Letter: No champagne here

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Sir: Ken Livingstone ("A toast to champagne socialists", 20 January) misses the point.

As one who managed quite well, in nine years in Parliament, to live on the average skilled worker's wage, I enjoyed life. Including "a glass of wine", and sometimes, Ken, even with cheese! But I enjoyed it to the same extent as the Coventry people I represented then (and again, now do) - no more, no less. I've always lived in the area I represent, shopped at the same shops, paid the same bills, and enjoyed the same holidays as the people who sent me to Westminster.

I did that not because I prefer a "hair shirt" but because living on an average wage is the best way to prevent the almost inevitable absorption of an Establishment outlook which parliamentary lifestyle is designed to produce, neutering any radical, socialist feelings MPs once might have had. A casual glance at the Cabinet proves the point.

We will always have Labour representatives coming under the sway of big business unless they have the lifestyle of ordinary Labour voters. As the Clydeside hero and Marxist of 80 years ago, John McLean, famously said: "Rise with your class, not out of it."