44 comments on “A certain sense of privilege here, don’t you think?

  1. Perhaps I’m alone in this, but my response was, fair enough, he appears to have been honest about this and personally I wouldn’t want that job for that cash either.

    I still think he’s probably a wanker, but for different reasons.

  2. “It has a really negative impact on the quality of life. I am not the only one who feels like this, but I am the only one at the moment who is doing anything about it.”

    Yet another argument for getting people into parliament in their 50s, after spending 30 years doing something else and having finished raising a family and are sick of the sight of their wives (and vice versa).

  3. Fortunately someone else will replace him, because without a “Minister for Africa”, Britain will rapidly decline and chaos will ensue.

  4. Tim Almond – He is 50. Parents are getting older, in case you hadn’t noticed. I have no desire to be ruled by a gerontocracy.

    Lots of people move to London for work reasons, discover that their quality of life sucks, and move back home to the sticks again. Everyone has a different set of variables influencing the decision, but London’s high housing costs and/or long commutes are always a factor.

  5. The fundamental problem is that we do not pay the top bods enough – but we pay far too much for the bed blocking nincompoops at the bottom end. A strict meritocracy with a limited number of government positions and shadow cabinet positions, decent salaries for committee chairs and minimum wage for the bottom rung. Then we should get decent turn over as the useless leave.

  6. I did a quick check on Rightmove when I first saw the story, and you can’t get a three bedroom flat anywhere near Westminster for the money allowed.

  7. According to rightmove, there are 56 three or more bedroom properties for up to £2,250 PCM within 3 miles of Westminster added in the past seven days. There are two on the other side of Westminster Bridge and another a little further away.

  8. UKL>

    The reasons why MPs need somewhere close to Parliament are well established, to the extent that the allowance is intended to cover doing so. Indeed, it does cover doing so where an MP doesn’t require space for his family.

    The allowance for this ex-minister with kids wasn’t much too low, just a bit too low to cover even a basic level suitable flat in the area. I don’t see why you think he should be treated differently to other MPs.

  9. Dave,

    The allowance for this ex-minister with kids wasn’t much too low, just a bit too low to cover even a basic level suitable flat in the area.

    In what area? Not Westminster, no, but is three miles or half an hour unreasonable? There appears to be a reasonable place in St John’s Wood and another in Kennington, both are 25 mins away from Parliament by public transport, 20 mins by car. Is that too far?

    I don’t see why you think he should be treated differently to other MPs.

    I didn’t suggest he should be, or think it. I just suggested that there are reasonable alternatives to Westminster.

  10. @ ukliberty
    There are facilities (“division bell”) available within a very short range of the HoC to alert an MP that a vote is about to be taken so that he/she can rush over to be counted. Three miles is too far except for Seb Coe.

  11. UKL>

    Don’t forget to factor in the cost of a travelcard or of running a car – ought to be allowable expenses under the circumstances.

    “both are 25 mins away from Parliament by public transport, 20 mins by car. Is that too far?”

    The prevailing view is that yes, that is too far. We can argue whether that is actually true, and apply it to all MPs, but the established principle is that being an MP requires you to stay close to Westminster.

  12. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of a travelcard or of running a car – ought to be allowable expenses under the circumstances.

    MPs have 2 places of work and can choose where they are based.

    If they choose to be based in London, which a Minister probably should, then there commute to and from Parliament is their problem. Their visits to their constituency, including hotels should, quite rightly IMHO, be picked up by the tax payer.

    If they are based in their constituency then the commute to the constituency office is their responsibility and when they visit Parliament the tax payer’s. However I would put them in hotels only, none of this 2nd homes bollox, and only 4 nights a week.

  13. @|Andrew M: yes he’s 50, and been an MP since 2001, so since his late 30s. And was probably touting around for a candidacy for a good few years prior to that. Which is far too young to be concentrating on politics. If he was aiming to enter Parliament now he’d have had another 15-20 years of a career, made his pile, kids left home etc. Politics would be an addendum to his career as a surveyor (which he was apparently) not the focus of it for his productive middle years of life. Which would make him a much more rounded and useful individual than a person aiming to make politics his career and main earning job.

    IMO you shouldn’t be able to stand as an MP til you’re 50. That would cut out the Camerons, Cleggs and Millibands of this world on their Oxford/PPE/think tank/Spad/MP conveyor belt to power

  14. This blog is often quick to justify high pay for company directors on the basis of occupational hazard, incentivise honesty, etc.

    Is there not a similar argument that MPs should be paid handsomely in order to encourage highly competent professionals to give up their normal work for a decade for public service?

  15. Dave,

    Don’t forget to factor in the cost of a travelcard or of running a car – ought to be allowable expenses under the circumstances.

    I did forget that, but fortunately the cost of a monthly travelcard for zones 1-3 is £141.40 so those places I mentioned are within budget.

    The prevailing view is that yes, that is too far. We can argue whether that is actually true, and apply it to all MPs, but the established principle is that being an MP requires you to stay close to Westminster.

    What is “close” in your view? What sort of commute time or distance?

  16. (The article and conversation reminded me of that classic exchange between Pickles and Dimbleby. Pickles said you have to be at Parliament on time, you have to be there at 9:30am. Dimbleby said, “like a job, in other words.”)

    Telegraph has followed up with an article titled “what can you rent for £27,000 in London?”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/11027677/Minister-quits-because-of-inadequate-expenses-but-what-can-you-rent-for-27000.html

    “If he were willing to use public transport, like most working Londoners…” – he isn’t so he has quit.

  17. Clearly this is a convincing argument to relocate Parliament somewhere Cheaper, preferably in the North.

  18. UKL>

    It’s not what I consider ‘close’ that matters. Traditionally, it has meant being within walking distance when the division bell rings.

  19. According to Wikipedia MPs have eight minutes after the bell rings to show up to have their vote counted. What I don’t understand is why they should have their vote counted at all if they couldn’t be bothered to sit through the debates.

    If I showed up at the very end of a work meeting to vote on a proposal that others had been debating for the last two hours I’d be rightfully ignored (and fired if I kept at it).

  20. @ ukliberty
    No it is *not* irrelevant. He has to be able to get to Parliament in time to vote. He is an MP as well as a minister. He wanted a flat where he could occasionally see his family – which meant actually being in the flat before bedtime himself to do so – which meant it had to be close enough to Parliament for him to be able to scurry thence in time to vote, so it needed to be in the “division bell” area.
    If his family is stuck in Lincolnshire then there is no particular point in him being there while the kids are awake so all he needs is somewhere to sleep but, if you read his statement, you will see that his problem was not being able to afford a flat big enough for his family to occasionally visit that close to HoC.

  21. Dave, regardless of their other failings, Tony McNulty had homes in Hammersmith and Harrow, Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper lived in south London, Hazel Blears in south London too, Barbara Follett in Soho, Gerald Kaufman near Regent’s Park, Malcom Rifkind in Kensington, Andrew George in Docklands, Anne Widdecombe near Borough Market; etc. Reportedly, several MPs live near Gandhi’s restaurant in Kennington, others have lived in Islington. Assuming a lack of seven league boots, none of those are within eight minutes walking distance of Westminster.

    They aren’t required to have their London homes within eight minutes walking or driving distance of the division lobby. Christ, if that’s what this Government minister believes* no wonder he’s having difficulty finding a home.

    * he doesn’t, though.

  22. Kennington is in the division bell area.

    you will see that his problem was not being able to afford a flat big enough for his family to occasionally visit that close to HoC.

    Which is why we and the Telegraph have been talking about three+ bed properties for <£27,000 pa.

  23. MattyJ>

    It’s rare for MPs to be given a free vote. Mostly they’re expected to show up and rubber-stamp the PM’s decisions.

    What is worth asking, though, is why they still have to show up in person to vote.

  24. Don’t they pair off with the opposition on lots of votes anyway?

    UKL is quite right, MPs live all over London – though often in suspicious circs eg T McNumpty – and he could find somewhere nearish for the cash.

    But fair play to him, he’s said, ‘I want to live nearer, the money’s not enough, I’m off.’

    Rather that than the fiddlers.

  25. McNulty looked ridiculous because he banged on about benefits cheats “expecting to get away with” “living a life of Riley at the taxpayers’ expense” while living in Hammersmith (three miles from Westminster) and claiming for his second home in his constituency of Harrow East (eleven miles from Westminster), which was occupied by his mum and dad.

  26. if you read his statement, you will see that his problem was not being able to afford a flat big enough for his family to occasionally visit that close to HoC.

    and how often does that happen? How often would someone in Westminster have their wife and son down in the middle of the week from Lincoln? Sounds to me like the boy wouldn’t get back to school in time.

    So what are we looking at? Couple of half term days? We’re going to give an MP a bigger house for half a dozen days a year? Couldn’t he just buy an airbed and a sleeping bag?

  27. Never mind the 27k,if he really wanted a bigger place near Westminster, why not dip into his salary like all the rest of us have to?

  28. Sounds like this guy is that rarity amongst MPs, someone who can actually find proper employment outside in the real world. Seems a shame to lose him.

  29. @ ukliberty
    Try reading the small print!!
    Letting fees information

    The asking rent does not include letting fees. Depending on your circumstances and the property you select, the letting agent may also apply the following upfront fees:

    general administration fees
    reference fees (including credit checks, bank, guarantor, previous landlord, etc)
    application fees
    fees for drawing up tenancy agreements
    inventory fees, including check-in and check-out fees
    guarantor arrangement/application fees
    additional occupant fees
    pets disclaimer fees/additional pet deposit

    Fees may be charged on a per person, or per property, basis and will vary from agent to agent, so confirm before viewing.

  30. @ ukliberty
    You are requoting *one* journalist who *claims* that she found *one* house available within the budget – but adding in letting agent’s fees, typically 12.5% of rent pa plus lots of extras, it was *not* within the budget.
    Yes, I am talking about *you* scraping the barrel and failing but *pretending* to find something.

  31. £27,875 pa allowance
    less fees 12.5% rent pa (really?! seems extortionate and it’s certainly not annual cost but whatever) £3,484 rounded down = £24,391 pa or £2032 pcm is our budget

    Go on rightmove, search within *three* miles of Westminster station, price max £2000 pcm, minimum three bed *houses* added in past seven days: three.

    Fount Street, London, SW8 £1,950 pcm (I favour this one)
    Ethnard Road Peckham SE15 £1,800 pcm
    Grenard Close, London, SE15 £1,950 pcm

    TFL journey planner and maps.google:

    Fount Street: 5 mins walk to bus stop, 21 mins bus to Parliament Square or 11 mins car
    Peckham Park Road: 4 mins walk to bus stop, 29 mins bus (choice of two) to Parliament Square or 19 mins car
    Grenard Close: 8 mins walk to bus stop, 37 mins bus to Parliament Square or 19 mins car

    Fount Street, then: comes under budget, including those extortionate fees (£82 pcm to spare), most attractive inside, 26 mins commute to Parliament Square, no changes, there is a night bus too.

    (29 flats are also available – some of these don’t have lounges though, so be careful Mr Simmonds. And there are other property websites.)

  32. @ ukliberty
    WHY do you refuse to check facts before posting?
    None of your examples are within eight minutes of the HoC
    http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/business/divisions/
    “There are different division bells for the Commons and Lords, and Members only vote in the divisions specific to their House. When the division bells ring Members have eight minutes to vote before the doors to the division lobbies are locked.
    Rational Anarchist has made a rational criticism (with which I am inclined to agree unless there is an IPSA rule affecting) but *you* are just trying to hide the facvt that you are *wrong*.
    Division lobbies”

  33. None of your examples are within eight minutes of the HoC

    As I already pointed out on this page they don’t have to live within eight minutes of the HoC and many don’t.

  34. For pete’s sake: try learning to read!
    Voting has to be completed within 8 minutes of the division bell.

  35. john77,

    Voting has to be completed within 8 minutes of the division bell.

    Yes, you said. I said that appears to be irrelevant to where MPs have chosen to live. I also said Simmonds didn’t mention it as his criteria – he wasn’t specific about the distance or travel-time. It’s your inference or speculation.

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