Ryeview – November 2009

Politics at the expense of our democracy

John Clark writes…

First published: November 2009 – Gazette & Herald

When did we lose our democracy? Many people are wondering why we bother with politicians. ‘They are all the same’; ‘they are all in it for themselves’. Although these views are overstatements there is a large basis of truth behind both.

This year the political classes were in the grip of the expenses scandal. Technically it only applied to MPs. What did we get from the MPs? Apologies? Very few, and only when forced. Resignations? On the face of it, many; in reality, one. All the rest chose to continue on their £60,000+ per year, followed by their Golden Goodbye of £50,000+ as they don’t stand at the next General Election (when they probably wouldn’t have been re-elected anyway). So one honourable MP, Ian Gibson, has carried the can for the rest. All the ‘duck house’, ‘moat cleaners’, £399/month for food and ‘house hoppers’ are still there. So what did our so-called democratic representatives do? Come up with ideas? No. Consult with the public? No. What they have done is set up an Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. This body will decide the ‘Code of Conduct’ – the rules. The questions to ask are: Is this body democratic? Does this body represent the poor? Does this body represent the elderly living on just the state pension? Does this body represent the working class trying to survive on the minimum wage? Once again the answers are a whole string of no’s.

Who benefits from the new system? MPs of course. Before they said ‘It’s in the rules’, ‘It’s part of the system’. The whole expenses scandal was nothing to do with them. In future whatever is wrong will still clearly be nothing to do with them. If MPs cannot publicly discuss, debate and vote on their own pay and conditions how dare they dictate to the rest of us. There is no likelihood that this body (led by Sir Ian Kennedy) will come up with such a harsh package that there will be a shortage of applicants for the post of MP.

MPs have decided that major planning decisions should be decided by an independent body. MPs have decided that our Foreign Policy should be spoken by the unelected E.U. Foreign Secretary. Our President for Europe (£300,000+/year) is someone most of us hadn’t heard of until a week ago. If the MPs don’t have democracy in their own pay and conditions, why would they need it anywhere else?

What would happen if all the candidates at the next General Election had to state in their election material what salary they would be paid if elected? The ballot paper could state the salary that will be paid to that candidate. Then the public would have a say in who was worth how much. Clearly the lowest figure would be 50hours/week at the minimum wage. To stop the rich and the very rich bidding low, maybe all candidates should also publish their assets and present income. More people would vote if a choice were created. The result may be to bring democracy back into elections.

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