Having watched ‘Inside the Commons’ – a fly one the wall series about the workings of Parliament – I am not quite sure if I am utterly amazed or utterly disgusted with the political process in the United Kingdom. I feel like I am watching a befuddled relative who is unable to comprehend that world has moved on, a world that they cannot make sense of or cope with.
To the background of this amazing series, amazing I feel almost stunned into incredulity, is the day to day shenanigans of our elected Members of Parliament playing their Private School games that leave us wondering what, if any, grasp of reality these people have. The latest of these is the ‘sting’ on two prominent MPs in a ‘cash for questions (or at least influence) conducted by Channel Four and the Telegraph.
The Labour ‘sting’ Jack Straw, Labour MP and former Home Secretary, promptly suspended himself from the Labour Party and referred himself to the Parliamentary Standards Committee, the second was Malcolm Rifkind, former Secretary of State for Scotland. As Geoffrey in The Lion in Winter when Henry II comes to execute them ” When the fall is all there is, it matters.[how you fall]”. Mr Rifkind didn’t fall all that well, in fact he clung on like so many other MPs, embarrassingly to his job.
Whilst it is a bit of a chicken and egg question I think his first mistake was not resigning on the spot, or at least referring himself to the Standards Committee, arguably if he had done this the Tory Party would have been saved the embarrassing, but telling quote:
“If you’re trying to attract people of a business or professional background to serve in the House of Commons, and they’re not ministers, it is quite unrealistic to believe they will go through their parliamentary career being able to accept a salary of £60,000”
I could live on £60k, plus the expenses, plus the £12k rent allowance. In fact 90% of the British public can live on a lot less, the average wage being around £30k with a lot of people earning a lot less. In fact a lot of MPs can survive on a lot less without having to have a second job.
MPs netted around £4 Million in their second job, the most prominent Labour MP netting £1.34 million, but all of this went charity so I would not really call it a job to be honest. In a debate, a rather quick political ploy to embarrass the Government, Sir Peter Tapsell when talking about the proposed ban on second jobs said this.
“If people in this house are not allowed a second job that membership of it will soon be largely confined to the inheritors of substantial fortunes, or to rich spouses or to obsessive crackpots, or to those who are unemployable anywhere else”
Well that about describes much of the Conservative Party.
One of the questions that we need to ask is how do MPs, on £60k +, have time to do a second job? Isn’t being an MP a job in itself, are they saying that they are not fully employed, and if that is the case then why are we paying them a full time wage. If they are fully employed then surely one of the jobs is going to suffer, and I am kind of thinking that the job that will suffer will be MP job because the Tax Payer is seen as an easy touch.
The “Inside the Commons” and the second job debate proves to me that this democracy is not working, this democracy is failing along with the Palace of Westminster. Yes we need to ask serious questions about our society, but we also have to ask serous questions about the way our society is run.