Cameron’s victory in the flipping battle heralds big cuts in top public sector pay

The MPs’ allowances firestorm will be remembered for the firefighting role played by David Cameron. The firebreak he’s cleared puts him in pole position to win the premiership. Despite lengthening poll leads, Cameron up to today had failed to create the breakthrough moment. But now, the crown of the premiership is his to lose. It wasn’t rocket science to demand paybacks but it was great politics to hear the smack of firm leadership which Gordon Brown has so conspicuously failed to demonstrate. In the end as Nick Robinson says, what was unthinkable just a few weeks ago has suddenly become unavoidable. In response to Cameron’s smoothly delivered ultimatum to his own colleagues, Gordon Brown summoned Robinson and others to Downing St to protest unconvincingly that the Big Idea was his all along – all MPs’ claims for the past four years to be independently checked and emergency limits to be placed on what can be claimed. Typically Brown seems to have fluffed yet another initiative, putting a half-baked plan to a committee without clinching agreement from its members. The next episode, the sight of Hazel Blears brandishing her refund cheque in abject imitation of the errant Cameronians speaks volumes about which party leader has seized control. What next? Stand by for a small blizzard of repayment cheques. Aren’t they lucky they have the dosh to hand? At least I hope they have for their sakes: bankrupt MPs automatically forfeit their seats. Will an allowances cap be imposed? Ironically the present 24k a year figure for a second home doesn’t seem excessive for a first-time MP. But will the figure exclude mortgage repayments as distinct from mortgage interest, even with a ban on capital gains? There’s lots left to decide. But now for the first time, there’s a sense of the problem being gripped. MPs will not remain the sole targets for much longer.

Because stand by too for a campaign against fat to sweep the entire public sector. Cameron has already promised to carry his transparency crusade to the softest of soft targets, the top earners in the BBC and Channel 4. BBC and Channel 4 senior staff will be included in Tory plans to name and shame high earners working for public institutions. He has attacked the 400k salary paid to Ed Richards the head of the media and telecomms regulator Ofcom, going so far as to name him. And today MPs questioned to his face the 600k salary of the chief executive of the supposedly cash strapped Channel 4. P.S. The BBC director general has frozen his pay this year at a mere 817k with benefits ( Yes, I’m beyond envy but even so..). The PM earns 194k with benefits. There are many other targets throughout the public sector.

  • right on

    Brown looks physically ill. His head will roll in mid June. And about bloody time too. Time for a Tory/Lib Dem coalition

  • Driftwood

    Tory/lib dem looks good until the general election next May
    Make it so..

  • I agree that DC has shown leadership and initiative ahead of GB. My big fear though is that the Conservatives, who were poised to do well at the Euro elections, will now suffer considerable loss of support in those elections.

    This scandal and Lord Tebbit’s dissent may have given UKIP the political kiss of life.

  • DC

    Oh Brian you are so naive at times, it was only a big thing because the Tories are expecting to keep and gain seats therefore more cash will be available. Also the big carrot of expectation of power awaiting them.

    Labour on the other hand are facing wipeout therefore financial wipeout too re losing seats. I also gather tories are richer and more able.

    I hope then these tories payback the second home allowance claims altogether than symbolic bits and bobs like michael anchram says he will only pay back.

    This is just more trial by media, media initiative-itis. Yea 8 out of 10 to cameron re the media performance 1 out of 10 on party principles, still stinks!

  • Silverline

    And this is what the UUP have joined up to!

  • Silverline,

    No political party has come out of this smelling of roses

  • elvis parker

    Hermon has rushed to the studios before the Daily Telegraph broke the story are the DUP just sitting tight and praying?

  • If the consensus is, as Brian Walker maintains, that Cameron is the only winner here, I’m obviously reading too many sources, or not just the right one.

    Compare and contrast:

    — the sympathetic Telegraph, circulation well >1M, even with its recent boost:

    For most of the past five years, Mr Cameron has claimed only for mortgage interest and utility bills on his Oxfordshire constituency cottage. Some years, his Parliamentary expense records are only 20 pages long – compared with expense claims of more than 90 pages for some of his colleagues.

    The Conservative leader’s only deviation from his straightforward claims came in November, 2006, when he billed the public finances £680 for repairs to the property.

    — and the jaundiced Mail, circulation some 2.2M:

    MPs’ expenses list reveals David Cameron ‘used the system’ to claim £21,000 in a year to pay his mortgage

    David Cameron’s mortgage costs taxpayers £21,000 a year, it was revealed yesterday…

    George Osborne, the Tory Shadow Chancellor and heir to the Osborne and Little wallpaper empire, claimed £18,000 for his mortgage.

    His expenses and those of Mr Cameron stood out because they claim close to the maximum allowed and devote it almost entirely to the cost of servicing the loans to buy their constituency homes.

    Mr Cameron, who has led calls for sweeping changes to MPs’ expenses, has made no secret of the fact that he uses the housing allowance to pay the mortgage on his £750,000 house in his Oxfordshire constituency.

    The Tory leader has no mortgage on his house in London, which is said to be worth £2million.

    He comes from a well-off family and his wife Samantha is the daughter of a land-owning baronet.

    This is illustrated by an aerial view of “Splendid isolation: David Cameron’s £750,000 constituency home”. No cottaging for the Mail.

    And, yes, that was largely regurgitated from my contribution @ 10:21 A.M. (then with hot-links, which I can’t be arsed to repeat) to Mick Fealty @ 01:02 PM yesterday.

  • Brian Walker

    On your Cameron and Osborne points, that’s precisely why I asked the questions:

    “Will an allowances cap be imposed? Ironically the present 24k a year figure for a second home doesn’t seem excessive for a first-time MP. But will the figure exclude mortgage repayments as distinct from mortgage interest, even with a ban on capital gains? There’s lots left to decide.”

    I in common with many others thought Cameron’s move was “great politics”. It doesn’t make him a moral arbiter, although to be fair he doesn’t flip or overcharge for luxuries. There is a difference. Clegg wants to ban mortgages. Many who are far less well off than either leader fear this; they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a second home at all and rental charges are about the same as mortgages. They are fulminating silently but will speak up later. Brown’s hesitations are in part, due to them. It’s all very well for fat cats like Cameron to run a competition for the hairiest shirt. He can easily cut the cost of furnishing etc from his claims and could afford his own second home regardless. I’d be reasonably confident that Christopher Kelly will weigh it all up fairly when the hue and cry has died down.

  • Tory/lib dem looks good until the general election next May

    Except that they don’t have a parliamentary majority between them, so its Labour until the Prime Minister of the day asks for a dissolution, sometime between now and June next year.

    My basic view of the next British General Election was that Labour had lost it but I wasn’t convinced Cameron had won it. I’m a bit more convinced now than I was this time last week.