There are three basic types of elected politicians. First, there are those who are hungry for power, not that much unlike those who seize it somehow, either by leading a revolution, a coup d’etat if they are in a position to affect one, or by turning a successful election into a dictatorship. Dictatorship is in any case what the power-seekers want and the present government is behaving more and more like one through its increased police powers, constant acts of censorship, and decisions taken that effect everyone without in any way seeking public approval. The latter include going twice into unprovoked war, giving massive amounts of tax-payers money to bail out friends in banks and industries that have failed because of incompetence, and decisions affecting schools, the Health Service and whole sections of the population such as immigrants, again without consultation. The government is willing to negotiate with some of the most corrupt regimes in the world and to let massive corrupt practises go by unheeded and unpunished, such as the recent BAE Systems scandal.
The Government has put off a general election as long as it can, but within two months there must be one, unless some new emergency is dreamed up to bring in legislation putting it off, not an impossible scenario. Dissatisfaction and contempt with politicians is so widespread that it is impossible to guess how many people will vote, but it will certainly be a low poll. But I am now going to suggest what I would like to see in this election.
Before that however, let me mention the other two types of politicians other than power-seekers. There are those who see it as a career with opportunities for making money and the prospect of a good pension at the end. They, of course, are the ones who have been causing the recent scandal by feathering their nests with the assurance that secrecy, much defended by Ex-speaker Martin, would protect them. But the third category consists of people who have genuine desire to improve society and the world generally, who of course need to be able to have the basic necessities of life, but for whom money, comfort and luxury-living are unimportant. Such men and women, admittedly with the advantage of an education behind them and some family money, tended to produce the great statesman of the past, the Burkes, Cannings, Disraelis and Gladstones. But at least they respected what so few of the today’s politicians don’t- a high culture that only a good education with wealth of knowledge behind it can provide a sense of history, of what has led to a better society in the past, and a compassion for those who need it. Being in parliament should be a privilege that requires action. It should not be a cushy job that encourages laziness.
The salary of a firt-time M.P should be £20,000 a year. He should have free second-class travel to London from his constituency, and a room and bathroom in a special building able to houseall non-London Members of Parliament (there are several new buildings within easy walking distance of the House that could be taken over. They should be required to be in the Chamber for at least two hours a day instead of sitting around all the time in the lounges, smoking rooms, bars and tea-rooms gossiping, and to take part as often as possible in the public debates. In addition there should be frequent lectures for MPs on subjects of which they are ignorant by suitable lecturers on topics of national concern. Food is in any case heavily subsidised in the various eating-places, and the salaries should enable them to eat at these places. Outside jobs and all payments for them should be banned. They should be entitled to certain discounts for subsidised concert halls, theatres etc so that they will know where public money is going and the quality it pays for. Such visits can also raise their general culture. Sittings should be during normal business hours, not at night. Fact finding trips should be in groups, paid for, but on a modest scale.
On re-election for a second term the salary should go up by50%. Thereafter by a higher figure, agreed by parliament but subject to voters approval by being put in a brackets after the name of the ballot paper with an additional box requiring a tick or another figure in (to be averaged out if re-elected.) I could think of other changes, that I think that will do for now!
John Calder 07/02/10