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Cheers - AE

Monday, 26 October 2009

When did journalists become so forgiving all of a sudden?

There's an article in The Times about pay cuts when the going's tough. Interesting, but what caught my attention was some incredible soft handling of MPs, their salaries and the piss taking that made so many headlines.
[There is an] emerging idea that certain people in certain professions don’t deserve to be paid much, if at all. This group appears to include most of those in the creative industries: writers, painters, musicians and journalists whose work the general public seems to have become accustomed to consuming free on the internet.
Okay, with you so far. Just because it's not 9 till 5 doesn't make it no working. I'm sure some people in those groups put in a hell of a lot more than 40ish hours per week and don't get a steady income, so I don't have any issue with people in those groups earning what they can out of their work. And yes, I agree that it certainly is work.
But since the MPs’ expenses crisis, politicians seem to have joined this unhappy band, with David Cameron propounding the idea by announcing that he will freeze MPs’ salaries and save £5.5 million a year by abolishing perks such as cheap grub and booze at the Commons.

A move that might go down well with the tabloids, but ultimately gimpy...
Hang on just a mo. What's 'gimpy' about it (and isn't the term a bit un-PC for The Times)? Yeah, okay, it smacks a little of dog whistle politics, and if the implication is that Cameron is saying it to get a few more votes on the back of the expenses scandal I'd be inclined to agree. But still, a penny saved and all that - is Parliament such terrific value that there's no justification for reducing its cost by £5.5 million? Look at is as an employer-employee relationship where the taxpayers, being the payer of the wages and associated employment costs of the 646 MPs, are the employers and the MPs, being the recipients, are the employees. Don't the employers have the right to want to keep overheads down? Don't they even get a say?

Apparently not according to the author of the article, Sathnam Sanghera, who gives four reasons why Cameron's proposal is, as he puts it, 'gimpy'.
(a) adding 20 pence to the cost of Peter Hain’s Monster Munch in the Commons canteen will make no difference to Britain’s balance sheet
Being 2 and a bit trillion in the red this is literally true, but also quite besides the point. Why the fuck should the taxpayer be subsidising the bastards? Let's remind ourselves again who pays whose wages... yes, that's right, taxpayers pay - and ultimately at gunpoint - and the MPs who are supposedly in public service get to dictate the terms and put the squeeze on for even more money so they needn't pay full whack for their meals and booze. The reason why it should end is because the taxpayers who fund the fucking place never gave their approval for subsidised nosebag to begin with. Look, if an employer chooses to subsidise the employees' cafeteria that's fair enough, but in Westminster it works the other way around. Sorry boys and girls, but it's way past time for that to end. We should be telling you what your perks are and how much they're worth, and you either suck it up or fuck off and find something else - welcome to our world.
(b) it is right and proper that the people who run the country, our elected representatives, should be paid as much as people who run companies
Right and proper, is it? Balls. The second you start with that attitude you guarantee piss taking. Not immediately perhaps but you're fostering a culture of entitlement rather than earning and somewhere down the line you'll find yourself with your trousers down and gripping your ankles while balancing an ashtray on the back off your head. If MPs do a good job then fine, pay 'em well. Measuring that might not be easy but I'd suggest that mass over claiming of expenses probably rules an MP out of consideration for fucking starters. Let me put it another way, Sathnam: do you expect your bosses at The Times to pat you on the back if you were ripping them off on your your expenses and got caught? If so you've either got one of the best jobs in the world or you're fucking dreaming, because it's been a fucking sacking offence everywhere I've worked. Assuming we're talking about one of the MPs who remains untainted by the expenses scandal we should still consider whether they're just lobby fodder that rock up to the party line and never put a toe beyond it. Worth £65 grand? Do me a favour - blindly obeying the whips can be done by any tool with a room temperature IQ who'd be happy to do it for minimum wage. Parliament is there to hold the executive to account and in recent years it's done a pretty piss poor job of it, and the less said about those occupying government positions the better. Don't tell me it's right and proper for those clowns to make as much as people who run companies when the latter are rewarded for performance, not for simply showing up. Yes, I know there are exceptions and some true fuckwits end up promoted way beyond their competence, but shareholders generally put with it only for so long before demanding a rolling head or two where as MPs are pretty much fireproof for at least a term at a time. Bring in the the ability for constituents to recall their MP and we can talk money again. I'm fucking dog sick of hearing all the whinging that they deserve as much as private sector company heads and that the 'right sort' of people won't be attracted to politics if the money isn't right. If they really expect us to believe that then where's the mass exodus from SW1? They're all still there instead of running companies so either pay and conditions are okay or there's a tacit admission that they're not the right people in the first place.
(c) if MPs were paid properly in the first place, the expenses scandal wouldn’t have happened
Firstly, see above - if they think they're worth more and would get more in the private sector then why aren't they in it? Besides, between the candidates who stand for each seat and all those that contest their party's candidacy there must be at least a couple of dozen 'applicants' for every seat in the House of Commons. In other words there are well over fifteen thousand people willing to do the job for the money that's on offer now. Normally jobs that have no trouble attracting that many applicants aren't thought of as being considered underpaid.

Secondly, let's get back to that point about expenses again. I know I'm going over ground a second time here but expenses are for, well, for expenses incurred in doing the job. In other words if an MP has to spend exactly ten grand of their £65K salary on goods and services that are all work related and that they would otherwise not have had to buy then they can claim exactly ten grand. The purpose is to reimburse them for legitimate expense incurred in their line of work so they're not out of pocket as a result, okay? It is to make sure that they still get paid £65K net after the expenses of being an MP. It is not, repeat not intended to be a fucking top up salary. Anyone who can't or won't grasp that incredibly simple premise is demonstrably unsuited to be in Parliament.
(d) if things continue in this vein only the independently wealthy, like Cameron, will be able to afford to go into politics. Indeed, we seem to be heading inexorably back to the 18th century, when art and government were something an elite did for amusement. Depressing.
Not as depressing as reading that horseshit. As I've just explained, expenses exist to reimburse MPs for legitimate expenses incurred, right? Is anyone proposing an end to that and suggesting instead that MPs pay for travel, accomodation, running a constituency office etc out of their salaries? No, of course not. What's being said is that claiming for duck houses, moat cleaning, the world's most expensive cleaner and a second home while you're being put up in your sister's spare room is not a fucking legitimate expense. Yes, I know not all of that was paid and some of it has subsequently been apologised for (not all fucking paid back though) but I'm only giving some of the more egregious examples. Bottom line, reimbursement for legitimate expenses incurred as part of an MP's job should continue as before, and as far as I know almost nobody is seriously suggesting otherwise. We all just want the piss taking to stop. That being so what the fuck is all this crap about only the independently wealthy being able to enter politics? If you're claiming and being reimbursed for genuine expenses then the job still pays 65 thousand pounds. If you can't live on that in Britain today you can plenty of lessons from millions who are able to make ends meet with a fucking sight less. Sure, you probably won't join the ranks of the mega wealthy who have endangered species for decoration and enjoy caviar and Cristal at every meal, but I'm not at all sure we want people with that ambition in politics anyway. If that's your ambition then bugger off and do something honest instead of politics, like dealing arms or smuggling drugs or something. But if a life in Westminster is what you want then cut your coat according to your cloth and get used to £5 fizzy piss on special at Asda.
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