Thursday, October 26, 2006

Expensive Politicos


Overseas fact-finding expenses


MPs' expenses have just been published, showing yet another increase to £85m last year, or £122,677 each. It's just one more symptom of a political system that is out of our control.

As we know, the cost of our dysfunctional democracy has soared in recent years: the last time the sums were done, it totalled £1.3bn pa, up by 80% since Tony took over. And that just covered the annual costs of practising politicos - it didn't include the costs of their comfy billets such as the £431m Scottish Parliament and the £200m Portcullis House, nor other incidentals such as all those Special Advisors (£6m pa).

Yet public disillusionment with politicos has never been higher since we first got universal suffrage. 40% can't even bring themselves to vote in General Elections.

So what exactly is going on?

Naturally, with an economics background, I go back to supply and demand. In almost any market you can think of, falling demand for a product means either the price or the quantity supplied also has to fall. Common sense.

Yet falling demand for the services of politicos has somehow resulted in both their price and number increasing.

It simply doesn't compute. Not unless... no, that can't be... surely our rulers can't just ignore the message from their customers.

Can they?

PS Further insight into MPs' expenses is given by the academics at the LSE who've crunched the numbers on MPs cost per Commons vote. The average is £556, but some are much more expensive. Setting aside government ministers- who skip loads of votes- the most expensive is Gorgeous George Galloway, who's clearly far too busy on Big Brother etc to attend the Commons. Still at least that way he can't do so much damage.

Update: Useful further briefing here : the cost of the Commons is running at £469m pa, and the Lords at £106m - nearly £600m the pair.

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