Wednesday 13 May 2009

We will still pay for politicians’ greed

Following the revelations over their expenses, some MPs have decided to pay the money back. Others have not, and we will deal with them at the next election. But I fear this is only a pyrrhic victory for taxpayers.

Political parties rely on an army of volunteers to organise social events to raise funds for election campaigns, to distribute leaflets and to help with canvassing. We have always done this in the belief that we were fighting for a common cause. We did not give our time voluntarily so that politicians could line their own pockets.

But this scandal is not just about MPs. Councillors have also been gorging at the trough. Cllr Brian Coleman’s allowances totted up to just under £103,000 last year. Barnet Council Leader (and wannabe MP) Mike Freer raked in over £71,000.

Why should we give our time for free so that these individuals can get rich? Brian Coleman often says “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” Perhaps Mr Coleman could tell us precisely what he did for his hundred grand that the private sector could not have done cheaper and better for a third of the price?

In the past, councillors would discuss policy matters with party members at organised meetings. Now, they just tell us what they are going to do whether we like it or not. There is no debate.

The long term effect of this scandal is that volunteers will stop volunteering. Our voices aren’t heard and we are just used as slave labour.

The real danger is that once politicians realise that there is nobody willing to do their donkey work anymore, they will press ahead with their dream of full public funding for political parties. Then they can pay people to replace the lost volunteers and, once again, the poor taxpayer will be left paying the bill.

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