MPs should be paid more, and here’s why #MPsPay #votepleb

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I remember a television interview with Tony Benn (1925 – 2014), some time in the 1990s I think, where he proposed (if my memory serves me correctly) that members of parliament should be paid £100,000 per annum. BUT, and it’s a big but, forbidden from having any other financial interests. It is possible that I have not remembered the details correctly but that doesn’t matter, it’s the perspective that’s important, and I have some of my own suggestions.

At the time, it seemed like a monstrous amount of money, an annual income that most people will never earn in their lives, but I have come to agree with him and think they should be paid even more than that, and I’ll come back to that later.

Friends of mine will know that, despite a very long-standing disdain for politics and politicians, I have only recently become politically active, but why is that?

Shame, disgust and anger.

On a daily basis, I am appalled by the explicit corruption of people who are PUBLIC SERVANTS, paid with public money. Not government money, there is no such thing as government money, it is our money, paid by “hardworking” people. Not Google, of course, or Gary Barlow, or any of the hordes of other favoured tax avoiders otherwise known as Conservative Party donors.

However, UK members of parliament are not bound by the same kind of terms and conditions that you and I might expect in our place of work, and they cannot be removed from their positions except by a general election, a by-election or under certain specific, but none too punitive circumstances.

Members of Parliament are paid a generous salary but also have a wide range of perks and benefits, including a subsidised second home, paid-for ancillary staff and rather generous expenses. I will not go into the figures here but it is all available on

And now, it is proposed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) to give British MPs a 11% pay rise, despite years of austerity and caps on local authority pay and social security benefits, and demonstrable failure of the government to deal with the problems of the United Kingdom.

Having said that, my own criticism would not be the cost to the British public, but the lack of responsibility taken by the very people who have been elected to represent us. I accept that being an MP is a huge commitment and an undertaking far more serious than any of my own paid roles, but with great great power comes great responsibility.

And there’s the rub.

I am sure David Cameron and his Bullingdon buddies see themselves as statesmen. An élite. The cream of the crop. But these are people who have never done anything worthwhile in their entire lives. They have never contributed anything to the world around them because they have never actually worked and they know nothing of the world because they jump straight from university into politics with nothing more than a first-class degree in fluff and a dollop of mummy and daddy’s prejudice.

I’m sure they think it’s work, and I have no doubt that they spend long hours in their efforts, but working as a researcher or a speech writer for another politician is not work at all. It’s just an exercise in disguising prejudice as prudence.

If you look at Cameron’s Wikipedia entry (I don’t have my Who’s Who? to hand) he was known to be an outstanding student. However, his most notable skill seems to be question avoidance, otherwise known as professional lying. Such a shame that someone so obviously talented has dedicated his life to the perversion of truth.

George Osborne (currently Chancellor of the Exchequer) was not such a star pupil, but he is just a placeholder, although I gather he has been having acting lessons and voice coaching in order to improve his appeal.

This might explain why he has become such a charismatic performer recently. Money well spent. But why would a politician find it necessary to have acting lessons, whether or not it’s paid for by the taxpayer? Well, it’s because even a pantomime needs actors with a convincing vocal delivery.

Oh yes it does.

The reported amounts of money are trivial, but the principal of it is deeply invidious. It demonstrates what a sham the British parliament is, where performance has become more important than policy.

I can imagine a television competition show with those heavyweights of showbiz mentoring, Tom Jones, Will I Am, Jessie J and whatsisname-from-a-boyband, who sit with their backs to the dispatch box, listening to the deep, earnest rumblings of Osborne, followed by the artificially-maintained brogue of South Yorkshire’s favourite relish, William Hague, and then the twittering of Clegg, and finally the expertly polished, boyish fervour of Cameron.

What a shock they’ll get when then spin around, only to go eye-to-eye with the smooth-faced dumplings of the coalition front bench. Clegg is the looker, but I don’t suppose he’ll be in the competition much longer. (You know, I keep forgetting about Clegg, even though I am in Sheffield too. He’s not taken very seriously around here.)

It would not be fair to accuse Cameron or Osborne of being out of touch, they were never in touch in the first place. Cameron is the 5th cousin (twice removed) of Queen Elizabeth II, and Osborne is the direct descendent of King Henry III of England.

This is also anathema to a responsible manager. I have been involved in selecting and interviewing for professional roles, but I would never appoint any of them. These people are the worst possible candidates for their jobs. They are conditioned sociopaths, their emotional development willfully stunted by their educational institutions, thereby making them incapable of arriving at informed decisions. If these people were not from wealthy families we would consider them deprived.

These men are not statesmen in either principle or practice, and we have lost sight of the fact that they, like us, are workers. They are being paid to work for us, to represent our interests, and if they don’t do that then no amount of drama coaching or vocal gymnastics will distract us from the fact that they are guilty of professional negligence.

What’s more, in any other industry, if an employee refused to answer a question posed by their colleagues or employers, or was found to be lying, that would count as gross misconduct, even if their mic technique was faultless. And yes, I am talking about Prime Minister’s Questions, which is a grotesque sham that future generations will compare with the obscene excesses of the Roman Empire.

What I would like to see is for a General Election where parliament is dissolved and all elected MPs are re-employed on a normal contract of employment. Just like the rest of us. Just like “hard working” people.

This would mean that MPs could be disciplined and, if necessary, dismissed if they fail to meet the conditions of their contract. I have had a number of management roles in my life but only once had to pursue disciplinary proceedings against a colleague. It’s not something to be taken lightly but is a vital safeguard that protects the employing organisation and fellow workers against the negligence, incompetence or misconduct of colleagues.

And as the responsibilities of Members of Parliament directly affect the wellbeing of thousands or even millions of other people, rather than the laissez-faire that we have at the moment, the contracts of MPs should be even more strictly scrutinized.

First out of the door would be Iain Duncan Smith. He’s an easy target, I know, but he’s been found to have lied about his education, mismanaged a number of extremely important government projects, willfully misrepresented statistical information and neglected his duty of care in his job.

Three strikes and you’re out is normal practice, mate, and that’s four. Oh and don’t sit down, Grant Shapps, you won’t be stopping either.

In normal employment, it would not be unreasonable to forbid employees to associate with other organisations that might create a conflict of interests, so why do we allow it amongst workers who have direct responsible for our economic prosperity, social services and national security?

Nadine “Mad Nad” Dorries (another easy target) would have been dismissed for gross misconduct. Not for swallowing maggots in the jungle, or for having the stupidity to appear on “I’m a Celebrity”, but for neglecting the duties she is paid to perform. Although, surely her appearance on the programme constitutes misrepresentation by the television production company, but let’s forget about that.

However, it’s not all depravity in the Houses of Parliament. I realise that I rarely mention the competent or ethical MPs, but they are not the ones we need to worry about. For a number of years, Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith has been campaigning for a “Recall” Bill, whereby members of parliament can be removed from their seats, via a by-election, if they are considered to be not doing their job properly.

The Recall Bill has just passed its first reading (on 11th September 2014) but Goldsmith has expressed his concern how it “falls scandalously short” of what he has been campaigning for.

The recall process in the bill as about to be enacted is reminiscent of the appeal process against the building of an intergalactic bypass that involved the destruction of the Earth in Douglas Adams’ 1979 novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.

“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

That was just a satire, but the reality is so grotesquely cynical, it’s not funny at all.

If you read the conditions required, it’s just a filibuster. In my opinion, however, Goldsmith doesn’t go nearly far enough, although I believe his heart is in the right place. My own preference would be for a much more radical, but not extreme, solution. A solution that already has millions of people in the UK employed in a similar manner.

Here is my proposal: members of parliament should be paid £250,000 per year, but forbidden from having any other income or financial interests during their tenure, and for a full parliamentary term afterwards although they would still get paid. Also, they would have to pay for all their travel, hotel bills and sundry expenses out of that amount, with no second home or personal favours. Additionally, any staff would have to be paid for out of that gross amount, but not spouses, offspring, friends, relatives or “special advisers”.

As Dennis Skinner put it, half the party opposite are not crooks, but it’s not just on the government benches. From the front benches all the way to the back on both sides, parliament is half full of people who would not be employable elsewhere because of past bankruptcies, criminal convictions or demonstrable incompetence.

I fight for the users, for the workers, for the plebs, and all I want is for “them” to realise that they are “us”.


Just because it’s a theory doesn’t mean it’s not a conspiracy (orange is the new red)

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“Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country”

It’s a shame to have to quote a Nazi but one thing you can’t criticise them for was their understanding of the power of propaganda. And Goering was right, it’s difficult to argue against defending one’s country against a material threat, especially when we keep being reminded that that whole appeasement of Hitler strategy didn’t work out all that well.

TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains some stuff that is bleeding obvious, some stuff that has said many times before, and a bit of conspiracy theory too. Feel free to disagree and comment if you like, but don’t bother trolling me, I never get involved in flame wars. Anyway, I’ve tagged the various sections so you can pick and choose as you wish.

INTRODUCTION: I’m not a joiner. I don’t mean I am not a carpenter, although that is also true, I mean I am not one for following leaders or joining clubs. I am a natural skeptic, and for many years I have been a fairly vocal naysayer when it comes to conspiracy theories. Partly out of skepticism and partly because the kind of people that devise or repeat them do not inspire me with much confidence. However, I am not stupid. I hesitate to put my head above the parapet but if someone doesn’t say something then nothing will have been said. Remember those elusive weapons of mass destruction (WMD)? Those WMD that served as an imperative to invade Iraq in 2003 and save us all from big ones being lobbed into our back yards? Yes, the WMD that turned out to be a manufactured fantasy.

It turns out that the conspiracy theorists were right about that one.

Despite the posturing of Obama and his cronies here in the UK about the highly dubious supposed chemical weapon attack in 2013, both governments were foiled by their own democratic processes in their attempts to go to war in Syria.

ELLIPSIS: George Orwell has been getting a bit of stick lately from Will Self, or at least the quality of Orwell’s writing has. I don’t think this is a conspiracy to discredit Orwell, I just think Self has run out of things to write about.

I admire Orwell but I also think he is not the best writer in the world, nor the best novelist, but that’s missing the point. I admire him more for expressing and exploring interesting concepts without any personal or collective heroism. His accounts of the details of his time working as a plongeur in Paris and the minutiae of life on the road in “Down and Out in Paris and London” are hilarious and the trivial detail is compelling. What is compelling about Orwell’s writing is its clarity and candour, and his awareness of his own position, sometimes as an observer and sometimes as a participant.

The frankness of “Shooting an Elephant” is disarming, and the critique of political writing in “Politics and the English Language” is as current today as it was in 1946, except that most of the specific words and phrases have been replaced by a new rhetoric. I am no authority on Orwell, although I have read most of his books, and it might well be a cliché to keep referring to him, but but the very currency of his ideas and commentary is why he is still so persistently admired.

BLEEDING OBVIOUS: It’s worth revisiting “Nineteen Eighty-Four” particularly the idea that is expressed in Goldstein’s book about the continuity of war.

“The economy of many countries was allowed to stagnate, land went out of cultivation, capital equipment was not added to, great blocks of the population were prevented from working and kept half alive by State charity. But this, too, entailed military weakness, and since the privations it inflicted were obviously unnecessary, it made opposition inevitable. The problem was how to keep the wheels of industry turning without increasing the real wealth of the world. Goods must be produced, but they must not be distributed. And in practice the only way of achieving this was by continuous warfare.”

IRONY: On September 11th 2014 is was difficult to avoid the mawkish “Never Forget” messages, spread widely across social media, it’s irony perhaps being lost against the the “Never Again” and “Lest We Forget” of the First World War, currently having its 100 year anniversary? I wonder if the people of Iraq or Iran, or Afghanistan or Palestine or Vietnam, or any one of the numerous warzones that the US has either participated in or funded since WW1 pins up “Never Again” messages, or “Never Forget”. Or maybe the families of the 700,000 killed (so far) in the war in Iraq should use “Please, not again”.

IRONY: Well, one irony that is completely lost in the double-speak of US foreign policy is that the 11th of September already has a significant place in political history. In 1973, the US government sponsored a coup d’etat in Chile to replace the democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, with a military junta led by General Augusto Pinochet.  The same Pinochet who is infamous for “The Disappeared”, those considered to be politically incompatible with the regime and removed from the democratic process (with extreme prejudice).

I usually prefer not to get all my information on current affairs from popular media, but I was not aware of the US / UK engineered coup until I saw the film Argo (2012), directed and starring Ben Affleck. I must admit to being shocked at how ignorant I was, but then it never gets any mainstream coverage. For anyone equally in the dark, Wikipedia has a short summary here.

IRONY: The movie has a short prologue that explained how the Americans and British organised a coup d’etat to replace the (you guessed it) democratically-elected government with a dictatorship. The incumbent Shah of Iran then oppressed the people to the point of revolution, without which Iran would (probably) still have been a moderate democracy with a muslim majority, as opposed to an Islamic State. I must admit to being totally ignorant of the political situation in Iran, despite having lived through the period of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. I remember it being covered on the TV news all the time, but at 15 I was neither informed nor interested in what was going on.

And they wonder why the Iranian post-revolution parliament used to chant “Death to America”. The ironies stack up so fast you need wings to stay above them.

IRONY: Again, it is widely known that Saudi Arabia regularly beheads criminals, though usually not Americans, but when Islamic State do it, it becomes an international outrage justifying drone attacks and (probably) invasion. What’s more, whilst the United States may not decapitate anyone (at least not on their own soil), but they murder hundreds of their own citizens each year in the form of capital punishment.

But the Saudis and the Americans have one of those “special relationships”, rather like the Aircraft Carrier GB relationship they have with us.

LIBERAL APOLOGISM: But this is why I would argue that not all conspiracy theorists are dope casualties, imagining that there are illuminati lizards lurking under the bed.

I am certain that some of the acts of violence that have been carried out in the name of Islam / Jihad are independently motivated, and some by militant Islamic groups abroad, but I think these, along with the Daily Mail’s flavour of immigration-fever are being used to fuel a nationalistic war effort in order to regain control of the oil-producing middle-east.

CONSPIRACY THEORY: Given the more-than-a-little dirty history of both our governments, I would not be surprised if Jihadi John and the videoed beheadings turn out to be sponsored by the US / UK. After the desperate attempt to go to war last year, and Obama’s overt commitment* to fucking with the world as he sees fit, it seems very convenient that they are murdering Americans using a masked man with a British accent. It ticks both nationality boxes, and this might also explain the current obsession in the British media about the radicalisation of British muslims.

DOUBLE-IRONY: However, the irony kill-zone here is that rise of jihadi movements in the middle east has been provoked by the meddling of the US and UK governments. Even if Jihadi John is not a CIA stooge, then he is a product of US foreign policy. It’s so ironic it’s not even funny and it’s a win-win situation for the perpetuators of continuous war.

Given Orwell’s imagined conspiracies, based upon his own observations, and illustrated by the continual re-enactments we see around us, it’s difficult not to believe that two plus two equals five.