WELCOME TO BRITAIN
Here are the headlines:
If you are a small, emerald creature from a distant galaxy you will, by now, have safely deduced that we are obviously talking about three completely different planets, light years apart.
Of course, your being a small, emerald creature from a distant galaxy is about as likely as Maria Miller MP diverting her million pound profit into bricks and mortar for some of the four million families who, having spent their money paying for Ms Miller’s house, are now about to lose their own.
But enough of the jaw dropping factoids. And no end of slow head shaking will result in finding a way out of this mess. The fact that we have managed to lose our collective plot so majorly must be down to some pretty dysfunctional decision making. Plenty of past experience, and now even NASA somewhat bizarrely, tell us that – sure as eggs is eggs, the wider a society’s inequalities, the more spectacular its eventual implosion.
Ok, so human nature being what it is, we all try to turn a quick buck. But where are our leaders? Those wise and kind citizens we have handpicked to steer us along the crooked path of decency? Oh, they’re busy turning a quick buck.
Or should that be, they’re still busy turning a quick buck? It seems only last month that our daily news was mired in sordid tales about MPs’ house flipping, mortgage fraud and rental scandals.
The millions the tax payer is relentlessly asked – nay told – to cough up for MPs’ inflated housing requirements can only be guessed at, as no one seems to have had the energy to wade through the almost impenetrable morass of rules and regs.
An HMRC friend once confided that a certain sexy British airline always gets away with absolute tax-murder, turning up, wheeling a considerable number of trolleys containing an entire room full of files. “This makes it impossible to examine anything with any degree of accuracy, so a deal is struck”.
Some MPs, like our Maria for example, seem to have taken accounting lessons from such nifty practice, allowing them to trouser huge profits on properties you and I have paid for.
Others play property ping-pong with their partners and siphon off thousands of taxpayers’ money in the process. Still others swap flats and charge each other ballooning rents before recharging them to – you guessed it – you and me.
When challenged, the ‘honourable’ members squeal that, at £66.396 per annum, they’re just not paid enough and they are forced to find other ways of making ends meet. In the case of Maria Miller, her Secretary of State pay packet of £134,565 still proved insufficient to keep her in the style to which we’d all love the chance to become accustomed. Yet, a quick trawl reveals that UK MPs are paid roughly the same as Danish MPs.
To be fair, our Brit MPs’ rapacious fleecing of the electorate does not seem to respect party boundaries, with members of all political persuasions being guilty as charged. Similarly, irrespective of your ideological hue, to the average decent citizen, all of this is just plain wrong, on so many levels.
SO, WHAT WOULD BORGEN DO?
If you’ve paid attention to the links, you now know that a Borgen MP gets paid £68,500 a year. Ok, so the links are in Danish but the figures are international. A Brit MP gets paid £66.396. Oh, and Borgen’s MPs pay 52% tax of course.
MPs, who don’t live on the island of Zealand where Borgen is located, are provided with free apartments in a handsome block near Christiansborg, “This is so that MPs can concentrate on their work, not waste their time running around looking for a place to live.”
A number of different funding models are available to suit the accommodation needs of different MPs. There’s cover for occasional and reasonable hotel bills (up to 12 nights a year) and, in the case of travelling MPs, a supplement for maintaining two households. None of them include flipping houses, swapping properties or renting out anything.
There are 179 Borgen MPs. The total 2011 budget for providing accommodation for them all was a measly half a million quid or, to be precise, £541,700 (DKR 5,417,000) plus, of course, the apartments, which are an investment, owned by the good citizens of Denmark. Who never stop complaining that the flats are far too luxurious.
So absolutely no speculative shenanigans for Danish MPs. Accommodation is provided – end of. And still there seems to be no shortage of candidates coming forward for election. Could it really be that, in Denmark, people still want to represent their fellow citizens for reasons other than money?
The common cry from British MPs is that, unless they’re allowed to enrich themselves grotesquely as a kind of Parliamentary privilege, only independently wealthy people would want to stand for Parliament. We would get a “Parliament of the rich”.
To paraphrase Russell Brand, that’s like a burglar saying, “I won’t steal your stuff if you give me the amount of money it’s all worth.” That’s called extortion and it is illegal.
I say, let’s give Borgen’s model a spin and see what happens. Our current Westmonster lot could do with a really good shake-up and hey, we might just get a new bunch of people, who wants to represent their fellow citizens for reasons other than money.