No Zoe, No

So without even venturing into the territory of whether or not he’s a disgrace to public life, we can assume that by a combination of “freelance” work and the benefits in kind that must surely accrue from his expenses, his household income probably puts him in the top 1%.

There is broad agreement now, whether you love equality or hate it, that the top 1% isn’t really the story; the story is the top 0.1%. Nevertheless, when a man in the top 1% who has his rent paid still can’t afford to house his children in the capital, it is no longer a story about what kind of a person he is: this is a story about a broken system.

 

It’s not that he cannot afford to rent in the capital. It’s that he chooses not to rent in the capital. He’s got plenty of income he just chooses not to spend it in that manner.

It’s reasonably standard that you spend between a quarter and a third of your income on housing. Grossing up those allowances to account for their being tax free he’s got that quarter to one third of his (Ministerial) income to pay for rent and exclusively for rent.

33 comments on “No Zoe, No

  1. Wasn’t it not really about affording a family home in London but affording a second family home in London as well as one in the constituency?

    Which is a problem of ministers. MPs are just like the rest of us who work away from home for days at a time – Travelodge ought to be good enough for them, or an equivalent small flat. But ministers are more permanently in London yet also need the constituency house, and when that’s a decent house and the long-term home they don’t want to give it up for a job that they might lose.

    Now I think the root problem is choosing ministers from MPs (what happened to separation of powers and an independent parliament to scrutinise the executive?), but that’s the system we’ve got.

  2. It’s not that he cannot afford to rent in the capital. It’s that he chooses not to rent in the capital.

    Quite.

    He’s got plenty of income he just chooses not to spend it in that manner.

    He could get a reasonable place in a reasonable area using the housing allowance (Kennington, Oval, London Bridge etc) – he wouldn’t need to spend any of his income. The public purse wouldn’t pay for exactly what he wanted where he wanted so he threw his toys out of the pram.

  3. An awful lot of people live in London. A large number rent. Very few of them will command a salary like his. Zoe needs to explain how this happens.

  4. Isn’t everyone missing the point with this bloke?
    Every job has it’s cost/benefits.
    He seems to have decided the costs of being an MP/government minister (to include residence requirements) don’t match what he can get somewhere else in the economy. He’s a very isolated example of where higher remunerations for politicians might be appropriate.
    Doesn’t alter the fact, the majority of politicians couldn’t find more remunerative employment outside of politics because the world outside of politics doesn’t value their talents as highly.

  5. “what happened to separation of powers” – that was more an American/Enlightenment idea, where they were trying to avoid a powerful government by splitting its functions into three non-overlapping parts which would act as checks and balances on one another.

    Traditionally the British system of government avoided this, and preferred what Bagehot called “fusion of powers” – in which judicial, legislative and executive powers overlapped in a kind of harmony.

    Bagehot thought this made government function more smoothly; at least it stopped the gears of government grinding to a halt against one another. (A common and longstanding complaint re US constitution is that many reforms have ground to a halt in constitutional deadlock though I note that hasn’t stopped the size of the government expanding over the years.) But that theoretical justification doesn’t explain the British system historically. It’s more to do with how law-making, judicial and executive roles once held by the monarch were split somewhat piecemeal between parliament and various courts.

    We are moving away from that now – the highest court at one stage was parliament itself, though the Commons last sat as such in 1399 and the Lords reduced to sitting as a professional judicial Appellate Committee, the Law Lords, in 1876. Labour’s latest round of constitutional reform included a US-style Supreme Court, and what traditionalists would see as an act of constitutional vandalism on the Lord Chancellor (who anciently had a legislative, judicial and executive role so was seen as the pinnacle of fusion). That was justified under a “separation of powers” doctrine which was historically alien to the British constitution, though as you can see there was something of a trend towards it. Nevertheless in recent years a number of countries have moved from a presidential to parliamentary system of government, and have embraced a certain amount of fusion – at least of legislature and executive, less so judiciary, though I think government ministers in such systems tend to have quasi-judicial powers.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_of_powers

    http://www.supremecourt.uk/about/appellate-committee.html

    http://www.theguardian.com/news/2003/jun/15/crime.theobserver (The Observer: “Blair’s botched revolution”)

  6. So without even venturing into the territory of whether or not he’s a disgrace to public life, we can assume that by a combination of “freelance” work and the benefits in kind that must surely accrue from his expenses, his household income probably puts him in the top 1%.

    “The top 1%” appears to be becoming a euphemism for “somebody who earns more than me”.

  7. He seems to have decided the costs of being an MP/government minister (to include residence requirements) don’t match what he can get somewhere else in the economy.

    Where did he indicate he can do better elsewhere?

    The gist of what he told the BBC and Telegraph is that the accommodation allowance doesn’t stretch to what he wants, he’s not willing to live where it affords, so he’s off.

  8. “The top 1%” appears to be becoming a euphemism for “somebody who earns more than me”.

    Worse: it’s “somebody who probably earns more than me”.

  9. “Where did he indicate he can do better elsewhere?”

    By resigning.

    He’s decided his talents can be better employed elsewhere.

  10. @UKL ‘The public purse wouldn’t pay for exactly what he wanted where he wanted so he threw his toys out of the pram.’

    @Zoe ‘without even venturing into the territory of whether or not he’s a disgrace to public life’

    It’s neither ‘throwing toys out of the pram’ nor defining oneself as ‘a disgrace to public life’ (whatever that is) to say, ‘Sorry I don’t want to do this job for this money.’

    It’s actually the behaviour of an adult.

  11. The problem for parliament is that it is a tournament system – great rewards for the very top, not so much for everyone else (similar to sports people – the very best get paid a lot, the others not so much). Make it to one of the great offices of state and you are pretty much assured a decent income thereafter. This chap is saying “I’m not good enough to get to the top and I can do better elsewhere”. A fairly rational choice. Not to mention the whole pillory thing for being a pol in the first place.

    I know a few Tories who would make excellent Ministers, but wont stand as MPs because the loss of income is just too great.

  12. If he had just said, “Sorry I don’t want to do this job for this money” and “I don’t get to spend enough time with my family” that would be fine. It’s all the bullshit whingeing about how impossible it is to find a reasonable place anywhere near Westminster for the allowance. Maybe he isn’t aware of property websites.

  13. @UKL

    ‘It’s all the bullshit whingeing about how impossible it is to find a reasonable place anywhere near Westminster for the allowance. Maybe he isn’t aware of property websites.’

    I think it’s simply that you and he have a different definition of the phrase ‘anywhere near Westminster’.

    I largely agree with you by the way, to the extent that MPs ought to get some sort of help to rent but that they shouldn’t take the piss.

    I just don’t think he’s done much wrong, just said fuck this I can do better elsewhere.

    I repeat, I wouldn’t do that job for that cash. I think I’d need half a million quid a year, mostly to put up with the obloquy which would be heaped on me day after day by idiots scarcely able to tie their own laces.

    And to be honest I’d only be doing it for the money.

  14. I think it’s simply that you and he have a different definition of the phrase ‘anywhere near Westminster’

    Quite possibly the case, but he hasn’t been explicit. Maybe by “anywhere near” he means he’d like a house on Parliament Square, I don’t know.

  15. Is Minister for Bongo Bongo Land a great office of state? Or simply a reason to give an otherwise faceless backbencher a ministerial salary and perks?

  16. @UKL ‘Maybe by “anywhere near” he means he’d like a house on Parliament Square, I don’t know.’

    Yes, but perhaps we should establish what he means before criticising what he has said and done?

  17. I have proved ukliberty wrong on the previous thread. But he/she keeps repeating his/her error.
    OK when I said 3 miles was too far except for Seb Coe, I should have *even* for Seb Coe – the time limit is 8 minutes including getting past security. ukliberty thinks 29 minutes away is the best choice.
    Bored now!

  18. Yes, but perhaps we should establish what he means before criticising what he has said and done?</blockquote
    If we did that the internet would lose power and we wouldn't be able to watch cat videos.

    He told the Radio 4’s PM programme: “It is primarily financial support that is needed … It doesn’t stretch anywhere near the cost of renting a flat in Westminster.

    “Of course if MPs want to get into the business of travelling extensively from Westminster to the outer reaches of London to rent a flat then that’s up to them but that’s not the lifestyle I want and it’s not the lifestyle I have chosen for myself or I want for my family.”

    He appears to want a flat in Westminster. And yes, you’re looking at roughly double what the rent would be on the other end of the bridge.

  19. john77,

    I have proved ukliberty wrong on the previous thread. But he/she keeps repeating his/her error.
    OK when I said 3 miles was too far except for Seb Coe, I should have *even* for Seb Coe – the time limit is 8 minutes including getting past security. ukliberty thinks 29 minutes away is the best choice.
    Bored now!

    What exactly do you think you have “proved”? You keep banging on about the division bell area as if it’s the kicker.

    As I pointed out with examples, some MPs haven’t lived / don’t live within eight minutes walk (call it half a mile) of the Commons and claim accommodation allowances. Here is another example: Helen Grant claims rental accommodation allowance for a flat near the SIS building in Vauxhall. Vauxhall station or SIS building to the Commons is about a mile – 5 minutes drive (3 mins without traffic), 15 mins by bus (one change).

    The allowance would pay for Simmonds to live in areas where other MPs live / have lived – I provided examples. Simmonds wanted to live in Westminster and the allowance will cover only half the rent for the same size of accommodation. Those are the facts.

  20. ukliberty continually *refuses* to look at the requirement specified by Mark Simmons.
    He wanted a flat where he could see his kids within range of the HoC, which means close enough to get there to vote since he wants to see them while they are awake so 8 minutes (including waiting for the taxi and getting through security).
    When I was 25 I lived in a converted attic in North London and if I had been an MP I should have lived in a converted attic in central London, going home to sleep when the Commons closed. And I should have survived on a MP’s salary (Wilson had substantially increased it). So what!
    Mark Simmons has declared that he will quit the HoC because he cannot get a three-bedroom flat close enough to the HoC to enable him to see enough of his family. You have repeatedly tried to call him a liar and every time, I have shown *you* to be wrong.
    Grow up!

  21. @UKL

    What did he mean by ‘in Westminster’?

    I don’t know, but Westminster goes as far out as Queen’s Park, where you can rent inside budget but he might feel it’s too far for his family reasons.

    But anyway, on your own quoted remarks, my question becomes how you believe this:

    “Of course if MPs want to get into the business of travelling extensively from Westminster to the outer reaches of London to rent a flat then that’s up to them but that’s not the lifestyle I want and it’s not the lifestyle I have chosen for myself or I want for my family.”

    To equate to him lobbing his toys from his pram?

  22. john77,

    ukliberty continually *refuses* to look at the requirement specified by Mark Simmons.

    False: I quoted him above. Are you blind?

    Here is my own transcript from the BBC’s PM programme:

    “Well it’s primarily financial support to enable a flat near Westminster to be rented to enable a family to live together when the Member of Parliament wants that to be the case. That is not the case at the moment. And even with the – rest assured I have looked into it in great detail – even with the additional allowances that IPSA allocate for children under the age of 16 or in full-time education it doesn’t stretch anywhere near the cost of renting a flat near Westminster. Now of course if MPs want to get into the business of travelling extensively from Westminster to the outer reaches of London to rent a flat that’s up to them but that’s not the lifestyle I want. …”

    The division bell 8 mins walk security checks etc stuff is your speculation, your inference. He wasn’t explicit about what distance or travel-time he is prepared to live away from Westminster.

    You have repeatedly tried to call him a liar ….

    False: I haven’t once claimed he’s a liar. I have said that a family sized dwelling cannot be obtained within half a mile from the Commons within budget – which agrees with him. I have suggested that if “anywhere near” means say within three miles then it’s false that a family sized dwelling cannot be obtained “anywhere near” Westminster within budget, because I have checked property websites myself.

    He wanted a flat where he could see his kids within range of the HoC, which means close enough to get there to vote since he wants to see them while they are awake so 8 minutes (including waiting for the taxi and getting through security).

    Something like a 10-15 mins drive is out of the question.

  23. interested,

    … To equate to him lobbing his toys from his pram?

    He sounded like a nice man when he was talking about missing his family and being miserable alone in hotel rooms. But the guff about accommodation made him sound like an entitled bell-end.

  24. I am on the verge of being rude to ukliberty
    She says that “anywhere near” the HoC means somewhere that Seb Coe can’t reach in time for a division.
    She says “The division bell 8 mins walk security checks etc stuff is your speculation”
    NO that is not speculation; that is a quote from the official website.
    “Rational Anarchist” has a case to answer but “ukliberty” is talking utter tripe.

  25. john77, are you hourly? Mark Simmonds did not say that among his criteria was that 8 mins travel-time. It is your speculation or inference that is among his criteria.

  26. ukliberty
    Don;t pretend to be so stupid! He did not need to say that it was 8 minutes travel time because everyone (except, perhaps, you) knows that is the requirement for an MP.

  27. john77,
    I’m not arguing against the fact they have to vote within 8 mins from the bell ringing or the vote isn’t counted, I’m arguing that they aren’t required to live within that particular distance, it’s their choice (aside from costs) and I’m also arguing that Mark Simmonds didn’t say or indicate that was among his criteria. All you’re doing is repeating a fact no-one disputes but conflating it with your speculation about Simmonds’s criteria, in the apparent belief you think you have made a knock-down argument. You haven’t.

  28. @ ukliberty
    Try reading what he actually said. He couldn’t, within the expenses allowance, get a flat in which his family could stay *and* he could see them. That means within 8 minutes of the division lobby.
    If he didn’t want to see his family he could commute from an attic in outer London, as I did in my mid-twenties, *but* he did and that is why he is leaving parliament at the next election.
    You seem obsessed with the idea that I speculate – I do not: I analyse. I quit gambling as a teenager because I could see that I was no good at it.

  29. Try reading what he actually said. He couldn’t, within the expenses allowance, get a flat in which his family could stay *and* he could see them.That means within 8 minutes of the division lobby.

    That last sentence is your interpretation. Do you understand the difference between what he said and your interpretation of what he said?

    If he didn’t want to see his family he could commute from an attic in outer London,

    Do you think Vauxhall, Oval, Kennington, Soho, Southwark and Hammersmith are in outer London? If you do you’re ridiculous. If you do not, then why mention outer London, other than as a rhetorical device to dishonestly make it seem as if the poor soul was being forced to live an hour away from work?

    Is a five minute drive to Vauxhall out of the question?

  30. @ ukliberty
    His job requirement is that he be able to vote when required. So my interpretation of “OmniaGalliaintrespartesdivisusest” is “All Gaul has been divided into three parts”
    That is “the action of explaining the meaning of something” *not* speculation – as you were claiming two posts back.
    I am *not* dishonest – kindly apologise! I was pointing out that if he didn’t want to see his family where he lived was almost irrelevant (only governed by the range provided by taxis after midnight): I used to commute from an attic in outer London, so I know that it is possible, if you are not on an 8-minute time-limit, and so that was the obvious simple example to give; I have never lived in “Vauxhall, Oval, Kennington, Soho, Southwark and Hammersmith” – I don’t even know whether they rent out attics.
    “Is a five minute drive to Vauxhall out of the question?” YES: (apart from it being more than 5 minutes just driving anyway) – you have to pass through the division lobbies within 8 minutes of the bell ringing so time to get out of flat and to parked car, drive to HoC, get into car park past security (which has to check everyone since the IRA killed Airey Neave), get from car park, past security into HoC, run to division lobby. 30-odd years ago I lived in the City of London (after I had got fed up with commuting – the attic wasn’t that bad in itself, it was ASLEF) and found that some Lords but *no* MPs lived in the City because it was too far from the HoC to get there in time to vote.
    It might help if you learned something of the subject before talking about it.

  31. That’s all so interesting.

    His job requirement is that he be able to vote when required.

    How peculiar that other MPs live and have lived more than 8 mins away.

  32. For those who are not morons or paid advocates for Ed Millionaireband, it should be clear that requirements for a pad where one could crash out after a 3 am vote and a pad where one could see one’s family while the kids were awake and still get to the HoC in time to vote when required are not the same.

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