Monday, May 11, 2009

Getting Political

In my 15 months in London, I've not yet really spoken about the local politics that I've observed/been impacted by here in London-or the UK, depending on the issue. But, there's been an item brewing here in the UK the past few weeks, that I have decided I am absolutely pissed off about-and it's also made me wonder about our own system in the US Government...

The link below provides great detail of why I'm so pissed off:

A little background to explain some of the underpinnings:

MPs (Members of Parliament), which are like the equivalent of members of Congress in the US, while 'serving' in London can claim expense for said serving. Just like in the US, as DC is the political capitol where representatives come from all over the country and spend a good bit of time away from home in DC, the same is true of MPs and London. In the US, most representatives are easily hundreds if not thousands of miles away from their constituency-given the size of the US. The one big difference being that as London and the surrounding areas are so populous, many representatives that spend time 'away from home' in reality only commute 10 miles into London from their constituency.

Follow me so far? Here comes the part that I'm pissed off about. While 'away from home,' MPs have the option of claiming a second home as their place of residence while working in London. OK. Seems fair enough on the surface. The killer is that many of these MPs primary homes are also in London, and in some cases, only mere miles apart. And, when claiming a 2nd home, they can be reimbursed for the expense by the government. The 2nd home expense covers everything from mortgages, repairs, furnishings....etc up to £24k a year that is reimbursable. £24k. You can buy a lot of house for £24k a year (even in London)-even if that only partially covers your mortgage.

Well...aside from the *incredibly* shady expense claims that are being made (one MP recently got called out for expensing £10 of porn DVD rentals from her husband...), it's now come to light that MPs are selling (or even 'flipping') their 2nd homes-and making a tidy profit. All while their MORTGAGE WAS FUNDED BY TAXPAYERS. So, MPs are pocketing the profits from selling their 2nd homes, all while never having actually paid for the mortgage/equity in the home themselves, and in many cases, not having to pay any capital gains taxes on the sale.


And, in the course of all of this, it has made me wonder about our own policies in the US with regard to these possible expenses/reimbursements/2nd homes...etc...I can't say I recall ever hearing anything about the outrageous claims/problems that are going on here, but is it because the problem doesn't exist-I it just hasn't been sussed out yet. If it's the latter, and I'm sure it is...I'm already pissed about that as well.



  1. I understand what your anguish and I was doing some thinking about this issue the other day.

    Then again, would you prefer to increase the pay of MPs and not let them claim any expenses instead? I mean, the average pay of an MP (less than 70k per year) is not really alot taking into account that the journalist (can't recall the name, I'm sorry) who interviewed one of the errant Lords earned 92k per year.

    I would imagine that an MP has to do much more than a journalist. That's how skewed the world is.

    There are some MPs who claimed on mortgages that have already been fully paid, that's fraudulent. Then again, there are some who claimed on items, which some may deemed as excessive, but 'within the rules'. Shall we then look at the rules instead of pointing our fingers at these MPs?

    I rather the politicians spend more time worrying about the economy than having to show the public how prudent they are... one even was photograph sleeping in a tent! Gosh.

    C K

  2. Hi CK,
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment.
    I think the big frustration I feel with this-and it wasn't particularly made clear by me in my first post, isn't so much the grey areas. We could debate for ages about whether a £50 meal expense (v £20) is exhorbitant or not. I'm more concerned about those claims and actions that are so far in the black area, that there is no doubt in my mind that the actions of the MPs is fraudulent, and if a similar action were taken by a 'normal person,' they'd find themselves in jail for theft.

    Ideally, until the grey areas disappear-or those people willing to exploit said grey areas 'disappear'-there will have to be a better system in place-whether it's an increase in salary (which I am hesitant to suggest), per diems, stronger checks and balances for expenses claimed....something to ensure that such egregious behavior doesn't occur.