I was taken by this article about how the political system works in Sweden (see link below) as it fits well with my own views about how we in the UK pour far too much money into our MP’s pockets!
We have in effect put MP’s on a pedestal and made them a political elite disconnected from our real world. In turn this has created professional politicians with a sense of entitlement who govern in the interests of their political parties rather than the interests of the UK.
Despite all the hype around the MP’s expenses scandal of a few years ago little has actually changed – they’re paid too much, allowed to claim too much in expenses, have far too may assistants paid for by the public purse.
Unless we learn from the likes of Sweden we will continue to governed poorly and expensively.
Not so long ago and for differing reasons than I am addressing now I suggested that MP’s should be supported by people who are seconded from the Civil Service. My concern then was about the cost of MP’s to the public purse and the always worrying issue of their staff getting involved in doing what could easily be seen as party political work whilst the public purse (you and me) are paying for it.
But the most recent revelations about sexual harassment in Parliament has in my view confirmed that my previous suggestion would also be right because it could help address this latest embarrassing Whitehall disgrace at the heart of power in the UK.
In effect MP’s are very small individual employers at present, with maybe each one hiring a handful of full and part time employees using public money to do it. The fact that some of these employees have seemingly not had any basic employment protections and have at times been effectively stopped from making complaints about sexual harassment associated with doing their jobs is an utter disgrace.
It’s time to take the employment of support staff of MP’s away from from the MP’s and into the hands of the Civil Service. Such a move would lead to the activities they are asked to take part in being carefully monitored for the cost to the public purse and any doubt about them being used to support party political activities. But it would also have the effect of giving them full and clear employment protections, trade unions they can join and a complaints process to use with confidence when they are being treated in unacceptable ways.
But let’s face it this is unlikely to happen and some ineffective papering over the cracks is the most likely outcome as our failing democratic structures slip further down into the gutter as far as UK citizens are concerned.
The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link above
With all due respect to the Trinity Mirror Group I think they have the wrong target here with regard to the issue of MP’s expenses. The fact that MP’s wish to travel first class to enable them to work is actually fine by me, I would only gripe about such travel if MP’s were using it for luxury entitlement rather than working.
The real issue for me is the truly huge amount of money that MP’s are given to run their local offices and employ staff to work for them. This is surely the area for significant savings.
My view is that the premises used in their constituencies by MP’s should be procured by civil servants and the people working for MP’s should also be civil servants on secondment. This way costs could be reduced/controlled by reducing the number of employees and any hint of MP’s staff working for party political purposes removed.
MP’s are in general too detached from real life as many are the product of a party political process that means a lot of them have never worked in the real world. They effectively go straight into politics from university working their way up the slippy party political pole, often starting as MP’s assistants/staff paid for by the public purse.
Our unrepresentative electoral system fuels this process as political parties can place their up and coming people into parliamentary seats that are a virtual certainty to be won by one of the major parties. The party is thereby selecting the MP not the electorate.
My view is that we the public need to retake control of MP’s so that they are actually accountable to their constituents rather than to their political party. Changing the way that MP’s can rent/buy premises and hire & fire staff at a local level is one of the solutions, but can’t you just hear the cries of no, no, no, from those who make their livings from the public purse!