Yesterday one of the UKs most responsible public servants stood up in the presence of many other people who are being paid by the State to represent you and me and made a speech regarding his ambition to reduce the cost of that same state that benefits his colleagues so well. Along with their wages, expenses and some tied accommodation these men and a small number of women have access to the levers of power and state institutions which provide substantial commercial value during their time as MPs and Lords and afterwards into their ‘retirement’. These men and women know how lucrative their world is. When some of them need to increase the numbers of people working in their offices, they don’t do as most businesses would do and spread the existing income more thinly, they invite aspiring workers to volunteer, even though the place of work is one of the most expensive places to work in the UK. The argument is that a bit of voluntary work in Parliament can improve the career prospects of these young people far more than a few thousand pounds could. These MPs and Lords have offices that inevitably need cleaning and the cleaners working in the Palace of Westminster are paid low wages, sometimes minimum wages for their work, yet most of them have to travel from ‘poorer’ parts of London to work each day using up vital household income to get to work. These cleaners and maintenance workers don’t have publicly funded expense accounts. This means that the people who clean the offices of Westminster may well be reliant on state benefits to supplement their income and enable them to pay the rents that their landlords demand from them. Some of the MPs and a number of the Lords are landlords in central London, benefiting from high rent costs and state benefits in doing so.
Party conferences are places for impressive statements and grand gestures. Yesterday George Osborne made a statement about capping the benefits of Millions of people including some of those who clean the offices of his Government. Whilst these benefits are very costly to society as a whole, many of us believe there are better ways of organising society. My own suggestion as an alternative to the speech delivered yesterday would be to move our UK Parliament out of London to a place where property is much cheaper for all of the workers including the MPs themselves. I would also suggest that we reduce the size of the Commons by around a third and the Lords by around 70% so that the new Houses of Commons and Lords would be a great deal smaller than at present, substantially cheaper and more consistent with other modern democracies. I appreciate that all of this would be a gesture, and like Mr Osbornes speech it would not end up solving all of the needs of our nation. However it would at least move the proposed pain from people used to being made scapegoats to people who usually decide who the scapegoats will be. It might even take some of the wind out of Mr Farages sails and win Mr Osborne some votes!