Now MPs are using Brexit to demand more expenses

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

Is the fatted calf getting ever more corpulent and greedy?

It would certainly seem so judging by the latest demands of Members of Parliament.

A substantial number of MPs have managed to boost their expenses budget to �180,000 a year, for staffing and office-running

A substantial number of MPs have managed to boost their expenses budget to �180,000 a year, for staffing and office-running

They are lobbying for a larger expenses budget because of what they claim is the “extra workload” foisted on them by Brexit.

This latest demand will be greeted with sardonic laughter by the hard-pressed British taxpayer who has to foot the bill.

Judging by the MPs’ expenses scandal which came to light in 2009, many people would marvel at the brass neck of MPs calling for yet more perks. At the moment a substantial number of MPs have managed to boost their expenses budget to £180,000 a year, for staffing and office-running.

Over the past 50 years or so, admittedly, the MPs’ workload has significantly increased, something which is largely their own fault, since they have been taking on responsibilities which would normally lie in the domain of local authorities.

Long gone, I’m afraid, are the days when being an MP was regarded as a vocation rather than just a job. In those not so far off days they were poorly paid and could barely afford a humble bed and breakfast place. They even had to buy their own postage stamps to write to their constituents.

I am not suggesting that we should return to those days, but I am suggesting MPs should be satisfied with their present lot: They are well paid and well-heeled, with already over-generous expense accounts.

And they have received pay rises far in excess of most other public servants. So I trust that the authorities who deal with these matters will boot this demand not just into the long grass, but right out of sight. Why should the taxpayer have yet more holes burnt in their pocket?

Are Jeremy Corbyn and his sidekick John McDonnell leading the Labour Party to destruction?

Sir Bernard Ingham, who was Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary, has described Labour as being “totalitarian” and in a complete mess, adding that moderate Labour MPs should quit the party and form an Independent Labour Party, if they have the guts to do it. “I am not holding my breath,” he added resignedly.

Meanwhile - and possibly even more significantly - Alan Johnson, Labour’s former Home Secretary, says that a split in the party is now inevitable. He described the activities of the hard-line left-wing Momentum campaign group as “malice dressed as virtue”.

With well-informed heavyweights like these expressing that kind of view, I suspect the prospects of Labour remaining a single entity between now and the next general election are growing slimmer every day.

But it is not only Labour which is in a state of turmoil. The Conservatives are also in a similar state, although for very different reasons. And even though there are huge variations - to put it mildly - over Brexit in the Tory Party, there is no sign they will split.

Even so, their forthcoming party conference, like that of Labour, is likely to produce much spilt political blood. The differences between, say, Jacob Rees-Mogg (fiercely pro-Brexit) and Lord Heseltine (fiercely against it) are so great you could be forgiven for thinking they are not in the same party,

So to those attending the party conferences this year, I would offer this advice: Tin hats at the ready.

Anti-Brexiteers seem to have stepped up their desire to spread gloom over the nation, especially on the question of a no-deal exit.

Chancellor Philip Hammond, the Eeyore of Westminster, may be worsening the split in the Cabinet by his claim that a no-deal Brexit could wipe up to 10% off the national income and hit the food and other industries very hard.

I see that Dominic Raab, the new Brexit minister, has wasted no time in rejecting such scare stories.

Whichever side is right and whichever wrong, it is surely better to look to leaving the EU with our chin up rather than painting a picture of doom.

If you remember, this kind of fear was spread at the millennium with all sorts of calamities predicted, including aircraft falling out of the sky. Nothing untoward happened at all.