As the row over Maria Miller’s, shall we say, creative expenses regime continues, free sheet City AM, no longer led by Allister Heath, stooge of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), has asked two pundits to tell if the MPs’ expenses system should be scrapped. But one legacy from Heath’s version of political reality has remained, as both are out there on the right.
And the connection with the TPA has also endured, as one of the pundits is their Political Director, Dia Chakravarty. She is, to no surprise at all, in favour of knowing every last detail of what kind of sarnies her MP is buying, and what brand of mineral water he or she is using to wash them down. Opposing that idea is (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries, who wants the system binned.
TPA CEO Jonathan Isaby was on the case in short order: “Alas [Nadine Dorries] fails to explain her real agenda in [City AM]: replace expenses with a big flat fee and no transparency or accountability”, or what normal people call a larger salary. Isaby is hot on everyone else being accountable and transparent except, of course, for Himself Personally Now.
Ms Dorries was not unaware of this flaw in the Isaby argument: “Did everyone hear astounding silence when [Jonathan Isaby] was asked if he wants to lecture [on] transparency, please inform us who funds [the TPA]” she shot back. And anyone from the TPA calling for transparency is always going to get this.
Isaby did not buy the idea of MPs being given a larger salary (with their staff paid for directly): “Which business can you name which doles out tens of thousands pa without receipts to cover employees’ expenses?” he asked, to which the answer is that there are rather a lot of them, as anyone paying attention to the phone hacking trial can attest. News Corp is hardly a business flop.
One could also cite whoever bankrolls the TPA, and here was Ms Dorries’ chance to strike back: “you can’t lecture [on] transparency when you are funded by non doms” she sniped. Now, this is more urban legend than fact, but the TPA has never been prepared to tell whether their funds come from UK taxpayers, or even which country they originate in. So they will keep on being called out in this way.
Isaby was also confronted on his I-Speak-Your-Weight comment on the phony BBC “Lambing Live Hotel Row”: “We reacted to a query from a bona fide journalist and [the TPA’s] concern related to the £279 cost as explained to us”. In other words, he couldn’t be arsed checking his facts before shooting his gob off, such was his and his organisation’s desire to put the boot in on the Beeb.
Jonathan Isaby has no room to call anyone out on transparency. And, much as one hates to say it, this one has to be called for the fragrant Nadine.
La Dorries is currently appearing on The Wright Stuff. This morning the subject of expenses was raised and she said that they should be scrapped and replaced with a return train ticket from the MPs' constituency and four nights basic hotel accommodation. Food and drink would not be included.
To be honest I could not help but wave my toast in the air and shout a lusty, 'Hear, hear'.
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