Details of the expenses claimed by members of parliament have recently been released, causing somewhat of a stir.
But when it comes down to it, the uproar is only tongue in cheek, because everybody really expects that ‘our’ MPs will cheat on their “expenses” if they get half a chance. So it is no surprise that the figures show that MP’s expense claims are ‘over the top’.
There is, of course, the disingenuous claim that MPs need this money in order to be able to carry out the “very valuable” work that they do. This assertion comes mainly from MPs themselves (who are also the very people that set both MP’s pay and expenses levels!) Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North in Greater London, is quoted in the Guardian of 22 October 2004 as saying “This is not about filling our boots. This is not about trousering a lot of money. This is about the money it takes to do the job.”
Really! Well how much do MP’s get? Their ‘basic’ salary is £57,485 (with a very generous pension provision on top of that). This ‘basic’ salary for a backbench MP is nearly three times the official figure for the average wage of just over £20,000 (Guardian 21 October 2004).
In addition to their nearly £60,000 basic pay MPs can claim per year up to:
£66,458 to employ staff, £77,534 in London, (not infrequently wives or other close family members are so ’employed’);
£20,902 to run a second constituency or London home;
£19,325 to rent or lease and equip a constituency office;
57p a mile for the first 20,000 motoring miles (20p a mile for a bicycle);
first class rail travel to and from the constituency;
and some free travel abroad.
Putting all this together the average backbench MP got £175,922. last year.
Ministers and other MPs with responsibility get more than the basic pay, the £57 thousand odd rising to over £175 thousand plus expenses for the Prime Minister. And incidentally among all his other expenses he received £42,028 over three years towards the upkeep of his constituency home in County Durham. He bought it for £30,000 in 1984, but claimed that as it was also his constituency office with permanent staff it qualified for repairs and maintenance (conveniently adding value to the Blair’s personal assets!)
We are told that majors in the Blackwatch regiment, lawyers, doctors, senior managers in industry or public bodies and so on have ‘renounced lucrative salaries’ for the meagre £57,000 odd plus that they “earn” as MPs. We do not expect them to be the backbone of the working-class movement. Whether they come from the ranks of the petty bourgeoisie, the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia or are even the daughters or younger sons of the bigger bourgeoisie, they know instinctively how to render service to their imperialist masters. And they still get a very comfortable living and the kudos that goes with the public profile.
And those who have come from the ordinary working class, having worked their way up through the ranks of the Conservative, Liberal Democratic or Labour parties, have sold out long before being approved as suitable to represent these parties in parliament in the service of the bourgeoisie!
All these bourgeois politicians know how to compensate for the “losses” they have “suffered”, by milking expenses and from directorships, consultancies and all the rest of the ways that money finds its way into the pockets of bourgeois MPs both during their sojourn in parliament and even after retirement.
Of course these people are sleaze-bags, enjoying £57,485 a year and topping it up with another £100,000 to pay for houses, employ relatives etc. Some are more blatant than others. For example, Conservative PM Michael Trend claimed for a flat that he did not even own! This dishonesty is too much even for them, at least it is now that it has come to light, and he is standing down at the next election. He was obviously not completely clued in as to how to do it. Stephen Pound explained how it should be done. Writing in his local paper he declared to his constituents how he had nobly passed up the chance of purchasing a flat in central London, about 15 miles from his home.
He points out that he could have purchased a flat when he was elected in 1997, paid off the mortgage by now from his expenses, and entirely within the rules sold it now for £200,000. Thanks for telling us how it is done! Had Mr Trend used Mr Pound as a consultant he might have found that a real instead of spurious flat would not only have been ‘legal’ and saved his seat, but also more lucrative.
For whatever reasons, Mr Pound did not follow this course. He even finished his local paper article with: “Now how do I explain to Mrs P that I have missed my chance to pocket that £200,00!” Oh what a good boy he is! But we are sure that “Mrs P” understands the principle of ‘loss leaders’; that there is a lot more available where that came from, and this particular story is designed to go down well with constituents. The gravy train is after all more than one carriage long, and there is no point in getting off at the first station on the way.
Anyway, by claiming among other items £74,910 on staff, £5, 006 on stationery and postage and £7,272 on travel Mr Pound managed to get £111, 601 last year. His travel claim alone would have enabled most of his constituents to purchase a very decent car and run it for a year!
Incidentally Piara Khabra, in the neighbouring constituency of Ealing Southall, managed to claim £112,910! And he did claim £15,990 for “overnight accommodation” in central London in spite of living close to Ickenham station. (He did claim less than Mr Pound for stationery and postage – but it is a wonder to those who know his literary prowess, as to how he spent the £1,147 he claimed!)
There is no doubt that it would cost money to do a good job as a representative of constituents, as genuine servants of the working class. But these mercenaries do not need all that money to raise their hands (or file through the lobbies) at the ‘correct’ time, which is all that most of them are good for. They ensure that the imperialist Labour government stays in power. They ensure that the living conditions of the working class are made worse in the interest of capitalist profit. They ensure that sons and daughters of the working class are sent off to fight and be killed in wars of genocide against the oppressed peoples of the world in order to secure oil and domination for the monopoly capitalist bourgeoisie.
As long ago as 1925, Shapurji Saklatvala, MP for Battersea North in London and a committed communist, said: “The class struggle is represented in the House of Commons by one Communist. The policy of duping the working class is represented by the 614 other members.” We sorely miss Comrade Saklatvala, we unfortunately still have to put up with the rest!
We will not want genuine representatives of proletarian politics to be without the necessary resources in genuinely furthering the interests of the working class. We would not want someone waiting at a bus stop while their adversaries were all in taxis on the way to an important meeting.
We have no problem with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness drawing the expenses that they need, they are putting them to good use. It is no surprise that it is they who get the brunt of vilification in the bourgeois press, not the sleaze-bags who are so blatantly on the fiddle! We are sure that the representatives of Sinn Fein, who have claimed over £100,000 in expenses and not taken up their seats, have put that money to far better use in the service of the people of Ireland (and in the actual interests of the working class of Britain) than the mercenaries who feather their nests.
Genuine representatives of the working class will receive the wage of the average worker, and necessary expenses will be for the propagation of the interests of the working class.
It may be that some constituents get attention in surgeries or have letters written by MPs to help with such things as housing benefit claims, school ‘choice’, relatives’ passports, hospital waiting lists etc. In most cases nothing is actually done except the litany of pious platitudes, and even in those where it is, these are only a few individual tinkerings in a system of rotten housing, health service, education etc that these lick-spittles maintain by voting in the appropriate way in the interests of the big business magnates of monopoly capitalism. And then do their best to keep constituents quiet by explaining that they (brave, accomplished, self-sacrificing individuals that they are) are doing it for the working class!
£130m a year goes on pay, pensions and expenses for Britain’s 659 MPs. There is much point made that this comes from taxpayers’ money. Certainly it is a travesty that this money goes to these bourgeois politicians who happily pocket it. Their major crime is that they maintain a system that bleeds the working class by the legalised extraction of surplus value, the legalised right to exploit.
The working class has much more than £130m of taxpayers’ money to gain by breaking all links with these lackeys and showing them the door.