Thursday, November 17, 2005

All Aboard The Westminster Gravy Train

Here's a news story from today's Times on the outside earnings of our MPs here in Britain. Does it matter that William Hague earned more than £1m last year? You bet it does. Hague, like all the other 600 odd MPs in Britain is supposed to represent his constituents. But how can he properly do that when his life-style and life experiences are so different from those of the people he is supposed to be representing? Hague obtained (I won't use the word 'earned' as that would be an insult to nurses, miners, teachers and others who actually do 'earn' their money)-£65,000 in the month of April alone for giving four after-dinner speeches. All this at a time when the party who provided him with his public profile was doing all it could to win an election.
In any other job where there were over 100 applications for every vacancy-you might expect the employer to consider whether he was paying too high a wage. Why does this not apply in politics? So here's a suggestion. Let's pay our MPs the average weekly wage- and get them to work a full 40 hour week like everyone else- with just four weeks holiday. If this proves unbearable to the likes of William Hague and the other 'high-fliers' on the list- then so be it. Just gaze around at the faces you see on the front and back-benches in PMQs- and tell me that we could do any worse?

The Times
November 17, 2005
The millionaire Hague leads list of top earners By Andrew Pierce and Sam Coates
THREE Tory heavyweights who will be offered senior roles in the Shadow Cabinet if David Cameron win the leadership contest grossed more than £1.7 million in outside earnings in the past 12 months, according to figures released yesterday.
Their combined earnings account for more than half the £2.7 million declared by MPs in the annual Register of Members’ Interests.
William Hague leads the list, with more than £1 million from book deals, a newspaper column, directorships and after-dinner speaking. He made six speeches, worth £65,000, in April during the general election campaign, when most Tory MPs and party workers were on the campaign trail.
Kenneth Clarke, the former Chancellor, who was defeated for the leadership for the third time, earned close to £500,000 from five directorships, including British American Tobacco. An MP’s salary is £59,095.
Francis Maude, the party chairman and leading moderniser in the Cameron camp, declared ten paid outside interests, including two directorships he took after the election, when he was recalled to the Shadow Cabinet. Mr Maude, like Mr Clarke, does not declare any of the fees, as is permissible in Parliament’s rules.
For the first time Tony Blair has responded to the criticism from opposition MPs about the commercial career of his wife, Cherie. He has disclosed in his own return that she received royalties from her book about life in Downing Street and fees from speaking engagements in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. He does not disclose the size of the fees, but writes: “These included some discussions of my wife’s life in No 10 Downing Street.”
A Downing Street spokesman said that Mr Blair was not required by precedent to make any reference to her earnings as Sir John Major, Mr Blair’s predecessor, had not listed earnings from the book about Chequers by his wife, Norma. “The Prime Minister registered this to err on the side of caution and to be open and transparent,” he said.
The register also confirmed that Mr Blair spent 26 nights on holiday in Barbados as a guest of Sir Cliff Richard.
Three of the four MPs who have declared earnings in excess of £100,000 are Conservatives. In addition to Mr Hague they include Ann Widdecombe, who lists earnings of more than £200,000 from novels, a newspaper column, and television appearances. Boris Johnson, who is standing down as editor of The Spectator, declared £140,000.
George Galloway, the Respect MP, listed £155,000, half of which came from a newspaper column. Diane Abbott, the left-wing Labour MP, earned £85,000, slightly behind David Blunkett’s £91,000 while he was a backbencher after his first Cabinet resignation.
The spotlight will fall on whether Mr Hague, for the second year in succession the highest-paid MP, will be forced to choose between his £1 million extra-parliamentary activities and the front bench. Mr Hague, who has spent four years on the backbenches after leading the Tories to one of their worst election defeats in 2001, is thought to be ready to return to frontline politics.
Michael Spencer, the chief executive of Icap, the world’s biggest money-trading broker and one of the richest self-made men in the City, has made donations to the Tory leadership campaigns of David Cameron and David Davis. He was an early supporter of Mr Davis, but by the time of the party conference, when Mr Cameron became the overwhelming favourite after a powerful speech, he had already switched.HIGHEST PAID William Hague £935,000 plus two directorships
Ann Widdecombe £240,000 plus one directorship
George Galloway £155,000
Boris Johnson £140,000
David Blunkett £91,000
Diane Abbott £85,000
Michael Gove £75,000
Sir Patrick Cormack £55,000
Robert Walter £60,000 plus one directorship
David Willets £30,000 plus one directorship

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