MPs expenses – debunking the myth

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I have decided to leave my revision and break my silence on the expenses issue following an interview on the Today Programme yesterday. Bob Marshall-Andrews was running an argument which I believe to wholly without merit in relation to this issue. He is not the first and won’t be the last to make this point, however, given the devastating impact he has had on the reputation of Labour barristers from Kent, I feel obliged to pick on him.

 bma

The argument runs as follows…’Don’t take away all the perks of being an MP otherwise children from poor backgrounds will be deterred from running.’ I find this argument absurd. I would advise Mr Marshall-Andrews to ask the poor children in his constituency what they think of a base salary of over £64,000. Now I concede that for the work they do and the salaries many of them could earn in other careers, the salary of an MP is not high. But this is not the perspective which resonates with working-class children aspiring to become an MP.

Whilst it is disgusting to hear members of the press gleefully taunting MPs on this issue, MPs like Mr Marshall-Andrews are descending to the sort of desperate defences of the indefensible they so often criticise. Listening to Mr Marshall-Andrews reminded me of recents pleas by the bankers not to deny them their £1m bonuses lest they sell up and move overseas . Or the prophecies of doom that increasing taxes on people earning more than  £150,000 would cause some great exodus.

Frankly, a financier might turn his nose up at a base salary of over £64,000, but don’t pretend that tackling this wanton avarice would deter people from poor backgrounds from entering Parliament. All the reforms propsed so far would go a long way to deterring those robber barons intent on squeezing the system for every penny it can give up, but would do nothing to deter people from under-privileged backgrounds. Given the scale of abuse the current system has been subjected to by MPs over recent years, I would advise people like Bob Marshall-Andrews to keep his tail between his legs and his arguments to himself.

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