The House of Commons is in recess until April 26th – or to put it another way, MPs are on holiday. What is more, they are on holiday at a time when public-sector unions and others are threatening strikes and even teachers have gone on strike this week in one school in protest over violent pupils.
MPs would of course tell you that they are “spending time in their constituencies” and getting to know their voters. The truth is though that many of them have gone abroad to bask in the sunshine of Northern Cyprus where many of them have tax free villas.
Meanwhile the rest of us are wondering how to pay our grocery bills and the prospect of a foreign holiday in the sun is as far away in reality as is any hope of a pay increase this year. Whilst the members of David Cameron’s multimillionaire cabinet go on telling us how necessary the current spending cuts are, our expense-laden elected representatives are nowhere to be seen.
It is little wonder therefore that the general public have such disdain for Members of Parliament in general. With new figures out this week showing that MPs claimed £10,000,000 in the last month of last year and with Parliament once again relaxing the rules on expenses, it seems that things at Westminster are slowly returning to normal.
In attempt to take our eye away from such realities, Nick Clegg is busy trying to persuade everybody to adopt his alternative vote system, David Cameron is occupying himself by playing elder statesman regarding the Middle East and the rest of us are wondering how long it will be before the price of petrol increases again as oil prices hit a new all-time ahort-term record.
TheOpinionSite.org is not saying that members of Parliament should not take a holiday; that would be quite ridiculous. One must ask however why it is necessary for them to take a month when in other countries, politicians only take a week. Out of the 12 months of the year, MPs are in recess for up to five of those months. During that time many of them take a holiday rather than spending the time with their constituents as they are supposed to.
Some MPs actually do spend a lot of time in the constituency but for every one that does so, there are many that do not.
Parliament and the country generally are bracing themselves for a summer of discontent, the like of which has not been seen in many years. Train drivers, bus drivers, fireman, Job Centre staff, British Airways crews, prison officers, probation officers and even the police are gearing up for battle with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.
The income tax cuts for the lowest paid together with the other allegedly beneficial measures announced in Mr Osborne’s budget have done nothing to increase public confidence in the government’s fiscal strategy. This is principally because the rise in the rate of VAT has already swallowed up any benefit that the tax cuts and other measures could have brought to the ordinary person.
The government’s only response to this is that the cuts are necessary, a statement with which most reasonable people would probably agree. It does seem however that those at the bottom end of the pay scale – and in particular those on benefits – are feeling most of the pain whilst those who are financially more fortunate, including MPs, can take their holidays in the sun as normal.
It is possible that the weather will be kind to us this summer and it’s certainly true that those with businesses in UK holiday resorts such as Blackpool, Brighton and resorts in the south west are hoping for a boost in profits this year after what was for many a disastrous summer in 2010.
It certainly likely that more people will be taking holidays in the UK this year than in recent years as fuel surcharges, taxes and increases in VAT and duty push up the cost of foreign holidays.
TheOpinionSite.org and many others believe that MPs have still not learned their lesson and continue to exploit their position of privilege and what is still a very generous expenses system. Public confidence is not helped either by the fact that the government has adopted a new policy of releasing sensitive and sometimes potentially embarrassing information in the form of parliamentary written answers rather than making financial details available to the general public on the Internet as they promised to do.
MPs are still also complaining bitterly about the new expenses regulator, IPSA and the computer system that seems a mystery to Members of Parliament yet could probably be understood by most 12 year-olds. The system is designed to stop MPs fiddling their expenses and it would seem to many that this is the aspect of the new system that MPs do not understand. On the other hand, the public understands it very well.
If Members of Parliament want to regain credibility, reassure the general public and obtain the respect that they seem to think they deserve, they are going to have to sharpen up their act considerably, accept the fact that the gravy train that once existed exists no more and start looking at the activities of MPs from the perspective of ordinary people.
Until they do this, most of the general public will continue to regard members of Parliament as an expensive, interfering and disinterested group of individuals who achieve little other than causing great distress to many ordinary people and often making the lives of others a misery by constantly introducing more and more law which only seems to affect the poorest and most deprived members of the society that they allegedly represent.