Donald MacInnes: The MP, the wreath and the real cost of remembrance

 

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The Independent Online

If she keeps her promises, I'm assuming the Rotherham MP Sarah Champion will have paid back the £17 she claimed from the public purse to pay for a Remembrance Day poppy wreath.

And while £17 is quite a lot of money, dare she not pay it back? The revelations about her act of despicable knavery leave her on the most translucent of thin ice, electorally, so to fail to make amends would widen the already significant crack beneath her feet.

But let's consider the morals on show.

Why, you may ask, need she pay it back? This was, as she described in her claim form, a "necessary expense". It's not as if this circle of scarlet flowers was bought for spurious reasons – such as, perhaps, to provide a Somme-themed cover for the spare tyre on the back of her Range Rover.

In reality, Ms Champion bought that wreath (well, perhaps "bought" is too strong a word) in order that she could pay heart-felt tribute to our war dead. And you can hardly blame her for wanting to hitch her wagon to the poppy jalopy.

Remember that politicians never look as austere; as sad-eyed and, well, human, damn it, as they do when they queue up at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in their nice black November overcoats with their frost-pink cheeks, and their bowing, to rest their wreaths against that chiselled list of names of people who were shot, blown up or otherwise reduced to a memory in the defence of someone's definition of freedom.

My only hope is that the Labour member will go the whole hog, throwing in an extra £3, just to bring the £17 value of her contrition up to a nice round number. Funnily enough, Ms Champion's MP salary is also just the other side of a nice round number, being £67,060.

If you have been wondering (and I know I have) what kind of impact paying back the money would have on Sarah's pre-tax salary, allow me to work it out for you. Let's see now… [taps at calculator] £67,060 minus £20 iiiiiiis… £67,040.

Ah. That's actually a bigger drop than I expected. It's maybe not hard to see why the MP decided to ask you and me to chip in for her floral remembrance. After all, if too much of her salary is leeched out like this, how will she afford to go about her daily routine of being alive and, well, not speaking German?

Previously, in this newspaper, I wrote about the salary First World War soldiers could expect, if they lived long enough to gaze grimly at a payslip. Your average Tommy was paid 1s 6d (one shilling and sixpence) a day. In today's money, that equates to around £3.23 per day.

Think of it, Sarah – 100 years ago someone risked their life for you and their day's pay was £14 less than the £17 you couldn't be bothered spending to celebrate their memory. Not great, is it?

Twitter: @DonaldAMacInnes

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