Honestly, I spend my weekend away from the computer screen and I come back to chaos, doesn't anybody else relax at home these days?
Oh yeah, Tony McNulty is! A little bit too much by the look of it - the 'employment minister' (clearly doing a great job) has been claiming for a second home, when he lives three miles from parliament...right
Compared to this rather brazen act, Jacqui Smith looks like an angel - she was merely playing the system, McNulty has simply been taking public money to finance his parents' home (he moved out seven years ago - you would think that was enough time to redirect the post) - now don't think I condone what Smith did, but at least she was living in her sister's house in London, McNulty has simply been claiming cash on a house he makes almost no pretense to live in and has no reason to finance
My initial reaction to this wasn't anger - it was despair, my head actually dropped as it became patently obvious that a lot of these MPs (especially the ministers) clearly have no regard for public money - if that was me I'd be constantly concerned if I rented a place in London, but these guys like to claim the full amount and gain an asset in the process - all on a salary three times the national average (at least)
I'm not going to condemn every MP - because there are a few, almost solely backbenchers, who claim nothing, kudos to "Tories Adam Afriyie and Robert Wilson and Labour's Martin Salter" as the Mail reported - the only greater London MPs to neither claim the second-home allowance nor the London allowance (which provides more salary due to London's massively inflated costs)
The allowances are there for a reason, so I don't mind the rest claiming them - most of the time I'm sure they are within the rules and justified but there seems to be a pretty recurrent theme appearing here - take as much as you can for personal gain - this is wrong.
You also do have to question the others who I mentioned are justified, if some MPs can do it on salary alone, why can't the rest? It's a very good salary that most of us would be lucky to try and live off - needing to finance a place in London is fair game, most employers would provide you with travel expenses (such as hotels), but these MPs in London don't seem to be being very considerate of the public.
I actually think there is some merit in McNulty's point about extending the range of constituencies where the allowance isn't available - I think he is a little excessive (60 miles extends to Cambridge, Henley and Bexhill) I would suggest those on the Underground network, rather than make those outside London suffer National Rail every day. But pointing out a flawed system when you have been the serious exploiter of it does not get you off the hook, Tony - just because it is there does not mean you use it! This is why MPs should not have the final say on their salary packages, and this is in fact one area where I appreciate the tabloid warmongering - even if it is over the top and they won't shut up until they aren't paid a penny
This whole situation is maddening and needs to be addressed by an independent body - and it's also linked to my whole rant the other day about our deeply flawed political system and why we should attempt to correct it