Archive for the ‘Jacqui Smith’ Tag

Th!nk About It: How do you make £1m? Become an MEP

(Also posted here…)

This time last week I said:

I reckon there’s something wrong with all expenses over £100,000. Forget second home, that’s a second flipping salary, that is.

But that was before I came across this Monday’s findings of the Tax Payers’ Alliance (TPA). And I thought UK politics was bad.

Yet another paint masterpiece...

Yet another paint masterpiece...

The TPA somehow got their eager campaigning hands on a leaked EU document called the Galvin Report (download here), which, it says:

revealed so many examples of poor financial controls, dubious practices and outright abuse of taxpayers’ money that it was kept secret from the public, and only a handful of MPs were allowed to see it on the condition that its contents were never revealed.

But the crux of the TPA’s findings – which should help dear old Jacqui Smith sleep better at night – is the following:

Over and above their salaries an MEP can personally earn a further £1 million during a typical Parliamentary term through their generous allowances and expenses

The report was based on a sample of 167 payments, out of a total of 4686, made in October 2004. And I’m going to assume – with, I grant you, no proof what so ever – that as the report has only just been published, repercussions have been somewhat lacking – and things have only got worse.

But there’s more. Because, it seems, £1 million might not cover quite as much glass and mussels as an MEP might like, the TPA also state that MEPs can expect a 47 per cent pay rise after this June’s elections; British MEPs could soon earn a ‘take-home’ salery of £68,801.

By george. I want tips! What sneaky tricks are these MEPs resorting to? I want to take notes in order to make the most of my future expenses-fuelled career as a journalist… (Difference being that I’ll be earning approximately £54,801 less than a British MEP.)

Thanks to the report, I now know that – if one wants to make the most of one’s expenses – one should claim money for fictional assistants, of which no record exists. And pay any assistants that do exist up to 20 times their salary – just to use up the full allowance. I should also, if so inclined, claim money for companies who have done absolutely no work for me.

This, it transpires, works for European Parliament members. I have a feeling it won’t work quite as well for a trainee journo.

Still, prior to this discovery I was feeling guilty about my two EU-expenses-paid trips to Brussels. I must admit, I feel a tad better now.

Con (wo)men and their wives: yet another bad day for British politics

It’s not been a great day for British politics, I’m not going to lie. A quick glance at the Guardian’s politics homepage and any foreign visitor would think that our country is run by con (wo)men. And their wives. They’d be right.

Jowllely Jowls and Jacs in the Serpentine - for no other reason than I got a bit click-happy on Paint.

Jowelly Jowells and Jacs in the Serpentine - for no other reason than I got a bit click-happy on Paint.

Your eyes have hardly taken in this stand-first:

Estranged husband of Tessa Jowell sentenced to four and a half years for accepting $600,000

Before they stumble upon the following:

Jacqui Smith is to face an inquiry into her claims for parliamentary expenses on her constituency home

First things first: Jowelly Jowells.

The woman in charge of raising £9.3bn to fund the 2012 Olympics was married to a man so bad with money he’s heading for an Italian jail. David Mills was paid $600,000 to “protect” Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi – but surely anyone with any money sense would have demanded at least a mill. Let’s hope his wife wasn’t too influenced by his prudence – or I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll be swimming our 800ms in the Serpentine.

But let’s move on to Jacs. As I’m sure her friends call her.

Our HOME secretary (the irony of which, as the capitals demonstrate, has not been lost on me) has been fiddling her housing allowances. She, of course, denies any wrongdoing in her £116,000 “second home” expenses – but I reckon there’s something wrong with all expenses over £100,000. Forget second home, that’s a second flipping salary, that is.

The Commissioner for Standards (which the BBC delightfully terms “Parliament’s Sleeze Watchdog” – a title almost too good to be true) has ordered an inquiry into Smith’s second salary after three neighbours raised questions about her housing habits. The recent complaints of neighbours Dominic and Jessica Taplin that Smith often spends only two days a week at her “main” home in South London is thought to have instigated the Commissioner’s move.

But if this isn’t interesting enough (and I’ll admit, I’d have stopped reading when I got to “housing habits” also), there’s better to come. Because the Taplins didn’t go straight to the Commissioner with their Home Secretary-shaped concerns. Oh no. Where do you go if you want to complain about old Jacs? The Tories of course.

And so the Taplins trot off the Cameron only to be told that… this was not a matter that the Conservative Party could deal with.

Hang on a minute. There’s something fishy going on here. The Tories passed up an opportunity to draw attention to another Labour bungle? That doesn’t sound right. Far too dignified if you ask me.

And you didn’t ask me, but I take your reading this as tacit consent (Locke would be proud) so I’ll tell you anyway: it doesn’t sound right because it isn’t. The Tories, according to the BBC, sent the Taplins away with the advice:

You might want to contact a newspaper as this would be “in the public interest”

You can almost hear the cough that sounded scarily like the “Mail” following them out of the door.