Thursday, August 13, 2009

One Man's 'Rations' - Another Man's 'Riches'.'

It was despair and incredulity in equal measure that flooded my thought processes when I read the front page of today's Daily Telegraph. This is just one of the articles that have fed this despair and incredulity during the day. Its so outrageous that its scarcely believable. This could be the occasion to reassure the people of Montgomeryshire that I would regard £64,000 as an extremely generous salary were I to be elected an MP at the next General Election. My guess is that no more than 2% of the electors in Montgomeryshire who would have voted for me would earn as much. Personally speaking, I reckon any MP who thinks the salary should be higher would be better to go look for alternative employment.

Being an MP is not as other jobs. Remuneration is, or should be measured in satisfaction for public service as much as financial reward. If the objective is to earn money, go in search of better paid employment elsewhere - assuming you can find it. Now there is nothing wrong with young things moving straight from university to employment as political researchers as a stepping stone to a safe seat before the age of 30 - as long as there's not too many of them. And that's because the most important skill that an MP can bring to the job is good judgement, in part born of experience, rather than great cleverness or knowledge - which will always be available within the Civil Service. Also important that these youthful high flyers accept that the aim is to deliver public service at a level of pay that the people are content to pay. And the people think £64,000 per year is enough, without the need for added supplement via unjustified expenses.

The coming General Election should be different - but it is up to the voters. Candidates should be asked for cast iron promises. I've already floated some of the promises I will make on this blog. I have said that I will not make claims on the Communications Allowance - which is nothing more than a quite disgraceful incumbent's re-election pot. I have said that I will not make any claim without making it public immediately - though this is on the assumption that any employee's salary would no longer be treated as an 'expense', but be paid from a central fund as it is in the National Assembly for Wales. I've said that I will not claim for food - because I have to eat wherever I am. The reality is that the people have made it clear that they are disgusted by the 'expenses' culture that has been exposed by the Telegraph. The people will soon have the opportunity to change things - but only if they will be prepared to balance their party loyalties with the personal qualities of candidates. The voters will carry the power. Let them use it.


Anonymous said...

Then you hsould publish and publicise your promises widely in the constituency in the run uup to the election. Your opponent most certainly claims for food, amounting to over four hundred a month, and clearly he claims for everything else he can grasp. It is very important that the electorate can see the difference between the two of you. Go shout it from the rooftops. It's a huge vote winner. And yet another reason to get rid of the Member for Hello!

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - I expect sitting MPs to adopt a very different approach is future - firstly because there will be new rules introduced after Sir Christopher Kelly reports - and secondly because of the public reaction to the exposure of what has been going on. It could be that all candidates in Montgomeryshire will be saying much the same thing. I rather hope so, and that we can create a competition in 'openness'.

Anonymous said...

Have you watched Daniel Hannan's anti-NHS rant on FOX Tv?

These two stories put together make it look like the Tories are going back to their old ways.


CardiffStaffer said...


MP's staffing allowances are not classed as an expense by the HoC, only by the media, who seem to think it's legitimate to add an MPs salary, to their train tickets, office rent, staff wages surgery advert costs, postage and utilities etc lump it all together and announce that every MP costs the taxpayer c£250K pa.

I'm afraid to say your beloved Telegraph is guilty of not understanding the system too.

It just isn’t far to include staffing costs, which lets not forget include NI and Pension contributions too into an MP’s ‘expense’ to the public. That money goes no where near the MP or his/her bank account – unless your Derek Conway of course!

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - I have not but I've read about it. You are correct in that these two stories are not at all helpful. But David cameron has made it clear that the Conservative Party he leads disagrees with what both Alan Duncan and Dan Hannan have said - so while it not may look good it would be mistaken to regard either as party attitudes.

Cardiff Staffer - Thanks. I'm in favour of separating the payment and employment of staff from the politician as far as possible. You are correct in that the press coverage of staff costs have been 'truthful but misleading'. The consequence is that the public now seems to approve of politicians who minimise staff costs - thus providing a reduced service. But they are servants of the people and if its what the voters want, it is what will happen.

Jeff Jones said...

It all started to go wrong when MPs started in the early 1970s to become glorified social workers or super councillors. Increased staff does not always equal a better service. It depends on the quality of the staff for a start. In Wales all potential MPs should start by telling their constituents in their manifestoes that they not responsible for the services devolved to the Assembly or run by the local Council and have no influence whatsoever on those services. If any constituent has a problem with these services then they should see their local or regional AM or local councillor. MPs should also inform constituents that they have no influence over the quasi judicial process which is planning. A letter in support or in opposition to a planning application has no effect whatsoever on the actual decision of either the planning committee or inspector if there is an appeal. Welsh MPs should only be concerned with the UK economy, the benefits system , defence and foreign affairs. Given this limited remit £64000 is more than adequate. Political parties should also be selecting individuals as candidates in Wales with a real interest in the areas where UK MPs can really have some influence.

Sweet and Tender Hooligan said...


I thought you got it spot on, in marked contrast to Alun Duncan.

64k is four times my salary and over twice as much as my household income.

If you think 'i can earn 20k more doing something else' you are not suitable for being an MP.

Anonymous said...

Lembit Opik may well have a different approach in the future ( God nows he needs it! ) but the point is that his expenses claims in the past have been dubious to say the least. It's vital you draw this to people's attention. Your gentlemanly approach does not get the message across. WE paid for Lembit Opik's council tax fine, his big TV and silly wigs.

Dewi Harries said...

Glyn = latest odds as published by Ladbrokes on UK Polling Report:


LD 1/3
Con 2/1
Lab 100/1
PC 100/1

Tories worth a flutter.

Glyn Davies said...

Jeff - While I agree with you, it is not practical to expect an MP to ignore approaches on local authority or devolved issues. What I try to do as a Parliamentary candidate is meet our new team of councillors to discuss all local issues that are raised with me, so that they can deal with them. I also attend local meetings when asked. Devolved issues I pass on to Nick Bourne's office.

Anon - I would agree with you if I thought that people did not know. They do know. In general, I become less and less interested in what my MP does, and more focussed on what I do. Being a candidate is a big commitment and its important to make the job satisfying. The less I think about my oponents the more I enjoy the role.

Dewi - I thought I'df get better odds than 2/1. Odds are based on national trends, with no weight given to local factors. When I was selected to contest the Montgomeryshire Parliamentary seat, we thought winning was a very long shot. Following last year's Council elections and this year's Euro-elections we now thing we are in with a good chance - but I'd still hope to get 3/1 if I was a betting man.

Jeff Jones said...

Glyn it used to be the case that MPs were honest with their constituents when it came to what they could or could not do. Just imagine Winston Churchill dealing with a housing complaint. Ask any Local authority officer and they will tell you that the change began to occur after 1979. It was one of the reasons why Brian Walden finished as an MP. Gaitskell, for example, was an MP for a Leeds constituency. He never had a house in Leeds and in fact stayed with his agent once a month when he visited the city. He never took up local authority issues which he left to local councillors. He saw his role as an MP in representing the general interests of the city of Leeds and its people at a national level and holding the government of the day to account in the Commons.If you read Tony Benn's early diaries he also complains about people expecting him to take up council issues. Of course by diverting MP's attention towards very often trivial constituency issues the Executive reduces the scrutiny role. Throw in the clever changes to expenses introduced by Mrs Thatcher and you create a contented supine Commons which can be ignored by any government with a majority. When was the last time anyone made a decent speech in the Commons? In the 1950s MPs would rush into the Chamber when Enoch Powell or Nye Bevan got to their feet. Halisham complained in the 1960s that we had an elected dictatorship. He was wrong then but today I'm not so sure. You should also ask Powys how much it costs in officer time etc to answer letters on issues which often have already been raised by the local councillor. In Bridgend we sometimes used to get 6 letters on the same issue from the 5 AMs and the local MP. If people wish to deal with issues which Acts of Parliament have made the responsibity of local councils then they should stand for the local council.

Glyn Davies said...

Jeff - All good sense - but I still do not think it is practical to expect an aspiring MP to walk away - not if he or she wants to be elected.