Energy Bills Expenses: Why Bother?

While utterly ludicrous and a sorrowful reminder that parliament is dominated by richer, more frivolous versions of Bertram Wooster, I couldn’t help but find the recent energy bill expenses scandal pretty hilarious. As it transpires we, the public, have been effectively subsidising the riding school business of Stratford-upon-Avon MP, Nadhim Zahawi, owner of a 31 acre Warwickshire estate and a £5 million London residence, through his expenses claims of £5,822.27 for electricity in his stables. Zahawi is sadly struggling through life without a moat but I will be starting the ‘Moats for the Needy’ fund this Christmas so, please, dig deep and make someone-much-more-fortunate-than-you’s Christmas wish come true. But for anyone doubting that Zahawi is a stand-up guy he has earnestly remedied his ‘mistake’ (he didn’t realise he was only getting one instead of two electricity bills, the silly-Billy) and paid back all the money.

It is true that he is an extreme example as the highest claimant of the 340 MPs whose collective expenses total at £200,000 and, who knows, maybe it was a genuine error. Nonetheless, while this tale does little more than mildly amuse me, the bigger picture is indicative of a worrying psyche among our politicians. Nick Clegg defended MPs claiming of expenses in an interview with LBC radio and, to be fair, his claims of £254.29 were modest. But doesn’t that make the rules of expenses even more unfair? If that is all it costs then why can’t Clegg, who declared in the same interview that “Both [my wife] Miriam and I work in well-paid jobs so clearly we’re not in the same position as many people who feel under greater considerable pressure”, pay for the bills himself? The crux of the issue is that the MPs simply do not need to have this funded by the public when their salaries (Clegg’s is £66,396) are more than adequate. It comes as a particular slap in the face when dual fuel prices from the ‘Big 6’ energy firms are rising absurdly faster than people can afford, causing many to choose between ‘heating and eating’.

The £200,000 figure is really only a drop in the ocean of excrement that is our economy but what is concerning is that politicians have no qualms about demonstrating such astounding hypocrisy and greed while reassuring us with that old platitude ‘we’re all in this together.’ Tory MP and real-life thunderbird, Michael Fabricant may have described Russell Brand as a ‘twat’ after his recent interview with Paxman, but his eloquent description of the ‘lies, treachery [and] deceit of the political class’ is lent significance by these events. What the scandal really shows is that politicians have learnt nothing from the 2009 expenses scandal. It shows that people who apparently dedicate their lives to the betterment of society can openly disregard it with indemnity. More than anything though I just can’t see why they wouldn’t do themselves a favour and stop giving the public ammunition. Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone if they just payed their own electricity bills? For one thing it would prevent you from subjection to the self-righteous ramblings of a middle-class armchair pseudo-socialist like myself.

[Conor Quill]

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