'You w*****, you f****** w*****', exploded one Tory MP to me today, ‘You do not speak for me.’ Indeed I do not.
For some Members of Parliament the penny is only now beginning to drop, in this instance that he will now have to commute daily like many of his constituents. Sir Christopher Kelly was very clear on his mandate from Parliament and the independence of his committee. I know from my discussion with him that he is aware that any expenses system has anomalies within it and any change creates some unfairness. Such is life.
However Kelly has had to balance a coherent new system with the abject failure of Parliament over many years to establish a system of pay and conditions that is transparent, workable and defendable. Our failure to do so, especially in more recent years has removed any moral authority that Parliament had on its own remuneration.
We have no choice but to agree both the Legg audit review and the Kelly recommendations as one entire package. By doing so we will take the first major step towards rebuilding public trust in politicians and in Parliament.
Kelly’s reported new system has of course its own anomalies. You can employ a mistress but not a wife, and you can live in London and still have the taxpayer pick up the rent bill in most constituencies. MPs though cannot cherry pick the bits that we personally like and dispose of the remains. Kelly is a take it or leave it solution to the scandals of this summer.
Angry MPs have quickly regrouped to argue that the ‘quality’ of future MPs will fall. On what comparator with the present Parliament is such an assertion made? MPs continue to hide behind their own mythology of safe seats, from which they are immune from the court of public opinion, a notion that Tatton and Blaenau Gwent should have dispelled by now.
There are some who are threatening the law courts as their retort, but a legal battle against the British public will be both expensive and foolhardy. More likely one or two of the most arrogant MPs will resign quickly in order to try to preserve their current resettlement grant which Kelly’s reforms will cut. History will judge them unworthy of any Parliament.
MPs remain a species who feel embattled, under valued and under paid. The reality is that we are under valued, as are our staff, for the time, dedication and pressures that we bear. We still remain though our own worst enemies in presuming that we can ignore the reality that surrounds us. Its time, for Parliamentarians to bite the bullet agree the reforms and enter the modern world.