Britain’s Politicians Prepare (Themselves) For The Recession

When interviewed recently about the economic crisis by the ‘Sun’ newspaper, British Prime Minster Gordon Brown assured the nation that he ‘felt its pain’. He then toured the TV & Radio stations, insisting that the Government shares the public’s concerns regarding the security of their homes, bank accounts and employment .Sceptism of politician’s priorities is , of course, nothing new : “They only do the right thing when all other options are exhausted” (American journalist Dan Mitchell). “The problem with political jokes is they get elected (US author Henry Cate VII). “Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even when there is no river”(Nikita Kruschev, Soviet First Secretary 1953-64). “They never believe themselves what they say, so are surprised if anyone else does (Charles de Gaulle, President of France 1958-69).”Politicians care far more about keeping their jobs than helping to protect yours” (Steve Dasbach, ex- Director of US Libertarian Party) . “Their only true allegiance is to their own re-election” (Michelle Malkin, Fox TV News presenter).

There are currently 646 Members of Parliament (MPs): 356 Labour ( 35.3% of the vote in the 2005 General Election); 198 Conservative (32.3%); 62 Liberal Democrats (22.1%). The remainder are divided among the smaller parties such as the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists. A British Prime Minster can call a General Election ( with the Queen’s assent) whenever he chooses (usually at the best moment for his Party) within a maximum of five years. The latest date for the next one is 3rd June 2010. Opinion polls suggest that if one was held now, many Labour MPs in ‘marginal constituencies’ would lose their seats and consequently their parliamentary income. Understandably, they would prefer to wait until their electoral prospects improve. An MP’s basic pay is £60,277 per annum, ,though this can be supplemented by claims for expenses ( such as a £23,000 contribution for a ‘second home’) which in 2007 averaged out at £135,600 for each of them – a total bill of £87.6m for the taxpayer. They also receive a substantial pension when they retire or are voted out.

The Prime Minister’s salary is £189,994 p.a. When he was Chancellor of the Exchequer , his satellite TV subscription (£372), ‘cleaning services’ (£723), ‘painting & decorating’ (£1,396), food (£650, ), light bulbs (£15) and ‘kitchen refurbishment’ (£9,000) were all paid from public funds. Tony Blair also obtained £11,200 for a new kitchen and £516 for a dishwasher. The Speaker of the House of Commons ,Michael Martin, (£138.724 p.a) last year spent £100,000 of public money on legal fees. Boris Johnson (London Mayor & ex-MP) earns more than many Cabinet Ministers ( £137, 579 p.a.). Leader of the Opposition. David Cameron receives £132,317pa. Members of his ‘Shadow Cabinet’ are also paid extra on top of their remuneration as MPs.

The 720 unelected ‘Peers’ in the House of Lords do not receive an annual salary but can claim £78.50 (meals and taxis), £69 (office expenses) per day and £159.50 for overnight hotel accommodation. Most are chosen by the Prime Minister or the two other main party leaders. The Lords can delay laws they don’t like but (usually) not stop them altogether. The Lord High Chancellor (Jack Straw) is ‘entitled’ to £227,736 p.a. (more than the Prime Minister) . A Lord who is also a Cabinet Minister. gets £104,386 p.a. It would appear that the UK’s political establishment is ready for the hardships of a long recession.

Filed under: Politics | Posted on November 3rd, 2008 by Colin D Gordon

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