data to The Telegraph who are now getting all the credit when she doggedly pursued this for donkey's.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:36:20

NormieNotSo, I can see through your dastardly disguise wink

I did see that about his expenses but nobody seems to be making very much hay with it.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:38:18

I've just bookmarked The Telegraph's website - will I be excommunicated by commie comrades?

theyoungvisiter Wed 20-May-09 22:39:11

Can't MP's pay be pegged to a senior civil service grade?

That would also stop them having to vote on it, and having to get pay rises in by the stupid, "let's fool the constituents by creating a byzantine system they will never understand" route.

They are paid ridiculously little - it's stupid to have a situation where you can have a minister earning far less than the permanent secretary in their dept.

But it would be political suicide for any of them to say so, so you've got this silly situation.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:39:20

HB deserves a special citizen's medal.

When I asked the q about her, Julia H did wonder aloud why she had not been all over the papers.

theyoungvisiter Wed 20-May-09 22:41:17

BTW I heart Helena Kennedy grin

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:41:17

Len, that triggers a 'Vote Conservative' placard to spontaneously erect itself in your front garden.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:42:39

YV - that's pretty much what HK and Jenni Russell said. HK suggested a County Court judge.

Joggler Wed 20-May-09 22:45:21

who the hell is heather brooke

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:46:32

<scurries out into street in jammies, sticks con placard in recycling bin>

ronshar Wed 20-May-09 22:48:16

I remember a couple of years ago reading that it was the speakers office blocking the FOI request. Also it made a big deal about the amount of tax payers money that was being used to prevent us from seeing the expense accounts.

As I understand it
House of Commons back staff stopping the tax payers from receiving information about how tax payers money is being spent. With the approval and encouragement of the ex speaker.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:49:18

THEN <dogged> we had Steve Richardson from the Independent. Had never heard of him (sorry Steve) but he was funny and did very good impersonations (Harold Wilson, Blair and Tony Benn).

On independent MPs, he said he'd just spent two weeks on a cruise with Martin Bell and Esther Rantzen (don't think they were together) and it had put him off the idea of independent MPs for life. (Don't think ER is an MP though, unless I missed a really big meeting.)

He talked about how easily new MPs (and presumably civil servants?) get sucked into the parliamentary culture and soon forget how things would appear to outsiders ('strangers', as they call us).

Another good point: voters are confused and asking for mutually contradictory things. eg, they want 'strong leadership' but they also want MPs to hold the government to account. These things are pretty much incompatible and the public needs to decide which is more important.

If we decide accountability is more important than strong government, then the media will also have to change its tone, and stop behaving as though the government's loss of a parliamentary vote is the end of the world.

He talked about Blair and co 'showing off' about how thoroughly they controlled Labour MPs.

He also said that this issue has made him support electoral reform (PR) for the first time. Blair once said that the media was his only effective opposition; this is undemocratic.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:49:49

Do you know, we're not going on holiday until after June 4th because I want to make sure I vote - for anyone other than Labour/Con (spit), will vote do Lib Dem for council though as they might oust the Tories around here and Green for Euro.

Bloody, bloody stupid self-serving idiots (some of them).

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:50:27

Joggler - the woman who pursued the matter of MPs' expenses through the courts using freedom of information requests. None of this would have come out without her.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:52:41

ER threatening to stand, says here she has, but not confirmed I don't think. I'm afraid that some hysterics in the jungle weren't encouraging. I only heard about them mind, never actually watched it <whistles innocently>:

www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/3626938/esther-rantzen-mp.thtml

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:52:43

Then I had some coffee and Julia H apologised to me and Jenni R was nice to me (she's very glam).

Then I went to the loo.

The End.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 22:54:12

Oh Christ. That's the downside of independent MPs I suppose - farking 'personalities'.

theyoungvisiter Wed 20-May-09 22:54:24

Oh PW this is all awful! As if the one thing this country needs is MORE political disaffectism (is that a word?)

Don't rip up the sign Leningrad - or come the spring, VOTE TORY will spontaneously appear in your herbaceous border, picked out in marigolds.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:54:32

Re: lack of effective opposition; Duncan and Harriet were practically snogging during PMQs today.

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:56:14

<faints at thought of marigolds in herbaceous border>

Will definitely have a pink, not blue rinse though smile

theyoungvisiter Wed 20-May-09 22:56:16

Oh god. Will they all have to wear white suits a la Martin Bell?

The sheer sanctimoniousness of question time will be unbearable - can you imagine ER barracking - shudder shudder

LeninGrad Wed 20-May-09 22:58:18

Jenni R looked fab on her site, thought she had one or two suspect things to say though, must read more closely.

Well done pol, I wannabe a mover and a shaker!

I think it's true they all lose touch. Look at the buildings etc, it's a million miles away from an ordinary existence.

Brill. Well done, PW. Very proud that you were there today, representing MN and all that we stand for. Hun.

grin

<legs it>

ronshar Wed 20-May-09 23:01:37

I think ER has just announced her intention to run for parliament at next GE.
Interesting. I loved her in that ancestors programme.

I have no idea who our MEP is. Our local council has been kneecapped by the government for years. Massive underfunding. We have a nasty Lib party and a con party run by the usual charactatures, a major with big moustache, local business man and his plastic put up daughter, a man who is on lots of commitees and has a very dubious desicion making process.
Not much of an incentive to vote really. And I always vote.

ronshar Wed 20-May-09 23:04:45

Maybe I should check my spelling a little closerblush

PW, what exactly did Julia apologise for?

LupusinaLlamasuit Wed 20-May-09 23:07:39

<ahem>

read my thread

<quack>

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 23:08:10

Thanks all, hello BIWI

YV, it could be awful or it could be great. I was heartened that, broadly, the lefties (HK and NB) thought the whole scandal will have a positive outcome.

Ron, she apologised for appearing to imply that mothers could only be interested in other mothers. I think. grin

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 23:09:56

Which one is it - the one about how long it takes you to reach orgasm?

<ponders>

Is the quacking a clue?

Do you quack when you cum?

<will have to get post deleted>

LupusinaLlamasuit Wed 20-May-09 23:10:39
LupusinaLlamasuit Wed 20-May-09 23:11:36

You must have me confused with another llama.

I never orgasm. Too many fecking kids.

grin

And swine flu.

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 23:12:13

Ooh YV, COMPLETELY agree with what you're saying on that Hazel Blears thread.

MollieO Wed 20-May-09 23:18:01

To answer your question from hours ago PW (have been distracted by writing out 5yr old party invites). I like the fact that our constitution is shaped by experience. I also don't like the various hijacking of constitutional rights that is endemic in the USA - eg NRA and the right to bear arms.

If you have a written constitution then you are on a slippery slope towards an elected judiciary and all that that entails.

Fabulous, pw - well done on your swotty efficient two questions.

Esther has apparently confirmed that she will be standing at the next election, btw www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/3626938/esther-rantzen-mp.thtml

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 23:26:10

Thanks fp grin

LOL at the third comment down on that link: 'Its a very good idea that she's standing. And when no-one votes for her perhaps at long last she and her agent will go away and leave us alone.'

noopska Wed 20-May-09 23:27:44

went onto mumsnet as i had been missing the G20 thread so thanks for this

mumsnet as a political force.. nice one pw for represnting so well once more

thought you might like to know when i went out onto the roof at the houses of parliament there was men in costumes drinking wine out of silver goblets

policywonk Wed 20-May-09 23:37:53

Thanks noopska. Were they throwing paupers off the roof as well?

I probably should go to bed now. Thanks for letting me do this today, was very interesting. Even though I made the wrong turning at Embankment tube, walked all the way up to Temple, and had to turn around and walk all the way back again. In uncomfortable shoes in slightly humid weather.

On the upside, I got my preferred trousers on and my fastenings did not ping across the room as I had been fearing.

SomeGuy Thu 21-May-09 01:29:06

I had the (ex) leader of the NF teach me Politics A Level. I got an A (can't remember the board, sorry). wink

Are all the MPs who are leaving office in disgrace going to get their full pensions? No one seems to be talking about this, but I think they can get full pensions after one term (which is shocking in itself and should be changed) so they should definatly not get them if they are forced out!

theyoungvisiter Thu 21-May-09 07:49:50

sorry, went to bed but thank you for the thumbs up on the Blears thread, PW. I was beginning to feel like the only person on MN who thought a politican's actions were more important than odgy dye-jobs (though I know that's not true really - it just felt like it for a second).

edam Thu 21-May-09 09:49:24

Btw, comparison with they pay of GPs is a bit misleading. It's only partners in GP practices who earn anything like £100k - basically they have bought a share in the GP practice, taking out a mortgage to do so. The partners kind of divvy up what the practice earns, deduct costs such as staff, equipment and premises, and take a share of the profits.

But a huge proportion of GPs are salaried doctors, who don't own the practice, and earn well under £100k, let alone £150k. They aren't exactly on the minimum wage, but comparing MP pay against the very few top earners in any other profession is a bit of skulduggery.

Btw, those GPs who do earn ££££s do it as a result of a new contract agreed by particularly stupid government + civil servants who thought it was a good idea to tell GPs what to do - they have boxes to tick and if they tick enough of them (putting all patients with heart disease on a register and getting people's cholesterol levels down) they get money.

Ministers and civil servants failed to realise GPs are a. very bright and b. small businessmen/women good at extracting the most from any system. And c. pissed off by being treated like robots.

They thought GPs were crap and would struggle to hit the targets. Completely underestimated what GPs were already doing and set the targets too low.

So it is entirely the government's fault that GP pay for prinicpals has gone up hugely!

edam Thu 21-May-09 09:50:24

(Am not a GP btw, and do not earn anything like the same amounts.)

GivePeasAChance Thu 21-May-09 10:20:13

I keep missing the MN political activist threads and by the time I get here there are thousands of incredible intelligent posts that do not do for skim reading..............

However, all sounds fabulously exciting PW - well done !

Just on the expenses thing............I know that this is endemic in the system - local councillors are also claiming obscene amounts and treating expenses as a way to up their salaries......and so this is going to rumble on for a long time.

And personally, the only thing that needs changing is the transparency. The system is absolutely fine IMHO. They are not allowed to claim for things which are not needed to complete their duties as MPs. And I am guessing that a duck island (WTF?) doesn't help someone do their MP duties ! So, so long as there is transparency, for me the system is fine.

As for those whose integrity is questioned. Just get them out. There is no justification and no "it's the system's fault" and "it was within the rules". It wasn't. They were broken and get them out.

LeninGrad Thu 21-May-09 11:22:39

Interesting AnguaVonUberwald, so they get a pension for life, even if they only serve for a year for some reason or other?

morningpaper Thu 21-May-09 11:37:03

I had a great idea

Let the Queen move to Windsor and convert Buck Palace into 600 luxury flats

Problem solved

justaboutspringtime Thu 21-May-09 11:47:23

Superduper.

Can you ring her and let her know?

EffieGadsby Thu 21-May-09 11:48:58

MPs do not get a 'full' pension for life - the amount they receive entirely relates to how long they have served for, and how long they have contributed to their pension fund for. If they've been an MP for 20 years, they get around £30k annual pension. This is, of course, considerable compared with most of the public sector, but if they have only held office for a single term, they only receive a fraction of that amount.

The pensions are hugely subsidised however; the MPs pay in 10% of their salaries. The rest is state funded.

edam Thu 21-May-09 11:50:23

ten per cent of your salary isn't 'heavily subsidised' am sure when I was in a company pension scheme I was only paying in three per cent or something (will only get a crap pension mind you).

EffieGadsby Thu 21-May-09 11:59:50

edam it is heavily subsidised. The ratio of how much the state pays into MPs pension funds compared with what they contribute themselves is currently about 3:1. In my public sector job, the employer matched my contributions, so the ratio was just 1:1. That's very normal, I believe.

edam Thu 21-May-09 12:09:36

Oh, I see what you mean, read your first post as MPs paying in ten per cent of salary = heavily subsidised. Think you are now saying 'employer' (i.e. taxpayer) contributes three times as much as the MP pays in?

Think my employer merely matched my contributions (and has now closed the final salary scheme anyway so won't be any money left by the time I retire).

EffieGadsby Thu 21-May-09 12:36:49

Yep, that's it - for the 10% of their salary that they pay in each year (£6,476), the state contributes three times that (about £19,428), to keep the pot at the level which will give them their proper pension. Nice work if you can get it...

morningpaper Thu 21-May-09 13:31:29

Effie if you have been a senior person in the NHS for 20 years you will get a not-dissimilar figure

edam Thu 21-May-09 13:34:33

If you have been a senior person in the NHS for 20 years, bloody well done on surviving that long and avoiding being dumped when your organisation is merged, absorbed and merged again and the politicians need a scalp to claim... (although the ones who are up to no good do remarkably well).

morningpaper Thu 21-May-09 13:37:57

I know plenty of people who have worked in the the NHS all their lives and now manage wards etc. If you work there for most of your working life you will get half your salary as your pension when you retire...

theyoungvisiter Thu 21-May-09 13:39:59

but edam - that's equally true (if not more so) of MPs. They are up for re-election every 4 years and can be dumped by their constituents or parties at any point.

I would be very surprised if a higher proportion of MPs survived 20 years than did NHS employees.

Also - not sure about this so would be interested if anyone knows - I presume they don't get any kind of redundancy package if they are not re-elected?

Why does a written constitution mean elected judiciary? The Supreme Court Justices in the USA are appointed.

EffieGadsby Thu 21-May-09 14:05:46

[starts scanning NHS job vacancies...]

ronshar Thu 21-May-09 14:48:41

TYV, o yes they do. I think £40,000 resettlement package. I may be wrong and I dont have time to double check right now. But I know they def get a financial package if they loose their seat at GE. Rubbish isnt it. That is just saying, dont worry if you are crap at your job and your constituents hate you so voted you out, here a few sacks of cash for your trouble.
It is something to do with helping them to restart in a career away from politics!!!!
I wonder if they will pay me to restart my nursing career when I go back after my children go to school. I dont think so, do you?

EffiePerine Thu 21-May-09 16:05:40

TYV: wasn't pegging MP's salaries to those of civil servants an episode of Yes PM? grin

theyoungvisiter Thu 21-May-09 19:54:51

lol - you could be right Effie!

All humanity is in Yes PM so it would not be surprising if they came up with this first.

BigGitDad Thu 21-May-09 22:23:28

Employees in the NHS get a final salary pension It is an 80th scheme meaning they get 1/80th of their final salary for each year they work. So if you work for 40 yrs you get half your salary 40/80th.
I believe and I stand to be corrected that MP's have a 30th pension scheme. For each year they work they get 1/30th of their final salary.
I agree that not many MP's work there for that long but that pension is a pretty good one. bear in mind most MP's have second jobs (so I am led to believe) and so probably additional pension provision.
Given how the govt have screwed pensions in this country I do believe they should not be allowed a final salary scheme and should have a money purchase scheme like most of us have in the private sector and so if the economy nose dives so will their pensions just like the rest of us.

The thing that's annoyed me about this is not so much the claims themselves, but the fact that, as "expenses", this money comes tax-free. the system must be radically overhauled.

I think MPs should get subsidised travel or some kind of hall of residence accommodation. Travel should not be fully paid - perhaps then they won't let the train companies put fares up so often. and that's it. they can pay for their own lunches, just like the rest of us. and furniture, cleaning etc will be provided in their residences.

having said that, I think perhaps they should possibly do less constituency work (that being the justification for the two homes thing). maybe local councillors could do that, and give regular reports to the MP - it's silly to have them running up and down the country in order to act as "glorified social workers" as some do.

as for the salaries...I think civil servants' salaries are irrelevant. I'm tempted to say MPs should earn the national median wage (25k or thereabouts), so they know how their constituents live. but I guess we should put them in the top 10% of wage earners - which would be 40k (not the 60-odd they get). the argument that "quality candidates" wouldn't do it for that much is, frankly, insulting to 90% of the population (many of them of very high quality themselves).

KristinaM Fri 22-May-09 01:18:06

policywork - coudl you please identify which of these trousers are the super duper linen ones?

oh and BTW i agree with parliamentary hotel idea. maybe they could find an old RBS building and convert it. since we already own 70% of it anyway

theyoungvisiter Fri 22-May-09 08:32:29

the problem with all these slightly punitive ideas (less money, little pension, halls of residence) is that it will disadvantage exactly the kind of candidate you want.

In my opinion, what makes a bad MP?
People of independent wealth, by and large, who have little or no appreciation of what it's like to live on a salary and rely on a pension.
People who are career politicians and spend their lives in Westminster.
People who use their position to further outside business interests and sit on multiple boards of directors etc.
People in it mainly for the power trip.

What does the HoC need in my opinion?
More people of moderate/ordinary wealth
More women and people with families
More former professionals with experience of living and working in the world before they entered Westminster
More people in it for altruistic reasons, not for the influence they can wield.

IMO, many of these very punitive changes would put off the type of people who SHOULD be entering politics, and leave the field clear for the type of people who SHOULDN'T. If you are a working professional, perhaps a head teacher or a family lawyer, with a family and a mortgage, you are simply not going to enter politics if it requires you to take a pay cut, give up your job (and the best earning years of your pension) in return for an uncertain pension pot, commute miles and miles at your own expense, and live in a tiny flat in Westminster away from your family.

I am not saying the current system is right, but punishing MPs too hard will only mean that only those of independent wealth, who don't need a realistic salary or a pension, will be able to enter which would be much worse for British politics than a few people claiming dubious coffee tables and bath plugs.

theyoungvisiter Fri 22-May-09 08:47:15
edam Fri 22-May-09 08:55:17

Lots of people who have to work away from home have accommodation provided with the job. No-one's suggested they should be stuck in studio flats.

And the 'no-one will want to do the job unless we pay them £££££££' has been used by MPs (especially the Tories) as a barrier to reform for donkeys years. All that 'we need to sit all night and make it impossible for anyone who has children to look after so we can keep our lucrative second jobs'. Doesn't wash with an electorate that earns, on average, £25k.

And the pension pot isn't uncertain - as we've established, it's very generous. So they might lose their job at an election - big deal, many of us get made redundant more than once in five years. Without such a whacking pay-off!

Maybe bringing MPs into line with the electorate would encourage MORE ordinary people to stand.

Agree with you about more women, though, it's shocking that only 15% of MPs are female. At that rate, each woman MP is essentially a token.

theyoungvisiter Fri 22-May-09 09:15:10

sorry, I was not saying that teh current pension entitlement is uncertain, I was saying that if the pension pot were reduced as BigGitDad suggests then it would be uncertain.

If, by being elected, you lose the final years of your secure final salary scheme then yes, I think you should be compensated for that.

And all the people saying "There woudl be loads of candidates who would do it for national average wage" - really? Would you? Why aren't you standing then, if the job is so alluring?

I don't think there is such a glut of superb candidates out there - particularly not superb female candidates of moderate wealth with kids.

theyoungvisiter Fri 22-May-09 09:18:06

I think second jobs should be banned btw. An MP should be a full-time job and salaried accordingly.

policywonk Fri 22-May-09 12:32:29

ILove - re. your point about written constitution and election of judges: I don't think the two necessarily have to go together, but written constitutions tend to adhere to the separation of powers (judiciary, legislature and executive must be kept separate). If the executive and legislature cannot appoint judges because of the separation of powers, then they often end up being elected instead. (As you say, the Supreme Court judges are appointed - I'm not sure how this happened, think it must be an anomaly; most judges in the US are elected.)

I'm not sure whether elected judges are necessarily worse than the system we have at the moment, which results in an incredibly socially biased selection of senior judges.

policywonk Fri 22-May-09 12:34:57

Kristina/YV, it was Peachy with the linen trousers - I just have the standard £12 jeans!

policywonk Fri 22-May-09 12:37:15

I think a BIG reason for the poor calibre of parliamentary candidates is the stranglehold that the major parties have over the selection process. In order to get anywhere near being a candidate, you have to have had your tongue wedged up the local party chairman/party leadership's arse for years on end. In particular, you must on no account have demonstrated any inclination to think for yourself or ask awkward questions.

One idea that came up a couple of times at the debate was open primaries for candidate selection. I like this idea, I think.

policywonk Fri 22-May-09 12:42:13

OK, to return to separation of powers; it's to do with checks and balances - see 'The American example' on this page.

justaboutspringtime Fri 22-May-09 15:08:59

Can I just say, this is great? I used to be really good at arguing about politics and now I have baby-brain, but threads like this do all my thinking for me.

(sheep alert)

I was responding to MollieO's comment re: written constitution going toward an elected judiciary, citing the US example. I don't think it's comparable as the US does have elected judiciary, but at Supreme Court level (and Superior Court level at State level) it's on an appointed system. But do agree with her observation of the 2nd Amendment being hijacked by the NRA.

But if you look at written constitutions, they have been post revolution (US, France, South Africa) so I'm not sure that a written constitution would have the same impact in the UK.

An unwritten constitution obviously provides flexibility, although the rights are not entrenched. Does it matter?

The key point though is the judiciary, who in my opinion, are impartial and independent. The only scandal I can recall in recent memory was when Lord Hoffman didn't declare his association with Amnesty during the Pinochet trial.

I can't see how a written constitution would have been of any benefit these past few weeks re: MPs expenses. If anything, it shows how the current system does work as it was based on going through the process.

policywonk Fri 22-May-09 19:09:22

I don't think a written constitution would have had a direct bearing on the exes scandal. But you could argue that the whole 'gentleman's club' culture would not have evolved had we had a written constitution; the people, broadly speaking, would have had much more access to information about what our representatives were up to. But it all depends on the quality of the constitution, I suppose.

justaboutspringtime Fri 22-May-09 19:12:28

Does anyone think Rowan Williams is right?

He wants an end to the witch-hunt on the grounds that it will damage democracy.

justaboutspringtime Fri 22-May-09 19:13:23

Rowan Williams is right, but the problem is that politics should be setting the agenda, rather than reacting to it. There aren't any big ideas or leaders in any political party that I can see. There are lots of campaigns, and single issue politics.

I want to be inspired smile

justaboutspringtime Fri 22-May-09 19:25:45

I have to say that I am too pg-stupid at the moment to decide if he is right or not. But I do know you are much missed on the termination support thread, ilovemydog - do please pop back and say hi!

policywonk Fri 22-May-09 19:40:09

The Guardian once had a big headline 'What is Rowan going to do for the Church?' and I thought, well, hang on a minute, I've got a lot on my plate already. grin

I agree that the public's anger is a bit disproportionate (when you consider the relatively muted response to illegal wars, removal of basic liberties, pursuit of Trident etc etc). But he seems to think that the public had a lot of respect for MPs before all this kicked off, but they really didn't; I think most of the public (wrongly IMO) is anti-politics, full stop, and has always regarded almost all politicians very suspiciously. This affair has just provided an outlet for something that's been brewing for a long time. Perhaps it's a particularly effective outlet because it's a cross-party issue?

I do think it was crass of Dorries to compare this with the McCarthy hearings.

policywonk Fri 22-May-09 19:43:44

Actually I think Iorek had a very good point further up/down the thread:

'The huge indignation that is focussed on MP's at the moment is surely fuelled in part by the rather more diffuse and impotent anger felt at the way in which wealth (on a far far greater scale) has been transferred from the many to the few during the excesses of the boom and consequent bust. If confidence is to be restored in politics it needs to go much further than reforming MP's expenses. I would want to see politicians starting to talk in very direct terms about social justice.'

justaboutspringtime Fri 22-May-09 19:46:30

Ooh yes, Iorek's point is nice. You see, I can only nod at others' opinions ATM, it is dreadful.

edam Sat 23-May-09 09:27:17

Rowan Williams should know better than to defend wrongdoing. OR to suggest a cover-up is better than the truth being exposed.

And it's ridiculous to say we should call a stop now. A. it's impossible - the Telegraph still has thousands of documents to go through and who knows what's in there?

B. It would be bloody unfair to all the decent MPs (and I'm sure there must be a fair proportion - I hope, anyway), leaving them all tarred with the same brush.

Williams is right that this is damaging democracy but actually 'this' the wrongdoing of MPs, not the public reaction, which is morally correct.

It is A Good Thing that people are outraged by immoral behaviour. And disapprove of fraud and exploitation.

When things have gone very badly wrong, you need a full account before you can start to put things right. Otherwise you end up with a situation akin to the Catholic church repeatedly failing to take responsibility for child abuse.

justaboutspringtime Sat 23-May-09 10:04:55

"Williams is right that this is damaging democracy but actually 'this' the wrongdoing of MPs, not the public reaction, which is morally correct" - Yes I think this is true too. Am I contradicting myeslf?

I'm always on here defending Rowan Williams, but I don't understand why he is making this point at all. Apparently he said that it was important to preserve the idea that serving as a politician could be "a calling worthy of the most generous instincts". So I'm not sure why he should think the solution might be to ignore the complete failing of such instincts.

Unusually, it's the head of the Catholic church who seems to have made a more sensible (if rather obvious point) that "people need their own moral sense as well as rules".

If we agree to condemn not only the obviously fraudulent, but also the ones who have profitted entirely within the rules, then we can only do so if we have a clear notion of morality when it comes to finances which is driven by something other than the pursuit of profit. And I am not sure that there is any kind of consensus on this at the moment. It is hardly surprising, when governments seem to have believed their chief purpose to be the nurture of "wealth creators" (who have indeed created unimaginable wealth for themselves) that MP's would regard their own salaries and expenses as embarrassingly modest by comparison, and, like those wealth creators, do everything possible within the rules to maximise their own profits. Unfortunately for the MP's, they don't have the luxury enjoyed by ex-senior bankers and private equity bosses of slinking off unseen to the Caribbean or wherever until it all blows over.

edam Sat 23-May-09 15:07:28

V. good points (again) Iorek.

edam Sat 23-May-09 15:08:30

(the FT had a headline along the lines of 'Now THEY can't criticise US' about the MP's exes v. City greed. Darn.)

theyoungvisiter Sat 23-May-09 17:47:42

I must say though, I do find the moral indignation of the press a tad hard to swallow.

Considering the ENORMOUS salaries of senior editors and their generally pretty relaxed attitude to expenses and perks in kind, their moral indignation over MPs earnings is hypocritical to say the least.

Ok, what they earn is the business of their bosses and shareholders, but the "holier than thou" editorials do stick in the throat.

I think Rowan Williams has something of a point in that the condemnation of MPs is peculiarly personal, lip-licking in tone, and not focussed on the most grievous excesses. It's not the content which should be reigned in but the tone - I dislike the way some sections of the media are deliberately whipping up the public frenzy.

IMO they should post the whole lot on the internet now and let the bloggers loose. Stop the drip, and start the debate.

edam Sat 23-May-09 18:32:39

Journalists aren't paid out of public funds, aren't part of the state and don't make the laws everyone else lives by. There's no comparison.* And the reporters who are digging out this story aren't well-paid - one of my friends took a cut when he went to the Mail (yes, I know, everyone hates the Mail, I'm not fond of it either).

*Bar the Beeb but that's a tad different as it's funded directly by the licence fee and news is part of the public service remit in return for said fee.

KristinaM Sat 23-May-09 18:59:34

i agree with edam. a higher standard of probity is expected when you are spending the tax payers money

theyoungvisiter Sat 23-May-09 19:48:41

I agree with that Edam and I'm not saying it's comparable at all - I was just making the point that there is a lot of gleeful moralising and finger pointing going on for the sake of a good story. It's being dressed up as the ol' "shining sword of truth" malarky, and some of it is, but a lot of the column inches are just plain old schadenfreude.

I'd rather see the facts in black and white and make up my own mind, I don't feel the endless moralising by the columnists is adding much to the debate.

That's what I meant about releasing the rest of the data now.

(btw I realise that rank and file journalists don't earn big money - I have a lot of friends in the industry - but the biggest moralisers on this particular issue have tended to be the celebrity columnists)

edam Sat 23-May-09 19:53:02

Oh yeah, there is often rank hypocrisy when the leader writers wag their fingers sadly over someone who is behaving no worse than the people who run the papers do. But still..

Telegraph still has thousands of documents to go through. Not sure MPs would be too happy if they just put them up on the web, given they include addresses and bank details and so on. It's the original records of the receipts so EVERYTHING is on there.

policywonk Sat 23-May-09 20:28:13

Re. Iorek and edam's very good points about the profit motive and a general lack of moral sense in our society - Peter York (who was at this debate thing for some reason) remarked that he didn't think it was a coincidence that all this has come out just at the time that a political will to tax the rich/cap vast salaries finally seemed to be appearing. I think he was implying that some fat cat types might have been involved in the leaking.

And on YV's point about journos earning loads: Jenni Russell made this point, saying something like 'I doubt anyone in this room earns much less than twice what an MP earns'. That was another '?' moment for me, but I guess she was probably right about most of the people there (journos mostly).

My query would be about how MPs feel that they can reconcile their desire for increasing amounts of information about us (the 'if you've nothing to hide then what's the problem' school of politics) and their own desire for privacy and the belief that the public have no entitlement to know anything about them.

The repution of politics will not improve until there is some parity between politicians and us, the great unwashed.

That is very interesting, policy. I have been thinking that it was odd that all this should have come via the Telegraph when so many Tories were obviously going to be implicated. It has certainly been extremely effective in taking attention away from the more slippery targets in the financial industry.

theyoungvisiter Sat 23-May-09 21:38:59

btw I see Policy already mentioned Nadine Dorries but did anyone else larf on hearing her speech?

Sooooooo misguided, I almost wondered if the Telegraph had written it for her, just to add fuel to the flames grin

Nadine Dorries made me cringe. Anthony Steen on the other hand was utterly hilarious.

LeninGrad Sat 23-May-09 23:02:12

Do journalists really earn that much, I had no idea.

Yes, it's not getting us any closer to social equality or stopping the world so we can all get off for a minute is it?

Still, it needed to come out and I'd rather there was tension between big business and politicians than not. Seems to me that too many of the latter were in thrall to the former and maybe there will be even more of an incentive for that to change now anyway, especially if the politicians were dropped in it by big business.

Once the fuss has died down, of course.

Quattrocento Sat 23-May-09 23:12:13

Policy, I heart you, I do really but this conspiracy theory is only one stop away from Barking.

I think it was Peter York's conspiracy theory, not Policy's, Quattro. What is it particularly that seems so far fetched to you?

V much agree with you, Lenin, about big business and politicians. Would heartily recommend Robert Peston's book "Who Runs Britain" on this subject.

edam Sun 24-May-09 20:24:51

Most journalists don't earn anything like that much. A few star columnists and very senior people on the nationals might.

Think I said further down my friend took a cut to go to a national from a trade mag - he must have been in the early 30ks at Emap, so Mail obviously pays reporters less than that.

One of the magazines I edited was VERY tightfisted. I had someone who was very junior acting up to cover a more senior post while we advertised. My publisher wouldn't let me pay her anything extra for it, all I could get her were some shopping vouchers (£100 IIRC). That's for acting up in a senior role for three months! (She got the job, actually, was v. v. good.)

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