Saturday, May 16, 2009

I'm Really Rather Relaxed About This Claim

He won't be so relaxed once the Major gets there

Old-time lefty Tam Dalyell (another Old Etonian) tells us he's "really rather relaxed" about the £15,000 he claimed for expensive bookcases just before he retired as an MP.

The Major, on the other hand, is really rather agitated. Even as we speak, he is assembling a crack team for a Where Eagles Dare raid on the Schloss Dalyell to liberate the bookcases and return them to the taxpayer.

Dalyell - or to give him his full moniker, Sir Thomas Dalyell of the Binns, 11th Baronet - is another jaw-dropping illustration of just how out of touch our MPs have become. Admittedly, he was never altogether "of the people", but his four decades at Westminster left him unable to see that £15 grand bookcases are not something most taxpayers would even dream of, let alone offer to pay for.

And then there's Gerald Kaufman's £8 grand Bang & Olufson telly. I once saw Mr K preening himself in the First Class compartment of a train going North. He'd boarded wearing one of those white raincoats specially designed for people who want to get noticed, and he spent the entire journey being important. You can hardly expect a man like that to settle for 19 inch Alba from Argos (£99.99, home delivery for £5.80).

And so the list goes on.

But at least we know what to do about it. Listen to any phone-in, and there's unanimity:

  • Publish all the expense details now - immediately - this daily dripfeed is no good for anyone, and it's especially no good for our Parliamentary institutions

  • Abolish the second homes allowance - immediately - replace with government owned apartments (there are plenty of bargains available in central London)

  • Hold an election now - immediately - leave it to the parties to decide whether to risk running their hundreds of discredited MPs, or to replace them

  • Cut the number of MPs by at least one-third, for the election after - we've got far more than most established democracies and we don't need them

  • Reform the Lords - elected and much smaller for sure, but do we actually need it at all?

So that's all pretty straightforward, then.

Will we need to replace all our MPs?

Maybe not quite all. As the Telegraph sets out today, some seem to have been a lot more scrupulous than others, and indeed some have claimed nothing at all. Tyler's champions are Martin Salter (Labour MP for Reading West), and David Howarth (Lib Dem MP for Cambridge). They both live around 50 miles from London, both commute, and both have refused to claim for their costs. In other words, they have both chosen to live as many of their own constituents live.

They really should feel relaxed.

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