Friday, 22 May 2009

An Open Letter to Nadine Dorries

I listened to you this morning on the Today programme. You defended free use of the Additional Cost Allowance as part of an MP’s pay, and likened the Telegraph’s revelations to a McCarthy witch hunt. You said, ‘People don’t understand what is happening’.

You just don’t get it, do you?

You argued that the allowance is justified because an MP’s salary is not commensurate with anyone else’s at that professional level. Do you view MPs as some sort of overclass, more deserving of rewards than the rest of us? What makes you think that election as an MP infers or confers instant professional qualification? There are dedicated, hard-working MPs, and there are under-performing, self-serving ones. Election is not a measure of ability. I was a professional in local government. Seven years of training enabled me to start at the lowest grades. I never earned more than £30,000, and survive on half that now. I could have earned more in the private sector, but I believed passionately in public service as a vocation. Being an MP is a vocation; it should never be a profession.

You say that everyone, other than the electorate, understood that the allowance was a discreet adjunct to salary, because no Prime Minister would dare stand up to the media and increase MPs’ pay. It was not simply that Prime Ministers lacked the courage to stand up to the media; it was that the electorate would not support such increases; electors like me who lived with years’ of cut-backs and below-inflation pay restraint. Did you see nothing wrong with that cosy, tacit acceptance? Did you believe that such a deception of the public was moral? If you did, maybe you are indeed a consummately professional MP, but perhaps you are not a vocational one.

I have read your response to the Telegraph’s query about your claims for a second home. You explain that you had misled your constituents for privacy reasons. I understand those, and recognise the difficult circumstances which underlay your claims. But many ordinary people share such difficulties. A nurse or a teacher may also need a second home in similar circumstances to enable them to do their job. They receive no subsidy. Most of us believed the provision for second homes allowances for MPs reflected their need to have a presence both in their constituencies and at Westminster, not to complement an additional home elsewhere to address the problems arising from a broken marriage. ‘Ordinary people’ get no such support, although it is they who funded yours.

In likening the Telegraph’s revelations to McCarthyism, you do a disservice to the many honest and committed individuals whose lives and careers were unjustly damaged in that time. The Telegraph has achieved a public service in exposing shameful abuses of the allowances system, which parliament, abetted by the Speaker, has assiduously sought to conceal. It may be unpleasant, but it is a predictable, self-inflicted and thoroughly deserved wound. To rail against the public exposure of these abuses is to misjudge the public mood. The electorate has at last found itself empowered to influence reform, and it is not going to be dissuaded.


  1. I share your anger over this affair although it's causd all sorts of arguments in out household.

    I was fascinated to read about the struggle involved over the last five years in getting the expenses made public

    *deep breaths*

    OK now lets go and buy some flowerpots

  2. 'obviously too cross to spell 'casued' and 'our' properly

    Illiteracy makes me cross too..

  3. That was quick! There may (for all I know) be much that is racy about you, Lulu, but illite isn't one of them.

  4. They're all crooks.

    It's goof to have you back, Brother.

  5. Not Crooks perhaps (I prefer arrogant, fraudulent idiots), but certainly not worthy of representing their electorate. A floating duck island... are you kidding?!

  6. BF, certainly not Crooks. Do they make islands for sinking ducks?

  7. In your absence, I lost the ability to spell. It's part of my dumbing down. Bibble.

  8. McCarthyism? What utter drivel. What next, Gordon Brown wailing "why hast though forsaken me" as he's crucified at the polls? The system was corrupt, open to misuse and it seems to me the MPs went at it hammer and tongue, screwed all of us and are now blaming us (a) for discovering the their misdemeanours and (b) for not understanding that they are a class apart and can do what the eff they like. Sack the ruddy lot of them and let's start again I say.

  9. Tongue? Perhaps tong. But who knows with these damned MPs, eh?

  10. Quite agree with you Bro T. I feel terribly disappointed, having spent years encouraging my students to vote in our precious democracy that people have died to protect. I feel so upset and let down by the lot of them, and by the sanctimony of those who have suddenly decided it is all wrong after participating in the greedfest themselves for years!
    All the plant pots in my yard are now in smithereens!

  11. Firstly, it is lovely to see a post from you and secondly, I'm very behind with all this financial news. I seldom read a UK paper online anymore and don't watch tv. It is only pure chance that last night I switched on UK tv and watched (open mouthed in horror) Question Time.

    the whole programme was about the MPs and their dishonesty - I don't know how you can all stand it, to be honest. There should be a revolution in the streets or - at the least - a general election. Imagine the French just putting up with it!

  12. A good read for one and all. I love the way they differentiate themselves from 'ordinary people who don't understand' makes me feel real good about all of them...come the revolution...

  13. wow, sugar, when you come back, you come back with a vengeance! but, seriously, i read about some of your pols who have never taken advantage of y'alls particular system and was truly gratified that honest men still view the position as public service! (only a couple of men were featured btw) anyway, we have a few of them here in the usa, too! xoxox

  14. Well said! On a personal level, one of the things that upsets me the most is that for years I have spent bits and pieces of my own money to improve the experiences of children I teach and many teachers do that. I know no one is asking them to but that to me sums up the difference in attitude.
    Hope you are all well,
    Sarah x
    PS-we are not having a picnic this year but we are going for a pizza express extravaganza if you fancy joining us. Saturday 13th about 6pm at Waterloo somewhere. I will provide more detail if you think you may come!

  15. Well said! The sad truth is, that the people who want to be politicians are usually the least suitable people to hold office. Those who would use power well seldom seek it out.
    Lovely to see you back btw!

  16. Well said Brother Tobias.

    I suppose it was too much to hope that the people who have these positions of power would be above the temptations of such an easily warped systems.

    I can just see their little faces lighting up when they realised they were 'allowed' to claim for so much, it all being within the rules.

    Not many of them thought "I'd better not - its immoral".


  17. Here here and double here. (Or should that be "hear hear"? I've never been sure, and as it's linguistically an interjection I'm going to claim it's allowable and not technically in contravention of anything.)

  18. Time for a nice quiet British revolution I think.

  19. Gobsmacking eh? We had a "polly" here who claimed he would never seek the baubles of office and he was soon found out to be having those baubles indeed. They obviously have the same trait everywhere. Good to see you back, BT.

  20. Rol - Goof seemed about right to me.

    Steve - Absolutely! And 'hammer and tongue' sounds most appropriate for MPs. Perhaps we should adapt other familiar phrases 'Knocking seven bills' out of them; 'Conspiracy is the best policy' etc).

    Helen - It is shameful. And having been caught, paying back what they've fiddled is supposed to make it all okay. We'd have a lot more bank robberies on that basis.

    Fancy - Are the French better? That's not a comment; I had no idea. Good for them if so; we have given up and become supine here.

    NB - Yes. It's an inexplicable and endemic arrogance. I felt that the other day when the Social Secretary and I were nearly mowed down by Margaret Beckett (on foot), who swept through the hoi polloi like a myopic monarch.

    Savannah - There are some good ones. It's a contrast with our local government members, who don't get paid. At least some of them do it out iof a sense of duty, not self-aggrandaisement.

    Sarah - It's as you say. Such a contrast. Thanks for the invite; I've emailed you.

    Justme - I think you hit the nail on the head.

    Jules - Quite.
    They would say, 'You lot would do the same if you had the chance'. But I'm not so sure. If one throws away one's morals, one throws away one's reason.

    Gadjo - It may come from the old gaelic, 'erch', meaning 'an echo' or from the Walloon, 'herah', meaning 'whoopee' (related to 'hooray, hurrah, huzzah, etc). The former was a spoken language, the latter erratically spelt one, so I think you can do what you like. Or I may have made all this up. Dji n' sais nén.

    BW - I think you're right, and that is exactly what's happening. No bad thing.

    DJK - Thank you.

    As a footnote, I posted my letter as a comment on Nadine Dorries' blog. At the time comment moderation was in place and her relevant post had no comments. After a while about 5 comments appeared. Four were groizely supportive, one contained faint admonishment. Although mine was too long, what she allowed through seemed a very selective bunch. Soon after she deleted all comments on her blog 'for the bank holiday weekend'. Then the blog was closed down altogether. Allegedly this followed legal moves. I should like to put on record that, whilst Ms Dorries may manage her blog as a self-serving political resource, I support her freedom to write whatever rubbish she pleases on it, and do not welcome legal moves to curtail it.

  21. Steady on BT, I haven't got elected as an MP yet!

    Would like to hope there's a few expenses left for the picking when I do. Duck Islands don't come cheap dontyaknow and the government needs to support conservation!

    ;- )

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