RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: Your MP’s £10,000 to-do list… Why are politicians being paid MORE during lockdown?
We are all in this together. How many times have we heard that over the past few weeks?
Yet while millions of people in the private sector endure pay cuts and face an uncertain future, MPs are actually being paid more money to help them cope with the coronavirus crisis.
Not just the 3.1 per cent increase they received at the beginning of April, taking their basic salaries to £81,932.
Members of Parliament have also been handed an additional £10,000 for the inconvenience of having to work from home.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak – Members of Parliament have also been handed an additional £10,000 for the inconvenience of having to work from home
The news was smuggled out under the radar this week, in a letter from the expenses regulator, Ipsa.
This extra money, which will be available for the next year, can be used to buy equipment such as laptops and printers and pay gas, electricity and phone bills.
Ostensibly, it is designed to support key staff, but there’s nothing in the rules to prevent MPs spending it on themselves.
The real question is why they need any more money. In March, every MP got an extra £25,000 to cover increased staff costs, taking the total amount for running their offices to over £200,000 a year.
Admittedly, working from home may mean they incur higher domestic telephone and utility bills, but they’re also saving money while their constituency offices are shut. So why bung them another ten grand? What extra equipment do they need to work from home?
Surely no one is seriously suggesting that MPs and their staff don’t already own computers and printers? Emails cost nothing, and neither do most of those fancy new video-conferencing apps.
Millions of people are managing magnificently to work from home, using laptops and mobile phones, without receiving an extra penny.
So, I repeat, why does Ipsa — which is supposed to watch the pennies on behalf of the British taxpayer — believe that MPs are a special case, not subject to the same privations and sacrifices as the rest of us?
It’s not as if they’re working their socks off right now. Parliament isn’t sitting and constituency surgeries are off-limits.
How are they passing their time in lockdown? And how are they going to spend their ten grand windfalls?
During the expenses scandal a few years ago, we marvelled at the audacity of their avarice.
Since then, the rules governing what they can claim have tightened. But never bet against their ingenuity, when it comes to defining ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ activity.
With an extra £10,000 burning a hole in their pocket, this is what an especially creative MP’s ‘to-do’ list might look like over the Easter weekend . . .
1) Ring secretary, tell her to cancel all calls on the grounds that I’m self-isolating.
2) Go on Amazon Prime and order new 65-inch QLED TV, vital for keeping up with latest coronavirus news and watching daily briefing.
3) Renew Sky subscription, and add BritBox in order to watch Yes, Minister and House Of Cards for research purposes.
4) Upgrade to latest Apple MacBook, to Zoom staff and answer essential emails. Remember to send a Get Well Soon eCardto Boris.
5) Play Fortnite.
‘Play Fortnite’ – With an extra £10,000 burning a hole in their pocket, this is what an especially creative MP’s ‘to-do’ list might look like over the Easter weekend . . .
6) Monitor porn websites, to see if they comply with parental control regulations.
7) Go back to Amazon, order new garden furniture, essential for maintaining recommended daily vitamin D intake.
8) Add patio heater, to enable late night sitting.
9) Ditto, new Weber barbeque.
10) Remember to register at Ocado as an NHS ‘key worker’, courtesy of membership of health select committee.
11) Don’t forget to include 120 bog rolls in priority order, along with 5kg organic quinoa, 144 packets of pasta, a six-pack of Hotel Chocolat Easter Eggs and two dozen hot cross buns.
12) Put out urgent press release condemning panic-buying and calling on police to arrest shoppers posing as nurses at Aldi.
13) While waiting for Ocado delivery, check out John Lewis website for new ‘home office’ furniture.
14) Order Oka sofa, Chinon chair, matching desk and one of those Alexa thingies.
15) Strip trashy paperbacks from shelves, replace with unreadable political biographies and incomprehensible books about economic theory, just in case invited on Newsnight for Skype interview.
16) Make plans for extended lockdown. Kitchen will obviously need makeover. Order new Aga, American-style fridge-freezer, dishwasher, washing machine, wine safe and one of those taps that gives you instant hot water — essential for washing your hands regularly, as per Department of Health instructions.
17) If stuck indoors much longer, going to need a new bathroom, too. Walk-in steam shower, low-level loo, chrome fittings.
18) Oh, and a bidet might not be a bad idea, either, if the bog roll shortage gets any more acute.
19) Make plans for tomorrow. Get local handyman to paint
duck house and drain moat, remembering to observe all social distancing guidelines.
20) Keep receipts.
21) If anyone from Ipsa asks, insist it’s all essential expenditure. You’re staying home, protecting the NHS and saving lives!
Lord Watson? We really are in Dire Straits
Nonce Finder General Tom Watson’s appointment as the new chairman of UK Music has sparked a wave of disgust.
How did one of the most reviled politicians in Britain get chosen as head of the music industry’s umbrella body, representing everyone from songwriters and musicians to publishers and promoters?
It’s the question which has been asked repeatedly since this column brought the news to a wider audience on Tuesday.
Nonce Finder General Tom Watson’s appointment as the new chairman of UK Music has sparked a wave of disgust
There’s talk of major players resigning from UK Music in protest. They’re furious and demanding answers.
The first they knew of the appointment was when they read about it here. Most of them didn’t even know the job was up for grabs.
They think the whole process stinks and want it reopened.
Like me, they can’t imagine anyone less suitable as figurehead of one of Britain’s most important creative industries and are seeking to get the decision overturned.
Even if they succeed, Watson may yet land an even greater consolation prize. He is still hopeful of a peerage, for which he was nominated by O.J Corbyn.
After abusing his office and parliamentary privilege to smear blameless public figures as child molesters and murderers, you’d put his chances of getting elevated to the Lords at less than zero. Especially as his chosen victims were predominantly senior Tories. But rumour has it, the peerage may go through when Parliament reconvenes.
Incredibly, some leading Conservatives are happy to forgive and forget Watson’s disgraceful witch-hunt.
Take cocksure Health Secretary Matt Hancock, for instance, who seems to be enjoying the limelight a little too much in the present crisis. You’d have thought he had enough on his hands with coronavirus.
Yet he has managed to take time out on Twitter to congratulate Watson on his appointment as head of UK Music.
What the hell was he thinking?
If this is an example of Hancock’s political and moral judgment, we’re in more trouble than we thought.
We’re being advised to buy smaller bottles of wine to limit our drinking at home during lockdown. I’ll be switching from Methuselahs to Jeroboams.
Sorry I can’t reply personally to all the kind emails you’ve sent since this crisis began, though I do read them all. Your good wishes are appreciated, not only by me but by all the journalists at the Mail working long hours, from home, to get this newspaper out every day.
I’m just a song and dance man. They do the heavy lifting.
But this isn’t a one-way street. We’re grateful to the printers and delivery drivers, and especially to the newsagents and store owners staying open, despite the risk to their own wellbeing.
Most of all, we want to thank you, our wonderful readers, for your continued support. Many of you write to say we’re helping to keep your spirits up. Let me assure you, the feeling’s mutual.
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