Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Making the point

With the focus in The Daily Telegraph quite rightly on the less than salubrious practices of our soon-to-be erstwhile chancellor, and then that snake Geoff Hoon (who has done more damage to the British Army than could be imagined), the paper's leader makes a point that deserves – and needs – wider coverage.

Of Mr Darling, it says, "he may have done nothing worse than many other MPs; it has emerged that a sizeable number saw the ACA as an entitlement, to enhance what they believed to be an otherwise meagre basic income." But the paper then adds: "MPs cannot have this both ways: if, as many insist, they did nothing wrong, and merely claimed an allowance which was intended to boost their income, why did they not pay tax like the rest of us?"

That surely is the crucial issue. In many ways, there has been a great deal of cant – but also some huge "entertainment" – over the details of MPs' claims. But, if the allowance is treated as a salary supplement and thus part of the overall remuneration package, the claims take on a wholly different complexion.

What it comes down to is that MPs, unable or unwilling to make a case to the public – their paymasters – for higher basic salaries, have gone round the back door and awarded themselves a covert pay increase. That, in itself, is bad enough, but what is really offensive is that MPs then created a tax-free status which then puts them above all us mere plebs who must give their all to the tax man, on pain of fearsome penalties.

It is this cavalier arrogance of our political classes is a message that voters will not forget.