Monday, 5 November 2012
Beyond Powder Treason
Remember, remember the fifth of November
The gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, twas his intent
To blow up King and parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England’s overthrow.
By God’s mercy he was catched
With a dark lantern and lighted match
Holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ring
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the King.
Our politicians make decisions that affect our lives but they are too far removed from the lives of everyday people to make informed decision. Every MP really does live in an ivory tower, even if just for the term of the job (it comes with the job), and even those from working class origins may quickly forget the pressures manifest on the minimum wage (a wage below the living wage).
Few things annoy me in politics like a politician saying "we've listened to people...", I mean come on, they're supposed to represent us. How they hell can they justify losing touch? Surely listening to 'the people' is a fundamental prerequisite to be a politician? We need a mechanism to ensure they do not lose touch...
Parliament is currently dominated by millionaires, many with privileged backgrounds and so it is unsurprising that they can lose touch with the common wo/man. We're ruled by a bunch of career politicians who bring the unpleasant whiff of student politicking to the House of Commons. They seem more focused on what politics can do for them, rather than what they can do for the electorate. Few are what you'd call leaders - although they hide behind titles that give them leadership status and rank. Even fewer seem to have been to the edge of British economic life which makes it easy for them to deal with the cold numbers of a budget, slashing expenditure, and to ignore the real people affected by their actions.
How can we change this? Here is my three point plan.
Year 1: Work Experience. On being elected, politicians will defer entry to parliament for one years and instead work as a front-line nurse (but drawing their MPs salary and benefits).
This will filter out the work-shy and those who have never really done a hard days graft in their life (there are many of them in the House of Commons). Even though their income will be several times that of career nurses, I think this will add some perspective on what real work is about, and make MPs themselves reappraise their own value. Who knows - this may even make them think twice about voting a pay rise for themselves - particularly in these harsh economic times.
Year 2: The MP enters Parliament, on a nurses wage for one year!
When it comes to leaders of industry of selecting MPs we seem to hear a lot about 'attracting people of the right calibre'. Yet when it comes to jobs like nursing, when mention is made of the lowly wages we hear justification along the lines of "well it's not all about the money, and people go in to nursing for different reasons...".
Now to focus on 'people of the right calibre', Parliament is filled with ex-convicts, thieves, swindlers, fraudsters, (possible) sexual deviants and other dishonest and avaricious types who easily fall before swords of power, money and fame (politics has been referred to as 'rock and roll for ugly people'). There are a few good-guys in politics but we need to filter out those with a weak grip on their own moral compass.
After a year working as a nurse (step one), I reckon most MPs would be happy to work their second year as an MP on a nurse's salary. This will give a visceral understanding of the financial pressures key workers in society are under and give some measure to their decisions when it comes to wielding the axe.
We like to think that MPs seek election for altruistic purposes, and perhaps steps one and two will filter out weaker career politicians who, thus far in life, have walked a privileged path without the wisdom of experience.
Year 3 Onwards: MPs get their full wage (and benefits), but remuneration works like a student loan!
So now our MP has done some hard frontline work, and earned a realistic salary. How good does that sound? But there are further problems.
Many people who have been an MP and particularly those who enter high office seem to do VERY well on leaving politics and some simply view it as a stepping stone. Being an MP gives them a degree of fame and a general raised profile that they can (and do) exploit for personal gain. Being a politician confers a commercial value on the MP. Furthermore their wealth is often underpinned by morally dubious activities including manipulating expenses, lucrative property investments, and taking up jobs after leaving office with companies that they'd have been VERY closely involved with via their position in office and other practices illustrative of conflicts of interest and vested interest. This STINKS!
We need to restore the public's faith in politicians and redress this financial mire. First of all we need transparency in how they are spending OUR money - including expenses - which should be published online. But the bigger picture is to tackle how they cash in on their time in office?
The increased profile enjoyed by politicians gives them a great advantage on the jobs market on leaving office. They are hired not for talent - but for who they are; their commercial profile. So for every penny they earn over a rather generous limit of, say £150,000 per annum, all MPs should have to repay their MPs salary and expenses.
Voila! Power corrupts. The change can start here!