Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Frying High

At last a sensible comment on the MPs expenses debacle! Thank you Stephen Fry.

When I see that an MP has expensed a few pounds on dog food or chocolate or shampoo I don't think I could never vote for that person again.

I think firstly that as an MP you can and should be allowed to charge for the reasonable costs of doing your job and I can't really tell which things fall into that category and which don't. What doesn't seem reasonable is the notion in the papers that the cost of an MPs office is in some way an addition to his or her salary. No-one running a florists in Swindon considers the cost of renting their premises a part of their income. MPs need offices. As for the other things - "reasonable" is a term that means different things to all of us, if you're entitled to expense for food then what I think is a moderate restaurant might seem extravagant to another person who only buys sandwiches and inadequate to another who has grown up with fine dining.

Secondly I think I don't want to vote for someone who spends six hours a day going through old receipts making sure that everything has been carefully accounted for and filed under the right heading.

I'm sure there are plenty of MPs who have shelled out from their own pocket to pay for snacks or coffees for a meeting and then realised they didn't ask for a receipt and effectively paid for something that technically the taxpayer should have paid for. These are trivial amounts of money compared to the cost of for instance the totally pointless war we're still engaged in. MPs should be getting on with sorting out poverty, inequality, injustice, crime, healthcare, education and international affairs. And the media should get on with chasing politicians over these things and stop blowing up a story that isn't really a story.


Mark Thompson said...

Of course it's a story Kate! It goes right to the heart of what it is to be an elected representative of the people.

The decisions MPs make about going to war, the NHS, schools, the economy etc. cannot be completely separated from the decisions they make about what they think they can claim for from the public purse. If they are sloppy about their expenses then we can expect them to be the same when they are using our money in other areas. Indeed having read plenty of political autobiographies I know this to be the case but the recent revelations underline this.

butterflywings said...