The defeat of boundary reform this afternoon, by 334 votes to 292, is not only bad for the Conservative Party but also for democracy.
The average annual cost to the taxpayer of a Member of Parliament is £590,000 a year (a peer costs us £130,000 on average while a Euro MP comes in at 1.79 million a time.) Of course it could be argued that reducing the cost of politics by reducing the number of MPs by 50 and saving a few million a year is modest set against state spending £700 billion. You could say the same about that element of our bill which covers MPs expenses. Yet it still matters. There is a question of MPs setting an example when the size of the rest of the public sector workforce is being cut.
That’s another of those waffles that seems superficially OK, but falls apart under any kind of scrutiny. After all, it is largely a direct rip from that journal of dubious record, the Daily Mail.
More to the point
David Cameron has created more peers more quickly than any of his predecessors: 126 since May 2010. That’s a bit more than one every eight days. So, taking Phibbs’s accountancy at face value (which is more than it’s worth), Cameron’s inflation of the Lords has cost the nation £16,380,000 a year. There’s a bit of off-setting available, then.
There are currently in excess of 800 members of the Lords. The Clegg proposal would have reduced this to 450. Again, accepting Phibbs’s back-of-fag-packet arithmetic, Clegg’s proposed changes could have put some £40-45 million annually into the nation’s back pocket. Every little helps.
For the record, for his services in 2011-12, Cllr Phibbs, received £32,898 (about the fourth highest dibs among the 46 members) from the grateful Council Taxpayers of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.
The EU is not perfect. One of the smaller changes that need to happen is the agreement that the European Parliament has a single seat, and doesn’t flit between Brussels and Strasbourg — and even Luxembourg. In point of fact, the EU Parliament has agreed just that. Not surprisingly, France has vetoed the desirable plumping for Brussels. Let it rest that the vast majority of MEPs would opt for Brussels; but that the Council of Ministers (i.e. Dave Cameron and his twenty-six mates) cannot get their acts together.
That should undermine the notion that a Euro MP comes in at 1.79 million a time. She or he doesn’t: the incompetence of national governments — not excluding our, and that of Cllr Phibbs — does.
What should concern us far, far more is the ‘democratic deficit’ — the lack of any direct constraints on EU administration. The same could be said for a UK government which can fix its own terms without reference to any mandates. Yes, Cllr Phibbs, we didn’t hear your affronted shrieks when the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill went through on Tory votes. Have a chat to our antipodean cousins (who believe a couple of years is enough to avoid corruption) and explain that one.