Friday, May 29, 2009

UKIP Myth about UK's £40M per day - They are simply making most of this up.

UKIP claims that EU membership costs the UK £40m per day. This is total rubbish. I took part in a debate at a local school in Coventry a few months back and the UKIP representative made many wild claims that I could not even find supported in their own literature. I suspect they are double accounting or simply making the figures up!

Here are the facts backed up by various public sources of information.

The UK does make a net contribution to the EU, which varies year on year, but this year each person in the UK contributes £67 a year, or £1.29 per week, or 18p a day to the EU budget.

Britain pays similar amounts into the budget as do other countries of Britain’s size and wealth. It is only right that Britain makes a budget contribution, as we take all the benefits of EU membership, such as the 3 million British jobs linked to trade with other EU countries.[1]

Government Spending and net EU budget contributions:

Government spending 2008-09: £623bn, net EU contribution: £3bn[2] Government spending 2009/10: £671bn[3], net EU contribution: £4.1bn[4] (i.e. 0.6% of total government spending)

[2] Chart 1.1, 'Pre-Budget Report 2008'
[3] Chart 1.1, (page 12) 'Budget 2009: Building Britain's Future'
[4] Footnote 3 of Table C9 (page 238) ) 'Budget 2009: Building Britain's Future'

Monday, May 25, 2009

Democracy should not be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Its not just expenses, the whole thing needs reforming. Let’s just remind ourselves what has happened in Parliament in very recent years.

Allegedly members of the House of Lords have been taking cash in order to influence legislation.

It appears as though Political parties have been taking donations in exchange for political favours and honours. (Cash for Honours)

MPs have allegedly been taking money to ask questions in parliament. (Cash for Questions)

Now Parliament is supposed to be where decisions and legislation is made on OUR behalf. Democracy is something we give to our elected representatives at the ballot box, a bond of trust. It is not to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

It has been suggested that MPs with the safer seats are more likely to have been caught up in expenses scandals.

So here are some reforms I would like to see.

- Reform of the House of Lords. No more cash for honours.
- Electoral Reform. No more cosy safe seats, every vote counts anywhere in the country.
- We should be able to sack our MPs for breaching the trust we put in them. No more shuffling off to the back benches (on £64K salary) only to come back a few years later when we have all forgotten.
- Yes MPs can incur and be reimbursed for their expenses, reasonable second homes and running constituency offices. However these rules should be industrial strength, like the rules I have in the company I work for and those most people in industry and the civil service work under. No more stately homes, helipads and duck islands.
- MPs should not set the rules for benefit of their own exclusive little club. There should be an independent body that sets the rules and standards for OUR benefit.

After all we give Parliament their power at the ballot box and we are the ones paying for it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Its only because we are Jealous of MPs large houses it seems.

Tory grandee Anthony Steen claimed yesterday that he was the victim of "jealousy" among his Devon constituents who were envious of his large house. He said: "What right does the public have to interfere with my private life? None. You know what it's about? Jealousy. I've got a very, very large house."
Steen is clearly so out of touch with the constituents in his ‘safe’ seat, he may as well be living in a second home on Mars.
The public couldn’t care less about the size of his house…. It’s our having to pay for it and the 500 trees we had planted for him in its parkland we mind.

Picture - Steen's house and some of the trees we bought for him.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bring back the Chartists.

These past few weeks has seen a bloodbath in Westminster over the MP’s expenses issue. What started off as the subject of office jokes with Labour MP’s claims for bath plugs and porn films has turned to anger as we saw elaborate ‘flipping’ of second homes to maximise claims. The Tories have taken this to a whole new level with claims for chandeliers and moat cleaning for their stately homes.

As tax payers we have a right to be angry. I have never had an issue with MPs claiming reasonable expenses. When I travel on business I do the same, some of my colleagues live in rented accommodation in Worcester during the week. Industry has managed to cope with the issue in a manner that reimburses employees for reasonable expenses whilst ensuring no one makes a profit. For a start the inland revenue would never allow it.

In Westminster there has developed a culture of expenses being the right of many MPs. A system has developed that is so lax that it was simply asking to be abused.

A couple of years ago I challenged James Plaskitt MP, in the Courier over his support to MPs exemption to the freedom of information act. James claimed this was to protect the privacy of constituents, a weak claim as constituents privacy was catered for in other ways. I suggested at the time that this was more to protect MPs from scrutiny over their expenses.

I sense this is part of a deeper malaise in British Politics. Since being closer to politics over the past few years as a Parliamentary Candidate I have seen a system that is rotten to the core. Where dodgy funding can buy political favours. Dirty politics to undermine the opposition. Spin and carefully managed leaks, sexed up dossiers to influence public opinion.

Our elected representatives at any level of government should not forget that they are simply that, elected by us, to represent us so that they can take decisions on our behalf, for the smooth running of our towns, areas and country. It is a position of trust and privilege. Recent behaviour shows many treat this with contempt, no wonder Politicians are held in such low esteem.

It is easy to feel disillusioned with all politics, yet British history shows a long tradition of reformers who have successfully challenged the system and corruption from the Magna Carter to the Anti War demonstrations a few years ago.

My Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Thomas Attwood, was one of the founders of the Birmingham Political Union which was foremost among Chartist groups lobbying the government for the passage of the Reform Bill.

Like today Politics in the 1830’s had become corrupt. The aim of the movement was to, "take effectual measures for correcting diverse abuses that have long prevailed..."

Talking to people over the past few weeks, campaigning for the county elections it is clear, people are so disillusioned with politics in this country that we need a radical new Reform Bill to clear out the rot and build a parliament fit to govern this country in the 21st Century.
Picture - Alan Beddow with the statue of his Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Thomas Attwood MP in Chamberlin Square, Birmingham.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Douglas Hogg MP - Moat Cleaning Expenses

I had thought I had heard it all about MP's expenses, but this week has plumbed new depths. Douglas Hogg, (who has his snout firmly in the trough) the former agriculture secretary, submitted a claim form for more than £2,000 for the moat around his country estate to be cleared. At tax payers expense.

What has become the subject of office jokes this week has turned into a farce. People I have spoken to over the past few weeks are angry that OUR tax payers money is being embezzled in this way, when schools are struggling for funding and there is a shortage of hospital beds.