In recent years we have seen the media and the public almost turn on politicians having seen them go from being a reasonably respected group of individuals to being a group that are not trusted and are “fair game” for overly intrusive media attention.  Now some of it is justifiable but some is using those justifiable occurrences to take cheap shots at anyone who is in a position of responsibility.

Over the past 5 or so days we have seen the story of Paris Brown develop; once it was revealed she had said a few questionable things on twitter.  The media went to town on this 17 year old saying she was unfit to do her job and so on; which ultimately lead to her resignation.  Now in this whole situation I don’t think she was at fault, but that there was improper due diligence in her appointment, which if it had been carried out then none of this whole debacle would have seen the light of day. 

However it now raises one big question for anyone who is contemplating running for office in the UK, and that is “is it really worth it?”

Social media is a great thing, it lets you share and communicate ideas with people all over the world but equally it lets you have heated discussions about those ideas which could result in you saying something that could if taken on its own be taken very out of context.  That in turn is used as a big stick to beat you over the head with should you run for office.  

However it also has the problem of preserving for all time (unless you go back the next day and delete it) what you say, so all those conversations you had when you were 14, 15 & 16 that you would now look at and think oh dear did I really say that? Are as good as set in stone, for anyone to come along and dig up at a later date.

Which leads us with a bit of a tricky situations if the media are going to now go after anything that anyone has said before they were appointed or elected to a position, then with social media that is really going to limit the pool of people we have available to draw upon for these people. 

Which in the meantime raises the question, who would really want to be a politician? We have all done or said something in the past that the media would probably jump on much in the same way that they jumped on a 17 year old.  So this really has to make a lot of people thing do I really want to be put in the same position. 

We often hear that politicians are out of touch with the common person, and they have no life experience before becoming an MP.  Which may be true in some cases, but could this fact be down to the media.  If we want MP’s who know what life is about, who have some experience of life then we as a nation have to accept that they may have done things some of us would disapprove of. 

So the way I see it we have two options, we either accept that people have lived lives and done things that we may think “Oh dear, I wouldn’t have done that” and subsequently get MP’s and alike with life experience.  Or we end up with MP’s who from the age of 14 or so decided they wanted to be an MP and lived a sheltered life not daring to put a foot wrong and in turn having no experience with life what so ever.

As I am sure even some of our past MP’s like Churchill, Baldwin, Attlee all probably did things in their youth that if they were around today would be front page news.  That would probably cause them to have to resign before they did what they did. 

So the choice is simple dull MP’s or MP’s with life experience?

Now this whole anger at MP’s renting out their second homes whilst renting a property themselves isn’t really an issue in my opinion.  Now we can all, I think, accept that the majority of MP’s need a second home of some sort to live in around the London area so that they can go to work in Westminster as well as working in their constituency. 

Now if we go back to the situation in say 2005 there were MP’s that were taking advantage of the rules and bending them as much as they could without breaking them to maximise their ability to build up a property portfolio at the expense of the tax payers.  Though they did nothing strictly wrong, it was an abuse of the system which ultimately led to the new system we have now.  This stops an MP being able to claim for mortgage payments on second homes in and around London. 

So MP’s now have 2 options to cover the cost of their accommodation in London they can rent a property or they can stay in a hotel and have the cost of that picked up by the tax payer (up to £200 a night).  Which I think most of us would consider a reasonable alternative to the previous situation. 

However we now have the problem of those MP’s who own a second home and who could live in them, but would be at a detriment to themselves if there is a mortgage on the property.  As not only would they be paying for one on their main home in their constituency, like the majority of everyone else who owns a property; but they would also be paying for a second mortgage too. 

Now if I and I am sure many of you, were in the position where you are faced with the position of being worse off financially you would do all you could to mitigate the financial loss to yourselves.  Which in this situation would mean the obvious renting out the second property you own to cover the payments of your mortgage on it.  Which then means, although you own the property and are renting it you are not making any profit on such as the rent pays the mortgage. 

So to then subsequently claim rent for living in another property is not leaving you financially better off at the tax payers’ expense, but leaves you in the same position as every other MP claiming rent for a place to live in and around the London area. 

So when I look at this hysteria about the whole situation I really think it’s a lot of fuss over nothing.  Unless people can prove that beyond all reasonable doubt that these MP’s in question are actually making a profit from the state for what they are doing.  Such as they own the property outright with no mortgage on them, then I would accept that they are playing the system in an immoral way.  But to do such you would need the financial records of the MP’s doing it to show such and personally I am not sure how you would be able to get hold of those legally that easily.  Also remember one of the key principles of English law that a person is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law, not by the media and mass hysteria. 

 In reading an article in the guardian by a journalist whose name I don’t wish to type I came down upon the comments section a few people demanding that MP’s publish all they earn every year so the public can see if they are paying enough tax.  Now these people obviously don’t know about the Register of Members Interests, a public document in which MP’s have to list their earnings for all to see.  Now I know it does not say how much tax they pay but it’s a jolly interesting read. 

Which spurned me on to have a look at the latest version that’s up for all to see, purely out of curiosity. What caught my eye when I opened it was the amount of money one MP got from doing 3 hours’ work for the jolly good show that is “this week”.  Now that MP was Diane Abbot and she earned £869 per 3 hour work, which is roughly £290 per hour.  So over the 6 month period listed she earned £5214 for 18 hours work, which works out to a wage of £573,000pa.  Now obviously she doesn’t work a 38 hour week for the BBC but it’s still an awful lot. 

However to leave it there would be wrong, and very biased of me to pick on “poor” Diane Abbot, so I decided to peruse the rest of the register to see what the BBC pays other MP’s for guest appearances on both radio and telly.  This is what I found listed in money earned;

  1. Alan Johnson (Lab); £22,750 for a total of 44 hours’ work (£517ph)
  2. Diane Abbot (Lab) £5214 for 18 hours work (£290ph)
  3. Frank Field (Lab) occasional appearances on radio 4 up to £5,000
  4. Tristram Hunt (Lab) £4097.89 18 hours’ work (£227ph)
  5. Charles Kennedy (Lib) £1600 for 4 hours’ work (£400ph)
  6. Bob Ainsworth (Lab) £1,500 for 5 hours’ work (£300ph)
  7. Gisela Stuart (Lab)  £1000 for 4 hours’ work (plus two appearances on ‘Any Questions’, for £150 each) (£200ph)
  8. Rory Stewart (Con) £1148 total 5 hours’ work (£229.60ph)
  9. Hazel Blears (Lab) £500 for 40 minutes work (£750ph)
  10. Caroline Lucas (Green) £300 for 5 hours work (£60ph)
  11. Patrick Mercer (Con) £300 for 3hours’s and 40 min work ( £81ph)
  12. Susan Jones (Lab) £300 for 4 hours work (£75ph)
  13. David Lammy (Lab) £300 for 2 radio appearances
  14. Ben Bradshaw (Lab) £237.70 2 hours’ work and travel (£118ph)

  • David Davis (Con), Stephen Dorrell (Con), Matthew Hancock (Con), Bernard Jenkin (Lab), Elfyn Llwyd (PC), Stephen Pound (Lab) and Jacob Rees-Mogg (Con) all having 1 entry totalling less than £200 for assorted radio apperances.   

Now some of them I couldn’t calculate the hourly rate because they had not listed just how long they were taking part for like Mr Field and those with small payments.  But at a brief glance of the figures the shock I got last night calculating how much Diane Abbot was paid pails in to insignificance with the payments for Alan Johnson and Hazel Blears who both earn over £500 per hour, closely followed by Charles Kennedy at £400ph. 

Now here is where my problems with it lay.  Now the BBC prides itself on being impartial and providing a balanced view on the news and especially on politics but if you look at the figures 9 out of the top 10 earners are all MP’s who are politically on the left  leaving only Rory Stewart the only Conservative in the top 10.  Now those of us on the right have always doubted the BBC’s true impartiality in recent years but this alone starts to raise questions about that. 

The second issue I have is the sums of money; those politicians being paid to appear on political shows are in all intense and purposes being paid to put across the political views of the party they represent.  So in effect we the license payers are paying Diane Abbot to preach to us about the Labour party.  That’s what I have a problem with, I am happy to give every political party air time to disseminate their ideas and ideology, but what I object to is finding out that they are then being paid by the BBC to do so.   

If we total up the fees from the top ten it comes to £43,109.89 for probably no more than 150 hours’ worth of work.  Now surely the BBC could employ 2 fulltime people on £21,000 a year rather than pay politicians to tell us the same thing they do all the time.  Is this really a good use of license payers money?

Now I know this is only the tip of the ice berg and I could have looked at payments from SKY TV or ITV or Channel 4 as well as all the newspapers.  But those organisations do not go on about being impartial politically; we know the Guardian leans to the left and the Telegraph to the right.  We know Sky is influenced by what pair of socks Rupert Murdoch is wearing on a particular day.  But the BBC is supposed to be impartial, and these figures alone raise certain questions as to really if the BBC is impartial, and actually does lean to the left even if it tries to keep up the pretence it does not.

Maybe just maybe we should consider should the BBC really be funded this way anymore, we now have hundreds of TV channels in the UK at our disposal and is it really fair that one of them gets £145 per house hold to keep it running.  The other TV channels all seem to survive funding themselves, so maybe it’s time to set the BBC free and let it go off in to the big wide world on its own to take care of itself. 

All the information for this blog was obtained from The Register of Members Interests, viewable