How to help in an election, part 32
Foot in mouth disease returns to the UK
I listened to the full furore that erupted around Radio 5 Live this morning as I drove around South Tyneside from one supermarket to another hunting down some elusive powder for Mrs. Curly, Sir Nicholas Winterton did himself and David Cameron no favours at all by playing the buffoon in a row over his interview with Total Politics. Just as the Conservatives thought they were re-establishing a lead in the polls today the BBC decides to grill Winterton in an interview with Stephen Nolan, damaging might be the least way of putting it!
Sir Nicholas and his wife Anne, also an MP, have long been targets of Guido Fawkes, who has an excerpt of the interview at his place, are both retiring from the House of Commons at the next election, a point that most listeners appeared to miss, and neither will be sadly missed outside of Derbyshire. One of the gripes that he whined about was first class travel, which was probably why he was targeted by the BBC, in the Total Politics interview he said this:
“And now they want to stop members of Parliament travelling first class. That puts us below local councillors and officers of local government. They all travel first class. Majors in the army travel first class. So we are supposed to stand when there are no seats. And why are we going to waste our time when we can work on the train as we do. I’m sorry. It infuriates me.”
He whinged that it left MPs below the level of local councillors (who can also benefit from first class travel) and that often he carries on working hard for his constituents when travelling by train:
“But in order to be able to do that they need to be able to sit down, and you can’t always do that in standard class… and you also need quiet and sadly, you don’t very often get that in standard class.
“If I was in standard class I would not do work because people would be looking over your shoulder the entire time, there would be noise, there would be distraction.”
“They are a totally different type of people.
“There’s lots of children, there’s noise, there’s activity. I like to have peace and quiet when I’m travelling.”
It’s that statement above that the Socialists will grasp on tonight, I don’t suppose that Winterton will be able to do anything else except travel by train from now on, he certainly won’t be able to walk with that huge hole in his foot! Not sure if he shot it or put it in his mouth and chewed some off, the blerk has been a total oaf and the interview this morning was slow motion train crash in glorious technicolour!
Oddly enough, I did agree with many of the things he said, it is for Parliament to decide what is right for MPs, but it is also right that the way in which they decide should be open and transparent, and that we should decide at elections whether or not we have agreed with their decisions.
I also sympathised with his arguments over first class travel – yes, I did, I cannot imagine that South Shields’ MPs David Clark or Arthur Blenkinsop enjoyed lesser comforts when travelling than our present representative David Miliband. However we live in exceptional times, times in which we have gained a larger than expected insight to the lives and largesse of our representatives, the public here in South Shields and across the UK have made it pretty clear that the expenses and allowances of MPs have been perhaps too generous and certainly too secretive in the past, and that these things must change after the next election. We pay our MPs a tidy salary, and afford them sufficient to pay their staff and cover their necessary expenses (which does not include hanging baskets or cleaning out moats), many of them they work hard on our behalf and if they feel they need to carry on working when travelling that’s fine by me. If they need to use first class carriages on the trains to afford them peace and quiet so they can concentrate on constituency matters that’s fine by me too!
Just don’t expect us to carry on paying for it!
There are plenty of other people in professional jobs who have to continue working when they travel, many use first class, and many buy their own ticket, MPs should get a strict amount of first class tickets and once they are used they should dig into their own pockets!
Winterton is one of those perfect examples of the discredited troughing Parliament, a body of people who lived at a high standard throughout a gruelling recession whilst the rest of us paid for them and struggled: neither he nor his wife will be in the next Parliament, it is to be hoped that a new set of MPs will draw up radical new rules that go far beyond what the current government of Gordon Brown is proposing and set about cleaning up Westminster.
Goodbye Nick and Anne, oh what plank you were today.
Oh, and by the way, since the poster wars have hotted up, here are a few more “I’ve never voted Labour before” posters.