Friday, 25 September 2009


It would be so easy to find myself hoisted by my own petard, accused of hypocrisy and with my words turned against me. There will be europhobe journalists out there just itching to put me down with a big headline.

In my angry speech at Liberal Democrat conference my venom was directed against those MEPs who took advantage of the slack procedures of the last Parliament to milk the system, finding ways to divert their office and staff salary budgets into their own pockets to the tune of hundreds of thousands each year.

The arrangements have been changed now. Opportunities for downright graft have gone but scope for unethical behaviour still exists, albeit on a much smaller scale. Reforms based on independent setting of payments, some straightforward cuts, and complete transparency are still needed.

The plain fact is that my personal income has increased by more than an average person's wage since the June election and I am only now starting to appreciate this. With the value of the pound going down the pan the salary of British MEPs has gone up (temporarily perhaps) AND pension contributions are made on top of it. An outrageous travel payment scheme from which I tried not to benefit personally has been replaced by still lucrative fixed allowances from which I do. And there remains a near €300 a day allowance that more than meets all away-from-home expenses.

Of course I shall move parliamentary amendments to make changes when I get the chance, but what do I do while they throw the gold at me? I don't see why I should put on the hairshirt and declare "I am principled so I won't claim as much as other MEPs:" it wouldn't win me an extra vote from a (rightly in this case) cynical public.

Maybe I should put on a banker's robe, ignore the criticism, and point out that if anyone wants the cash in future all they have to do is to join the Liberal Democrats and beat me for the nomination.

Or maybe I should work extra hard to justify the increase, except that I don't know how to work much harder than I already do.

My guiding thought has always been: "can I stand up in the village hall and defend what I do?" If not I shouldn't do it.
So long as the wealthy local doctor and dentist are sitting on the front row I can defend my new income as a price of democracy - but in some ways the reform in the MEPs' expenses arrangements has made it harder to do so.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Chris,
I am so proud of you, I am glad that there are people like you, honest and hard working that are willing to put their head on the choping board to expose the wrongdoings of those that are dishonest. good on you