Monday, 1 June 2009

Why MPs Put Off Leaving

You may think it curious why MPs who have seen the light and the tide of opinion against them, then effectively own up and resign, wait until the next election to stand down. You might have thought they should go immediately and let the public vote while their memories are fresh.

As with the very facts of their departure being involved in grabbing what they can, so to is their actual leaving. You see, if they leave immediately and force a by-election, then they stand to forfeit an incredibly lucrative send off.

Rather like Premiership Football 'Golden Parachutes' for relegated teams who may find life in the Championship so hard after spending so much money in the top flight, get a large pay off, so too do MPs. It is all about helping them adjust to the real world of employment, allegedly.

It seems incredible to the rest of the population who if they have to leave their job having failed (except of course if you are a senior banking official whose end package is set by a Government Minister) that MPs should be allowed a massive pay off for any reason. But they do.

Of course, the PM especially does not want a whole load of by-elections to see his majority eroded badly, particularly as he is cowering in the corner awaiting the MEP etc votes. But the outbound MPs are particularly eager to wait for their pay offs.

Naturally, Hogg, Mackay, McBride, Morley, Moran, Steen, the Wintertons, Viggers, McCartney, Fraser, Chapman and Conway will be busy putting their capabilities around to major companies for lucrative non-executive director roles, plus Trust Chair positions and whatever else they can get their hands on - maybe EU Commissioners. Mandelson found that a lovely little earner for a disgraced politician with lots of little sideline extras like playing on £80m yachts with Russian Oligarchs who wanted favours at the EU. They all have as much as a year to sort out their CVs and life in 'Civvy Street' which is paved with gold for money-grabbers of their calibre.

Golden Goodbyes

I am not talking about Tom Dalyell's £18,000 'bookcases' ordered before he retired, that was chicken feed. The pay offs for outbound MPs at the next election will depend on grants, age, service etc but will vary from a slim £32,000 for McBride to over £60,000 for her hubby, Mackay - so the dynamic duo will have around £96,000 between them. They represent the wide spectrum of payments to all the departing. Naturally, the first £30,000 is tax free - so they will feel it is just like having their allowances all over again only this time they won't have to make up reasons why we should pay.

I am sure we could think of more appropriate payments for each of these and be a little more precise about when they should go. But as with most things to do with politics, the opinion of the voters is the last thing to be consulted. We get that opportunity once every 6 years and that is the last time they give a fig for what we think.

How Will The Public Vote?

One of the concerns that senior politicians have, and I heard Lord Tebbit and Peter Hain discuss this on a late night radio program recently, is that people will not bother turning out to vote as they are so disillusioned with the whole thing. I suspect that in the case of MEP elections that will be the case. Few voters identify with what happens in the European Parliament - it is a black hole that drains money.

Do you know that the office allowance for MEPs is £175,000 for each of them? They have wisely stopped them employing family members but most in the UK work from home or cheap offices, so the allowance is absurdly high - but they use it.

I believe people will shun that vote as hardly any of us can think of the name of a single MEP, I don't know who my local representative is, and the European Parliament makes the most stupid of laws that most of us can't be bothered with. That we are indifferent is because the whole European Federation is a complete mess and is just a money sump run mainly by France and Germany, and British politicians who have failed at local level. That's the common view - well mine at least.

But, I think a General Election may be different. The US has just had one of the most amazing elections and the voting population turned out in droves to vote for change - and they got it. Finally, there was a glowing advert for radical opinion and action - a vote against a disastrous double term that has set particularly US foreign policy and finances back years.

I have a suspicion that Britain will do the same. The problem we have is that there is no Barack Obama - the opposition party leaders are like sniping puppies. They have no minds of their own. The departure of MPs is a good example. If they had courage, conviction and sense they would have made each of their own MPs stand down immediately and seek a by-election at those seats. This would have been a powerful message back to Government on the mood of the people - it also would have stopped those who stole most getting any more.

But that is British Politics. It is the same old system. Antiquated, over-manned, laborious and corrupt - it is time to have a massive rethink on how our Governing system should be structured and come up with new ideas not tinker with old. The fact that the Speaker leaving has caused such a furore is indicative of a status quo which serves all who seek a career in politics. You can fail, have out of date opinions and survive. I do not agree with Parliament being a popularity contest but in this modern age we deserve far better than we have and far more say in how our money and votes are used.

In a conversation just yesterday it augmented my opinion that corrupt, self-seeking politicians sent our young soldiers into at least one unjust war that they had no strategy or plan for, were not prepared for in terms of kit and at a time when we were taking away regiments. There was zero conscience involved and Blair just tried to justify the whole thing with a circular argument that related to the fact that insurgents were fighting after we went in. He displayed all the trappings of Medieval pious people who justified their actions on the Will of God instead.

The world has changed - we should fight politicians who abuse our vote to wage illegal wars and make policies which fail us. Our vote next time round will be on corruption but in amongst all our anger about expenses and greed we should remember that this Government have failed us - long before they were outed for the rotten eggs we all thought they were.

Let's keep that in mind on the day that another two brave kids have died in Afghanistan.

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