Sunday, May 07, 2006


As expected, New Labour was massacred in the English local elections. As they hoped, the Conservatives did well enough to dream of resurrection. And as the mainstream Parties feared, the British National Party won nearly fifty seats in a howling protest vote that other politicians do not hear them.
Though the turnout was only 36 per cent, the resultant government reshuffle has been more brutal than predicted and everyone is talking excitedly about an end being in sight of morally bankrupt Blairism and the New Labour Project.
But the disconnect between the rulers from the ruled is unlikely to go away either under a different Labour Prime Minister or a new government of a different hue — unless they tackle the root problem.
It is not that over a thousand convicted foreign criminals are free to prowl the streets instead of being deported or that immigration is out of control.
It is also not that the chaotic National Health Service is deeply in the red. Or, like lunatics running an asylum, illiterate, unruly pupils dictate school conduct. Or even that few people believe a single word any politician utters.
The root of the disconnect and why politicians are deaf to voters’ needs is expenses — the money they charge the taxpayer without receipts or any proof that the sums have been spent on the purposes for which they are claimed.
Only last month Downing Street admitted for the first time that £15,000 claimed by Tony Blair for his constituency home in County Durham was not being used to pay the costs of a mortgage on the property.
Thanks to expenses politicians do not live on the same planet as the people they are supposed to represent.
While the great mass of their constituents skimp and save to pay their mortgages, rent, Council Tax and household bills, politicians get most of their living costs free on Planet Exes.
Last year they cost the public £81 million, up an inflation busting 3.8 per cent on the previous year and £23 million up in the past three years. As well as a comfortable salary of nearly £60,000, they claimed an average of over £122,000 in expenses.
These include not only second homes, travel, postage, computers and ‘additional costs’, but there is a nice little ‘Incidental Expenditure’ fund if that is not enough. Not to mention the sum of up to £40,000 they can claim if get voted out and lose their job.
The party where John Prescott’s former diary secretary, Tracey Temple, wrapped her legs around him was paid for out of the public purse.
To top it all, in his desperate reshuffle to try to keep his job, Blair has allowed Prescott to keep his London flat in Admiralty House, country house at Dorneywood and all his expenses at a total cost of nearly £800,000 to the taxpayer while his work is done by newly demoted former Education Secretary Ruth Kelly.
Now politicians want an extra £50 million to fill the black hole in their gold-plated pensions and, following the loans for peerages scandal, are talking about getting public funding to pay for their Election expenses.
No one grudges MPs reimbursement for genuine expenses. But it is time for them to get off the gravy train and account for what they do with public money. They should not only produce receipts for their expenses but photocopies should be put online and in local offices so constituents can see how they are spending public money before the disconnect drives more people to vote for the BNP.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is reported to have made a ‘bittersweet’ call to her drab, dreary admirer Jack Straw over the loss of his job as Foreign Secretary. As Straw cost the taxpayer millions in police protection when he drooled around like a lovesick youth on Rice’s recent visit to Liverpool and his Blackburn constituency, he deserved to be fired for that alone.
Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2006. All Rights Reserved