Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The House

We were away in the camper van last week - long story -  suffice it to say if you ever see me wandering close to an Estate Agents window ever again, please shoot me!!!

We were so busy during the day looking at houses that most evening we were quite content to pour a glass of wine, fire up the bbq and just chill. So you can imagine my surprise when we eventually got round to buying a newspaper we found that not only have some back benches been plotting a coup against Gordon Brown but also that there were a cabal of women in the government who seemed to be hell bent on staging some kind of post feminist rebellion of their own.

Did Jackie Smith, Hazel Blears and the rest of the coven really think that the great British public would be impressed to see women, who had been exposed 'taking advantage' of  an expenses system that was designed and regulated by Westminster, leaving the government, not because they were embarrassed to have been caught out, but because they thought that their actions could effect a change of leadership?. Did they really think that on the eve of the local and European elections they were truly serving the people of this country with their chants of 'Gordon is a bully'?  

And if Brown is such a nightmare to work for, why, when they have had plenty of chances to make a stand and expose his autocratic ways before, where they seemingly content to sit on his cabinet and even accept the promotions that he handed out to them.  Could it be because some of them were so busy making sure that they were claiming everything that they felt they were entitled to they were happy to put up with the status quo?  

Irrational as it may sound, I am more disgusted that a woman like Hazel Blears who has banged on over the years about being a Salford girl born and bred and is a tireless worker for her constituents, has been caught taking advantage of a system, that to most ordinary people is yet another example of one rule for the rich etc. 

It is not good enough to say that MPs should get tax advantages on a second home because they have to have somewhere to live in London.  What about the thousands of people who have to work away from home, not because they want to, but because that is where the work is?  You try telling that to a builder who thinks himself lucky to have found work at the 2012 Olympic village in East London.  And just because his wife and kids are back home in Salford and there is no way that he could afford to relocate the whole family,  he is having to pay over £200 a week for a poky room in a shared flat in Leytonstone. He can't make a claim for a 42" plasma tv or a taxi to take him shopping in Waitrose never mind convincing the tax man that he should have a second home allowance.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to go back to the days when only rich men could go into politics. The Mother of all Parliaments should be filled with the best that this country has to offer, regardless of the size of their wallet (or political colour) but the expenses that are available to allow MPs to do their job properly should be regulated by an independent body not by the MPs themselves.  The system should be open and transparent, with no room for ambiguity.  

To represent your constituents as an MP is an honour, a privilege, not an excuse to take advantage of an expanding housing market.  MPs should be paid a good wage that takes into account they hours that they have to spend both in Westminster and their constituencies.  They should have access to the best administrative and technological system that will enable them to best serve the people, whether that is in London or not.  

And maybe instead of throwing their dummies out of their prams, these woman should have tried plotting a different kind of revolution.  One that says why should, in the 21st Century, when we have video conferencing facilities in even the most humble of office suites, should an MP have to travel to London to attend a committee meeting on a Monday morning when it would be far more cost effective for them to stay in their constituency and just dial-in.  Why is it necessary for Minsters to fire off emails to each other from their offices in Westminster when they could be just as easily be done from St Ives or Newcastle.  Why should MPs have to spend all week in London when most face to face meetings could be properly scheduled to mean that they would be able to travel when only absolutely necessary. 

This way they wouldn't need a second home, what they would need is somewhere safe and comfortable to spend the odd nights when they needed to be in London and maybe just maybe this would encourage more women to stand for parliament.  Real women, women who have families and responsibilities like the rest of us.  Women who don't want to palm their kids out to someone else to bring up.  Women who are not afraid of hard work but are not prepared to sacrifice their families at the alter of Westminister. 
I would have more respect for Jackie, Hazel and the gang if they had used this protest as a spring board for updating and modernising a system that is long overdue an overhaul.  We have the technology now - this isn't some kind of science fiction story - let's use British ingenuity and innovation to show the rest of the world that we can learn from this whole expenses farrago and come out of it with a stronger and  more modern government that will once again be the envy of the world.

So come on Gordon show us what you're made off.  Instead of listening to the fools that are trying to make you look like a poor man's Tony Blair, prove to your detractors that you are a forward thinking innovative leader who is not afraid of change and is prepared to change not only they way that you lead the country but that you're prepared to makes changes now that will mean the country can once again be proud to be setting the trends and not just doggedly continuing with a system that has been shown up to be no more that 'a glorified gentleman's club'

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