Irenic. Adj: favoring, conducive to, or operating toward peace, moderation, or conciliation. Notes from a Politics and Economics undergraduate just back from somewhere in the MidWest. "You said you were going to Ohio? Where the Hell's that?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Two Divergent Themes in the MPs Expenses Row

The telepublic outrage at the revelations of British MPs' fraudulent expenses claims seems too earnest to be real but it's surely charming. It's certainly a pleasant distraction from the news that deflation is at record high and Standard & Poor's have put UK government debt on 'downgrade watch'.

Whilst the Daily Telegraph drip-by-drip release of these stories continues and before the anger in the country finds articulate expression (neither the BNP nor Esther Rantzen qualify in my opinion), I wish to address two themes of the public discontent that appear divergent.

The first cropped up at least two weeks ago when Andrew Lansley MP, Shadow Health Secretary, was roundly condemned by a television audience for having a job outside of Westminster. Apparently people were upset that he spent 12 days a year as a non-executive director of a small company. The message for aspirant MPs seemed to be: part-timers need not apply.

So apparently Joe Public wants the establishment of a full-time political class whose entire earnings would be funded by the taxpayer. Doesn't sound like the Joe Public that's angry with the frivolity and largesse of those expenses claims, does it?

However these two themes in the politics of envy that seems to thrive in recessions don't have to conflict. If MPs were already so wealthy that they didn't have to take directorships in the first place they could fund the job of representation out of their own pocket. What could be more public-spirited than that, especially in these hard times?

What is more, it usually takes a few years to build up a bit of cash so MPs would automatically have experience to boot. If some youth were desired we could insert those born into wealth and prestige to sit alongside the parvenus. Sound familiar?

Therefore I propose a temporary equilibrium solution to reconcile this apparently divergent public anger. Place a property and income restriction on all House of Commons candidates and, meanwhile, govern the country from the House of Lords.

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