“Tory dirty tricks”?

Is there no end to the silly spin. I cannot believe that Labour think the MPs expenses leaks are “Tory dirty tricks”.

Why “Tory”? Why would any wellwisher of the Tories leak these documents, when doubtless they include some claims from Conservatives which will also prove to be embarrassing, reflecting claims for items which may well be within the rules but will be thought wrong by the electorate?
Why “dirty”? Dirty implies the allegations are fabricated or twisted. As far as I can see the main allegations all rest on the signed claim forms of the Labour MPs themselves, so there is nothing “dirty” about the charges. Where the media has misinterpreted the documents, that has not come from the Tories.
Why “tricks”? A trick is something underhand or unreasonable. Most people think it entirely reasonable that the public should know how much money MPs have claimed and what they have claimed it for. That is not a “trick” but a right in a democracy.

If you go and buy something in a shop you have a right to know what you are buying and how much it costs. Parliament has to behave in the same way.
If an employee of the Commons has leaked this material then of course they should face disciplinary action. If they sold it they should give the money to the state.
Parliament should not have sought to prevent the release of this information. Parliament is damaged by the way it has handled this, as well as by the system of expenses it has sanctioned.
David Cameron is right to call for cuts in spending on MPs expenses, and to identify the categories of spending that MPs should no longer be allowed to claim.

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45 Comments

  1. Tony E
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    I am probably one of the very few people who think that MPs are not paid enough in direct wages.

    The current system does not encourage the brightest or the best into politics because the risk is too high compared to some of the commercial options. In four years, you could have given up a very good commercial position, and find yourself jobless due to the behaviour of party leaders over which you had little or no control. People vote more along party lines than for individual candidates, however good a constituency MP performs he has little influence on voters unless he influences the leader of his party.

    The average junior partner in a firm of accountants makes anything between 45 and 65K plus perks, but barring misdemeanours has a pretty secure life. Why would someone in that position take the risk of entering politics, why would his family support him to take such a risk with all their futures?

    Pay should be the entire remuneration, expenses should be expenses to do the job and an element of second home allowance must stay, the job would be impossible without that for most MPs.

    However, he ‘Flipping’ trick is absolutely scandalous, and I hope it is not rife on the Conservative benches. But I rather think it all points to the fact that Parliament attracts the wrong people at the moment, especially on the Labour benches; those who have very little chance of the same or better prospects in the private sector.

    • chris southern
      Posted May 9, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      You don’t need to spend years training to be an mp, you only have to impress a commitee that will allow you to stand for election, after that it’s down to your appearance and rossette colour in most areas.

      It’s also the connections people make whilst sitting as an mp, it has allowed many mp’s to make themselves quite rewarding future careers (being an mp is not supposed to be a career, if a public sector career is wanted then the emergancy services or military may be a better choice for those individuals)

      • Robert
        Posted May 9, 2009 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        If it were just that easy! Such Twaddle – you show complete ignorance!

      • adam
        Posted May 10, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        you are correct, chris

    • APL
      Posted May 9, 2009 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Tony E: “I am probably one of the very few people who think that MPs are not paid enough in direct wages.”

      Yes Tony, I hope you are. £60,000 for a backbencher, who by the look of the Commons most days cannot be bothered to turn up for many debates, £60,000 is three times the national average wage!

      Tony E: “The current system does not encourage the brightest or the best into politics ..”

      Perhaps we want the brightest and best in industry or commerce rather than politics? Perhaps we should restrict the scope of politics so that even if, by some cruel twist of fate we end up with a Parliament full of dishonest embezzeling self enriching toadies, yes, I know it is such an improbable scenario, but for the sake of argument, if we found ourselves in such circumstances, they could do little harm.

      By the way Redwood is a pretty smart cookie, if it is such a poorly remunerated bind being a Parliamentarian, what on earth is he still doing there after twenty years?

      I suspect there are other compensations than pecuniary.

      Tony: ” ..because the risk is too high compared to some of the commercial options.”

      I have to ask, what risk? Get elected, so long as you are content to be herded into the lobby by the Whips you have absolute job security for five years. That is much better job security than your average contractor can expect.

      Even Conway, who was thought an embarrassment by the Tory party and dumped, even he was only suspended by Parliament for ten days. So far as I know he is still in Parliament, my point is not that a body should override the voters in an election, but that there is near cast iron job security for five years at a time.

      Some of them, I hope a lot of them are going to lose their positions, it won’t be a surprise, but you know what, many people in industry are going to lose, and many have lost their job without two or three years notice.

    • Graham Thomas
      Posted May 9, 2009 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Reply to Tony E, is this the same argument that the brightest and best are paid huge amounts to run banks and big business? Not too convincing these days, frankly we’d have been better off if the cleaners ran the show, at least they could have cleaned their own office. In reality high pay doesn’t guarantee the best just the best connected. What we need is less government in every way. Can anyone name a government program that worked properly and on budget? Ever? I can’t.

    • ManicBeancounter
      Posted May 9, 2009 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

      The best way to look at the renumeration of MPs is
      1) to see whether the salary is sufficient to draw a good selection of candidates. I think that it is more than sufficient.
      2) The main motive for putting oneself forward for elected office should not be personal enrichment. However, with a basic salary that puts MPs in the top 10% of earnings, a generous final salary package and an expenses regime that can legitmately be used for personal enrichment, it appears there are a large number of MPs who are earning well beyond what they would gain elsewhere.

      • APL
        Posted May 10, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink

        Manic Beancounter: “The best way to look at the remuneration of MPs is”

        1. There is no shortage of candidates. Never has been.

        Conclusion, remuneration is more than adequate.

        2. ” .. with a basic salary that puts MPs in the top 10% of earnings, ..”

        OK, in addition to the basic salary of £63K, lets look at the variety of allowances available to an MP.

        £100K staffing allowance.
        £24K for ‘additional costs’.
        £22K for ‘incidental expences’
        £10K for ‘communications’

        I do wonder what the difference between ‘additional’ and ‘incidental’ might be.

        Frankly, £10,000 pa for communications? – I would have thought that might have come in with the basic salary.

        In total that is over £200,000 per year, what I get for that is a leaflet through the post every five years when the scoundrels want me to vote for them. Frankly, that is extortionate.

        And that is just backbenchers. There are nearly a hundred MPs who hold some sort of ministerial rank post. Throw in another £40K for them too.

        • ManicBeancounter
          Posted May 10, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

          APL, you may be right in that the perks of the job contribute to enhancing the basic salary. But, PROPERLY USED, they should not augment the salary, but rather save the MP incurring costs themselves that are part of their job. This is like in my job I do not meet the cost of the office rent & rates, or the travel when I stay away from home on business, or for secretarial or IT support.
          My point (not well put) is entirely separate. The basic salary of an MP (without the perks) puts them easily in the top 10% of earners. That means, for over 90% of the working population, becoming an MP is a lucrative career change. The ambiguity of the expenses regime merely enhances that. The result is that we move away from the primary motivation being to “make a differance” or “to serve wider society” to making a nice pile of money for one’s own retirement at the expense of society.

    • Johnny Norfolk
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      If they are paid enougth or not. That does not in any way excuse this behavour. They are not fit to be MPs for what they have done weather it is in the rules or not. The whole thing makes me feel sick.

    • Emil
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      Fine, pay them £101,000 a year (so they lose their personal allowance intorduced in Darling’s spiteful budget). Remove the second home allowance completely (obscene that taxpayers are paying for MPs to become property millionaires), and constituency/travel expenses, to be controlled by parliamenary body.

      Like any other job if this rate isn’t seen as good enough then don’t apply for it. Don’t worry Jacqui, Gordon seems to pay his cleaners top dollar.

  2. Kevin Lohse
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I think that it is absolutely delicious that Harriet’s “Court of Public Opinion”, has rebounded so damagingly upon it’s authors.

    The statements of both herself and Sir Stuart Bell have only deepened the hole which Labour have dug for themselves.

    The Police involvement called for through the Speaker is another “own goal”, flying in the face of advice by the CPS given over the Green affair.
    Would I be wrong in thinking that calling in the Police could possibly be an attempt to deflect Questions in the House by using the “sub judice” argument?

    I hope you are clear, John. You are one of the most effective opponents of Socialism in the Commons, and they’d love to silence you.

  3. Brigham
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    It has been said before, should the terms Honourable and Right Honourable be dropped from parliamentary jargon. even before this present debacle they were very anachronistic.

  4. Citizen Responsible
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Following the McBride/Draper “dirty tricks” fiasco, Labour MP’s are desperate to smear the Tories with the same accusation.

  5. alan jutson
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    A Tory dirty trick.
    This Labour lot will say anything to try and deflect some bad news from their Members.
    Of Course its nothing of the kind as the Tories will find out next week, when its their turn to be exposed.
    Apart from being absolutely appalled at this disgusting fiasco, and the weak mealy mouthed excuses being given by people who are making the laws and taxes for the rest of us in this Country. I simply cannot understand why someone thinks they HAVE to have a second home near to where they work for 135 days of the year.
    Many, Many Business executives live away from their real home for much more than this, and make do in hotels or premises rented for them by their Companies.
    There is a standard tax and allowance proceedure already in place for business which outlines exactly what, and what is not
    Allowed as a business expense.
    Why do SOME MP’s think they need to OWN a second home other than for possible profit or Tax manipulation.
    Why do they think they should be above the Tax System that they set inplace for the rest of us.
    Why do they think they deserve special treatment.
    If its good enough for business then its good enough for every one MP’s included.
    If a business executive wants to buy a second home of course he can, but its furnishings, its running costs, its mortgage, its Community charge, its maintainance, and last of all his/her food is all down to him out of taxable income.
    When he sells it he pays Capital Gains tax on the profit if he has made any.
    I have said before on this blog:
    Why do not exactly the same rules apply to MP’s.
    If they think they deserve a salary increase then negotiate one, but through an independent source.
    Never know next week we may find out that someone is buying condoms on the state !!!!!!!!

    • Robert
      Posted May 9, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      They did back in the 80s, if that agreement was kept their salry would be circa 125/- – any business whose employee works away from home for 50%+ a year would provide a flat – I know of many private companies who do so !

      • alan jutson
        Posted May 10, 2009 at 6:58 am | Permalink

        Robert agreed about the flat which is either rented or owned by the company, and goes back to the Company after use.
        For Company substitute Parliament.
        If Parliament owned a complete block of flats then No Mp would need to think about any house purchase.

  6. oldrightie
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    It’s beginning to shape up for a which party are the worst offenders. My money is firmly on Labour. I hope any of our troughers quit in some semblance of decency and let’s have by-elections.

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Labour’s default position on every issue is to try and play cheap party politics against the Tories. I even heard one Labour MP bring Mrs Thatcher’s name into it last night! This issue has nothing to do with party politics but everything to do with Parliament and the behaviour of all of those who purport to govern this country. It seems clear to me that too many MPs just do not appreciate the scale of this crisis of democracy. Their only concern seems to be to defend the indefensible in order to preserve their jobs. I think we need a complete clear out of MPs. I hope that many will be deselected and others will lose their seats from all parties.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 9, 2009 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      We do need a massive clear out of MPs, as maybe 90 per cent of the present lot are not fit to serve as our elected representatives.

      For me, that became perfectly clear last spring, when hardly any of them were prepared to support what should have been an uncontroversial amendment to affirm and protect the legal supremacy of their own Parliament, our national Parliament, for God’s sake.

      And then again when so many of them had no scruples about breaking their word to their constituents, by denying us a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

      Events since then have just confirmed, in many other ways, that we’ve been electing the wrong kind of people to the House of Commons.

      But I don’t see anything fundamental changing at the next general election.

      Last time, 94% of those elected had been supplied by three main parties, ie pre-selected and then selected as their official candidates; and as nothing has changed to improve those parties, nothing has changed to improve the quality of MPs.

      • Brian Tomkinson
        Posted May 9, 2009 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        Denis,

        I share your pessimism but we mustn’t give up trying and hoping for an improvement.

      • alan jutson
        Posted May 10, 2009 at 7:01 am | Permalink

        Its down to the system I am afraid.
        Brown says I want this to go through.
        The whips say vote for this, and they do.
        No backbone.
        May as well have cardboard cut outs in many cases.
        Defeats the whole object of Democracy.

      • adam
        Posted May 10, 2009 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        The truth is that many people in this country, especially up north or the recent immigrants in the south, would like nothing better than to to destroy Britain, and then England, forever.
        The MPs they elect represent that hatred.

  8. Acorn
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    At least now we know that our parliament is actually a property speculation unit trust, that does a bit of legislating on the side. We also know why the green benches are so poorly attended nowadays. They are all too busy constructing alibis and signing property exchange documents.

    The following is off subject but worth a read. It is about the budget crisis in California. Those with contacts there will know that California is becoming a lot like Liverpool in the seventies. California has similarity with the present public sector finance position of the UK.

    First see this:-
    http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2009/05/california-continues-to-implode.html

    Then read about the six “propositions” (1a – 1f), Californian’s are being asked to vote on. Imagine what might happen if UK citizens had the same democratic opportunities to vote on the budget.
    http://www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov/

  9. chris southern
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    I think if various mp’s reread the rules they are not supposed to have broken, they will find they have broken them, even though their claims got the okay.

    Which means they are subject to the fraud act of 1968 and it’s amended parts through to 2006.
    MP’s are not above the law, and it should be applied, not covered up by yet another commitee or goverment approved media spin.

    • chris southern
      Posted May 9, 2009 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      oops, it’s the theft act of 1968, the fraud act is 2006.

  10. Ian Jones
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    I wouldn’t worry about the accusation of it being Tory smears, nobody is listening. We are all too busy collecting our chins from the floor and rubbing our eyes in disbelief. We know all sides were at it, the difference being you expect Government ministers to stop doing it when they become ministers especially the Chancellor and PM!!!

    As Ed Balls seemed to say, its not fair that some are already rich so the socialists need to trough to make sure they can keep up!!! I can see that argument going down well with their key voters!!!

    Some are waiting for the Tory issues to come out on Sunday although we have yet to hear what Ed balls and wife have been up to. Keeping the best for last I hope!!!

  11. Raedwald
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Two years ago only 25 MPs out of 646 voted against Maclean’s Bill to keep MPs expenses secret. We have not forgotten that you were amongst those 25. Had the Commons taken your view at that time and realised that this mess was inevitable, had the Leader of the House and the Speaker been less Ostrich-like, the measures that the Commons will now be panicked into taking could have been sensibly and coolly developed.

    With the honourable exception of the 25 of you, this is a mess of members’ own making.

    Reply: Thank you for remembering. I never understood how they thought they could it secret, as well as thinking they should not.

  12. Pat
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Quite apart from tribalism, which appears to be the only thing that Labour has to offer- how does this leave us with data security, given that both the house and the government really did not want this to come out? Am I to believe they would take more care of my data than they do of their own?
    We are fortunate that the information was actually leaked to a newspaper and published- it could have been leaked to a blackmailer and used to influence policy. Indeed, how do we know it hasn’t?

  13. APL
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 10:30 am | Permalink
  14. Colin D.
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Old habits die hard! When Labour politicians are in a corner they always try and avoid answering questions by talking about what the Tories would do (though they are not in government) or what Tories did (though that is a decade ago) or if really nasty, bring up Mrs Thatcher’s name. For those wriggling in the spotlight, ‘Tory dirty tricks’ is quite an elegant expression – packs the most Labour odium in to the fewest words!

    • pipesmoker
      Posted May 9, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      I may be wrong but didn’t Margaret Thatcher pay out of her own pocket for the bathroom in number 10 to be refurbished.

      There is only one qualification to be an MP and that is public support in a General Election and the sooner we have one to get rid of those who have abused the system the better?

      I have absolutely no doubt that you JR are absolutely squeaky clean and use your brains to supplement your income as do some on the other side of the chamber.

      Someone of similar integrity was Elizabeth Filkin who was not re-appointed because she was getting to close to the truth.

      Gorbal’s Mick should be sacked and someone of integrity replace him?

  15. Derek W. Buxton
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Had Parliament done it’s job this would not have happened, they should have been held to account by that institution in the first place. However we know from many recent events that our Parliament is as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Being the branch office of the EU doesn’t help either.

    We now need a rethink about the position of our MPs and Parliament itself. People do seem to be worried at the attitude of MPs and whilst there are some “honourable” members, these are in the firing line because they must be considered to have condoned what we now have. This is not good for the democracy we are supposed to have, which once worked but now is looking distinctly shabby. What a disgrace that the “Mother of Parliaments” has sunk to this level.

    Derek

    • APL
      Posted May 9, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

      Derek W. Buxton: “Had Parliament done it’s job this would not have happened, they should have been held to account by that institution in the first place.”

      Problem is, ‘Parliament’ is the people who are elected. This lot, it is worth remembering are dominated by the ’97 intake, remember ‘Blairs babes’?

      We had a huge intake of polytechnic lecturers each with one or more large chip on his or her shoulder and few with any sympathy for the traditions of Parliament.

      Then Blair started his corrosive ‘reforms’, got rid of most of the hereditary peers, many of those fellows would turn up for next to nothing. Well they had expenses too, but they were ‘old school’.

  16. Janet Child
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    “If an employee of the Commons has leaked this material then of course they should face disciplinary action”

    I disagree. I have personally left various jobs because there were practices I disagreed with. I was not brave enough to be a whisleblower but I didn’t want to be part of an organisation in which my integrity was compromised. I was never in a powerful enough position to be able to do anything about things I was required to do except leave.

    People need to be lead by their consciences and sometimes this means going against their employer. I would hope this person is protected and not prosecuted. Hopefully they have not made any money from it.

  17. Paul
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    This Labour government has spent millions of our pounds on TV and newspaper adverts telling us to whistleblow on child abuse, benefits fraud, car tax evasion etc. How ironic that they don’t like it done to them. Oh and the ” Nuremberg defence, I was only following orders/the rules” won’t wash. It’s fraud and you know it is. These are all the marks of totalitarianism. Now is the time to break with our tired old non democratic 2 and half party system and go for some real democracy. I want to see a new political force arise out of this. Promising to clean up politics and democracy in this country and to hold some referenda on various topics that need addressing now.

    Come on guys you know who you are, your country needs you, step up to the plate

  18. Gideon Mack Orangutan
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    I am not a Conservative but………………

    The sooner we get away from this knee jerk reactionary Government the better – you are possibly the only person who has the ability to get us out of this economic mess – bring on the election.

  19. Chuck Unsworth
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    “Parliament should not have sought to prevent the release of this information.”

    Well, I’d be interested in the definition of ‘Parliament’ you may have in mind. I cannot recall that this decision to block publication was debated, or voted upon, but maybe it was.

    However, increasingly we see that there are various officials, mostly answerable to the Speaker, who seem to act as Labour Party members. Others appear to be completely out of control. The Fees Office has clearly colluded in these frauds, indeed it appears to have directly encouraged them.

    Let us not forget that just because something may be allowed (i.e. within ‘the rules’) it does not mean that it is mandatory. These MPs ‘should’ have higher standards than that.

    Reply: We did vote on whether to be open about this or not, and those of us who voted for publication were voted down.

  20. mikestallard
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    When payment for MPs was first introduced in 1911, it was to allow poor people to become MPs.
    Since then, it has gradually slipped into a way of making a lot of money and being on Telly. Apparently the Whips have been encouraging MPs (Charles Moore today in the Telegraph) to supplement their pay with expenses. That could account for all their indignation about only obeying the rules.

    What about actually reducing the basic pay and cutting all expenses? That would force MPs to take second jobs and thus rejoin society.
    Add to that a secret voting system, and the party System would not allow MPs to cut all the debates or the Prime Minister to control MPs with their text messages.

    I want my MP to feel the pain.

  21. Nick Leaton
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    If an employee of the Commons has leaked this material then of course they should face disciplinary action.

    ————-

    No. They should be given a knighthood and protection under the wistleblowers act.

    To shoot the messanger for revealing crime by MPs is morally wrong

    Nick

  22. Nick Leaton
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    It’s time to remove MPs from the decision making process.

    We should get the right of veto on all bills.

    MPs should be responsbile for implementing them

    All budgets must be balanced – No borrowing in any form.

    Nick

  23. Dave
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Conservative MP expenses:- Mole clearing from lawns and rememberance day wreaths so far .
    Lets have an election now, while some may be honourable members, not one blew the whistle on house flipping and other “allowances”
    During the last twenty years the industrial base of this country has been decimated thousands cast aside, while immigration has become uncontrolled and the armed forces are sent ill equipped into combat.
    Ladies and gentlemen you have bought dishonour on the nation and its parliament and should all; I repeat all, stand for re election.

  24. andy dan
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Can’t we have a rule whereby all prospective MPs have to have held a job outside politics for a minimum of 10 years? Doesn’t really matter what it is. You’d possibly get candidates with more maturity, depth of character and honesty. The “professional” politicians, eg Brown, Darling, Cameron and Osbourne seem to be ascendant at the moment, and one of the main reasons I have no confidence in any of them is this lack of “life experience”

  25. Gideon Mack Orangutan
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I’ve heard many times that you don’t need to know about baked beans to manage a baked bean factory – I fear politics is not the same.

    People (MPs) without an in-depth knowledge and passion for their subject will only ever be custodians of the position and never visionaries leading change.

    Andy Dan has a valid point – 10 years minimum.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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