Working for the ‘sleaze department’ of the Conservative party…

Peter Robinson gave a press conference this afternoon picking up the News of the Screws story yesterday suggesting the Swish Family Robinson, ie, he and his wife, were picking up over £500,000 a year in salaries and expenses… He accused local UUP MLAs David McNarry and Danny Kennedy of working for the Conservative Party’s sleaze department… You do have to wonder at the capacity of this story to generate both genuine and mock rage, in an atmosphere where sums of up to £300,000 are being offered for detailed dirt on MPs… It seems to me that there is almost certainly another scandal hidden beneath this fairly blatant scandal generation scheme…

The election of Boris Johnson and the quietitude in the media thereafter (particularly London’s only paid for evening newspaper; ie, the previously implacable Standard) is the fore runner of what will happen after next year’s general election… whether issues underpinning MP’s expenses is put to bed or not…

I’ve no sympathy with a Labour administration that is too tired and too long and lazy in its reflexive ways to help itself, but I’m no fan of being manipulated either…

As for the Robinsons, the one legitimate gripe that might be made about their salaried status, is the fact that they both hold two jobs in two legislatures. The truth about Gregory Campbell’s spirited rearguard action on Hearts and Minds, regarding the poor attendance of previous single jobbing incumbents from the UUP, is that stating you’re still not as bad as the last guy is a poor man’s defence.

The problem is, as Robinson admitted to me last year, that the party’s hands are tied somewhat by the instability of the current Stormont institutions. In the meantime, the UUP seem determined to make hay whilst the Tory Oppositionalist sun shines…

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  • Brian Walker

    Peter answered a question he wasn’t asked, about the cost of constituency surgeries in East Belfast and Strangford. He did not address the issue of second homes allowances for the same Docklands flat for himself and Iris, of more than 40k, as reported in the Daily Mail – of £19,558 and £20,386 respectively. This is more than double Gordon Brown’s controversial claim for his constituency home in Scotland of £17,073 and David Cameron’s for his in Oxfordshire of £19,626. Dockland’s rental value would be higher than both, but still, hardly double Witney’s in Oxfordshire.

    The Bel Tel’s useful breakdown doesn’t differentiate between different types of allowance. See http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/pound290000-average-payout-to-doublejobbing-politicians-14251249.html

    Incidentally as previously noted, the table shows how little SF suffers for not taking their Westminster seats, forsaking only their 60k salaries, since their eligibility for Commons expenses was restored.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    The Robinsons set themsleves up for the charge that they are a one family sleaze machine since there are 6 of them on the payroll to be exact according to the press, and it’s my taxes and everyones elses they are claiming, it is indefensible particularly the £40,000 for the 2nd home allowance – have they 2 homes or are they sharing the same one?

    If you don’t want your short comings pointed out don’t have your snout firmly planted in the trough.

    The release of the detail in June will be eagerly awaited by all of us tax payers; let us hope it is before the EU election.

  • Fair comment Brian. Although it seems that every married couple in Westminster is caught out in the same way (Wintertons/Balls-Cooper/Keens).

    The wind direction is changing and all will compromised, despite the fact this has all been fair play by the rule book since the early 80s…

  • Who is exactly offering the 300k, have heard a lot about it but few facts. Why would anyone pay 300K to find out the Robinson’s are greedy so and so’s; when that type of info is there to be had for free.

    To attack the messenger is just more flighty work, such people should be, and some of them may well be hounded out of public life. Mick you are all for more democratic accountability etc so tell me this.

    We supposedly live in a representative democracy in the UK, yet a half of our parliamentarians are unelected and the rest exist on a salary that only ten percent of the British people earn.

    Representative democracy means we are represented by people like us, who face similar economic problems etc to us.

    It seems to me, as far as most ordinary people are concerned, you are defending the indefensible. What does it matter if there is another scandal lurking, lets deal with the one that is on the surface first, then we can go on to the next lot of crap.

    Otherwise it is one outrage covering up another.

  • The Impartial Observer

    I suspect that this may also be Cameron getting back at the Robinsons over the 42 day vote last year when Iris taunted the Tory MP’s by waving nine fingers at them.

    Not very clever to get on the wrong side of the man who is likely to be PM soon is it? Trimble made that mistake with Blair and I wonder if history will repeat itself?

  • Zoon Politikon

    Its a bit rich coming for the master of the DUP Sleeze department under Paisley.

  • iluvni

    What a pathetic performance by Robinson there on Newsline as his bitterness got the better of him in Stormont.
    How dare he be asked questions by an interviewer. How dare the priorities of Government be challenged.
    How dare his expenses be questioned.

    He made Martin McGuinness look positively statesmanlike by comparison.

    I hope the all pals act of the locals journalists comes to an end and the greed of the whole lot of them (not just the Robinsons, but them to begin with please) is exposed in detail very soon.

  • padraic

    GUBU seeing Marty standing shoulder to shoulder with his man in his hour of need. What was he doing there? Advising on defending the indefensible?

    [i]I suspect that this may also be Cameron getting back at the Robinsons over the 42 day vote last year when Iris taunted the Tory MP’s by waving nine fingers at them.

    Not very clever to get on the wrong side of the man who is likely to be PM soon is it? Trimble made that mistake with Blair and I wonder if history will repeat itself?[/i]

    Spot on. Also, the picture of smugness on the face of McNarry, staring down as the Chuckle Bros Mark II were giving their press conference, was absolutely priceless. Made me chuckle.

  • Mick Fealty

    No, no, no, no, no Mick. I’m registering that there is a game of swerveball going on here. Nothing more.

    As Yousuf, notes, there is a debate to be had (http://url.ie/1f2l) about MPs’ wages/expenses, but this is political campaigning by stealth.

    I’m not taking a position on it, merely pointing out that it is all legal and above board.

    It’s a sign of political immaturity, and it’s not being had for the same reason we can never discuss tax rises in public before they happen.

    One might choose to argue, for instance, that had there been a more mature political debate in the south there might not have been so much reliance on indirect taxation, the ‘structural deficit’ might have been a reality only in a parallel dimension.

    In part this is another case of a non political elite pistol-whipping the established, but democratically elected, political elite for its own ends and purposes.

    A bit like those Casino bankers who serially threatened elected politicians across the west that they would take their business elsewhere if the cost of local regulation were not keep as low as possible.

    I’m indifferent to who next takes up the reigns of government in the UK or Ireland. But I’m not keen to join the current faux rage at what MPs have been doing in the full light of day for 20 years.

  • Dave

    “I’m not taking a position on it, merely pointing out that it is all legal and above board.”

    Being legal to maximise one’s expenses does not mean that it is morally correct, nor does it mean that parasites should not be judged accordingly.

    “A bit like those Casino bankers who serially threatened elected politicians across the west that they would take their business elsewhere if the cost of local regulation were not keep as low as possible.”

    Oh dear… which bank made these threats? None, of course. The fact is, contrary to the spin, that there has never been as much regulation in place than there is now. None of that regulation, however, failed to prevent the banks from over-leveraging because over-leveraging was a key component of the macroeconomic policy that sought to increase the supply of money by lending it cheaply in order to promote economic expansion by spending the borrowed money. That is why, for example, the ECB kept interest rates low to promote borrowing and the EU issued the EU’s Capital Requirements Directive that allowed the banks to meet the expansionist monetary policy by leveraging upwards.

    The failed monetary policy that underpinned the practice was that borrowing money would generate the economic activity required to meet the repayments on the borrowing. That was the policy that the EU and the national governments promoted and incessantly cheer led, so you can’t blame the banks for that. They were simply stupid enough, like everyone else, to believe that the ECB and the EU had a macroeconomic policy that would work rather than fail abysmally. If that macroeconomic policy looks like the macroeconomic policy of the US Federal Reserve, it’s because it was an exact facsimile of it. Ditto for the Bank of England. But not so for other countries that did not implement that flawed macroeconomic policy and get the same disastrous results: Canada and Australia, for example, have no problems within their banking sector.

  • tresc2003

    I can’t believe that it has taken so long for the expenses of MP’s to come under the spotlight. The Robinsons, since 2001 when Iris became an MP have claimed £210,000 in Living Allowances for residency in London.
    If, as I would presume, they are living in the same household in London, then how can they possibly justify claiming more than double of every other MP in the UK?
    It beggars belief sometimes. Who does Peter Robinson think he is to try and justify the vast amounts of tax payers money that he is pocketing?
    We need answers, and we demand them now!

  • drumcairnharp

    Lets have a look at our MLA’s expenses.I am sure that (like Billy Armstrong,who paid his wife rent for his “henhouse” office,paid his wife and daughter to work for him and who avoided planning laws on his “henhouse” and office sign,)that there are other skeltons in their closets. Poor Billy has now had to open an office in Moneymore and employ someone other than his family.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’ll come back to you on that lobbying problem Dave.

    In the meantime, if were all a central bank problem as you suggest, then why the differential problems across the EU? Germany, where the ECB is head-quartered, has a problem with excess production, much more than its banks.

    The reason retail banks are in such trouble springs from the cavalier way they’ve been disaggregating their liabilities and selling them into the securities market; ie they’ve been selling toxic debt to others.

    In the meantime, you’d want to check out that idea that Canada and Australia (the reserve bank has dropped its interest rates by 3% since Sept to get Aussie banks lending again) have no problems at all…

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Mick

    It seems the crop will be bountiful this year and the sun will be splitting the stones.

    The DUP and Labour are providing plenty of fodder to feed the opposition ‘storm troupers’.

    Still it is nice to see Robinson getting back some of what he has dished out for years as his family’s finances are crawled over by the national tabloids in a way the local press seemed reticent to do.

  • The Robinsons, since 2001 when Iris became an MP have claimed £210,000 in Living Allowances for residency in London.

    How much does that work out per actual occasion they’ve attended Westminster I wonder?

    Would it not be just cheaper for them to book into the Savoy or wherever for the times they do actually manaage to turn up and produce the relevant receipt for reimbursement at the end of the month?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Some of us have been pointing out the double jobbing and expenses problems for many years. I think Mick is right, the media seem to have chosen to latch on to something that isn’t new, and certainly isn’t illegal, although Waccy Baccy Jacqui’s cable TV bill does show that there may be an issue around auditing of claims.

    I suspect that the electorate will have their say and, as is usual around here, they won’t see this matter as a priority.

    Being lectured by Tories about sleaze is hilarious, though. It’s funny how things change.

    oneill:

    Would it not be just cheaper for them to book into the Savoy or wherever for the times they do actually manaage to turn up and produce the relevant receipt for reimbursement at the end of the month?

    No, it would be substantially more expensive for them to book hotel rooms in London than it is to maintain properties. That said, I don’t understand why the state provides grants towards mortgages for second homes which, presumably, they get to keep after their tenures as MPs are over.

    I’d much rather see the government buying up properties around London and maintaining them, allocating them to MPs as required.

  • ArchiePurple

    It’s Tuesday 7th April and wee Jeffrey has been interviewed this morning on BBC Radio Foyle by Enda McCafferty…

    Taking a cue from his Sinn Fein/IRA mates, he talks in paragraphs, seeking to stop questions and talks over the brave Enda as he trys to get a word in edgeways. Eventually after nearly a minute, Edna gets a change to pose the second question and wee Jeffrey loses it…he goes into a Robinsonesque tirade and rant about the BBC not challenging his mates in the Shinners about their inflated expenses for no work. Talk about shooting the messenger…..wee Jeff showed, like his boss Robinson that they are under pressure and it’s showing….what a performance. 1 nil to Enda and BBC Radio Foyle.

  • I just do not think the politicians get what our rage is about. I just heard Ms Smith MP on the radio apologizing for getting the state to pay for two blue films.

    Most of us do not give a toss about the porno, as sad as it is. What we are outraged about is this woman having her Sky subscription paid along with a host of other perks, by the Tax payers.

    Yes, it may be legal, but as has already said it is not moral, especially when this women belongs to a government which is targeting the benefits of the sick, disabled and young mums.

  • No, it would be substantially more expensive for them to book hotel rooms in London than it is to maintain properties.

    It was pointed out a few weeks ago the Northern Ireland MPs will generally be over only one day a week, if that. That’s a maximum one night’s stay per week, for how many weeks a year?

    But your idea re the state buying properties around London does make sense.

  • barnshee

    Greedy bastards the lot– let then all try to get a real job as soon as possible by voting them out ASAP

  • Once one overcomes the partisan urge and the gagging reflex, there is a smigeon of validity in Robinson’s accusations.

    As both my faithful readers will appreciate, I have already suggested, in a different context:

    Despite the claims of the Tory blog-artists to the contrary, there is little objective evidence that the BBC is partial.

    However, whoever is manipulating the drip-feed revelations about Parliamentary expenses undoubtedly is.

    And, for understandable reasons, the well-known “faces” in Government attract more media attention than the unknowns of the Opposition.

    To which I would add the very obvious and very partisan agenda of the Murdoch press.

    May I also commend my comments about James Clappison? He claims £6,456 expenses for rail travel (which puts him in the top fifth of all MPs’ claims) for the 18 miles distance of his constituency from Westminster. For a comparison, the annual travel card cost for that journey, to all London zones, would be £2,660. Mr Happy Clappy has managed to acquire a property portfolio of not one, not two, nor even three properties — but (according to the London Evening Standard):

    A CONSERVATIVE MP has claimed nearly £100,000 of taxpayer’s money for a second home while building up a portfolio of at least 23 properties.

    But then, of course, Happy Clappy is not a newsworthy target (merely Opposition Shadow for Work and Pensions [sic]), and, as is clear, a Tory.

  • Neil

    If it’s sleaze, and it’s true, where does that leave Mr. Robinson? It suggests that the sleaze is the creaming off of 500k, much of which may be legitimate, but as is mentioned multiple payments for a house for them in London is a bit of a rip off. But then it seems the DUP are well schooled in the art of getting well paid. After all the DUP office on Hill Street in Ballymena would go on the market for at most 400k in today’s market, so the 80k+ per year for rent seems a bit excessive.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    I’m hardly a DUPE apologist, but if this issue is to be taken seriously, people have got to stop pretending (or worse still, actually believing) that the Punt and his bird have troused 500 grand between them. You or I would have done that, if we had 500K in the bank: the Punt n’ Puntette *do not*. They have indeed disimbursed a substantial amount of that figure, but not into a bank accoutn saving up for a villa in the south of France, but rather, they’ve spent it on accomodation, office space, staff salaries and etc. In other, sodding obvious words, they have NOT Blago-style creamed the money straight off for personal and private gain. Where they *are* seriously at fault is in sticking the kids on the payroll: that stinks.

  • A married couple who claim housing benefit do not get the rent paid twice, now do they. If they attempted to do so, i e claim as individuals, they would find themselves up before the beak and in this day and age, in all probability on their way to jail.

    There is also the issue of tax, do MPs claim the expense and again put down the same claim against their tax bill. I understand the inland revenue has a policy of nodding through Mps tax forms.

    All this talk about it is the tories who are spewing out this stuff is totally irrelevant, that is politics, if the system for MPs expense was not open to such corruption, the tories would have nothing to leak, now would they? In any case it is a fool of a Tory MP who puts their head in the media tigers mouth on this issue.

    Any journalist or commentator who tries to whitewash this story away, is simply playing the Westminster game and paying back past favors. In other words they are as much a part of the corruption that goes on there as the politicians in question.

    As I wrote last week, the UK Parliament is an unrepresentative institution in which corruption is a way of life and I challenge anyone to argue differently.

    http://www.organizedrage.com/2009/04/uk-parliament-is-unrepresentative.html

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks Malc. I think I’ll use that on the Citybeat pol slot this evening…

    Mick, I hear what you are saying. On that basis, you and I are more representative of the UK population. And yet, we are not. In my case I’ve not stood for election.

    Here’s a good argument worth reading from Chris at Stumbling and mumbling:

    “I suspect the truth is that MPs are selfish, but that there are powerful selfish reasons for them not to, ahem, maximize their expenses.
    One mechanism is simple cost-benefit analysis. An MP who attracts bad publicity risks being overlooked for promotion, being deselected or not re-elected, or merely having his name tarnished and so less likely to attract well-paid work after leaving politics. Ambitious MPs would, therefore, want to appear honest. It’s no accident that the MPs accused of greed – Smith, McNulty, Conway, Hoon – are those with poor job prospects anyway.”

    And:

    A third set of mechanisms arises from a fact which crude cynics often ignore – that, for many people of reasonable affluence, the marginal utility of wealth is low (the Blairs are perhaps a prominent exception here). Once you’ve paid off the mortgage and got a half-decent motor, there’s not much point having a lot more money. This creates room for other motives.
    One of these is simple laziness. The thing about fraud is that it’s so bloody difficult. You have to think up a story, remember it and cover your tracks.

    http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2009/04/why-arent-all-mps-crooks.html

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Mick

    It is a bit like being invited to a function where all the food and drink is free and making a pig of yourself by taking much more than you would if you were paying for it.

    Just because it is there doesn’t mean you have to take it in excess, if fact it is bad form (at best) to do just that.

  • What people seem to be missing is this is not about the corruption in the legal sense of individual MP’s. It is the whole system that has been corrupted and that is why those MP’s who have been outed just do not get it.

    People who are in the top 10% and earn over 100K have come to believe they have a right to set their own salaries/whatever, and indeed that is what they have been doing since 1997 if not before and they have corrupted the whole system and we egnor this at our peril.

    Now to the average chap on the Claphan omnibus that reeks of corruption; and so it has been proved with bankers, CEO’s and politicians.

    We are in the unhealthy position of those who govern us, whether politically or in our working lives, being totally divorced from the reality of our lives. It is worse than that, they see nothing wrong with this, indeed they see it as their right, nor are they conscious of the dangers that could arise from the continuation of their greed and ignorance.

    The last time this happened bloodshed and revolutions broke out all over Europe. Is that what we really want to will to our children and grandchildren?

    Remember, if four years ago you had asked any of todays leading politicos, whether an economic depression was on the cards, they would have set the men in white coats on you, even though they new capitalism is a system of booms and slumps.

  • John K Lund / Lllamedos / Suchard

    I have missed all the fun since Monday as I have been in Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry having investigations carried out by an altogether fantastic team of really broadly based people. They were a truly wonderful cross section of humanity. On Monday night I was wheeled into the ward after two procedures and my wife switched on Channel 4 News. It was truly magic viewing there was Peter Robinson in full flood and glorious tecnicolour, with wee Martin stood by his side perplexed and appearing not to know what to do, or whether he was on this earth or Fuller’s Earth. Did I roar with laughter it brought tears to my eyes. I presumed that the Beeb had played a recording of Folks on The Hill by accident. This was funnier than the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Will Hay and all the other comic films of the late 1940’s. You two fellows should give up appearing to rip off the taxpayers, and go into movies you would earn a lot more money; and you could then leave the politics to better qualified people from more broad political bases. Really enjoyed this Newsclips could we have all these repeated on a link showing or recording Wee Jeffrey the Sorcerer’s Apprentice as well Mick?