Equality under the Law


by Gracchi    
8:25 am - January 11th 2008

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At first sight, readers of the Liberal Conspiracy might dismiss this article on the way that MPs are reembursed their charges for rubbish collection from their allowances as typical Tory muckraking- it comes from one of those identified often amongst the usual suspects of conservative skulldudgery and looks like a petty accusation. Actually though what Dizzy has identified is an abuse of power and he is quite right to label it as such- furthermore on this cause for both pragmatic and principled reasons liberals of any hue ought to be allied with conservatives in objecting to special treatment for leglislators.

Pragmatically, one of the best reasons for decreasing government expenditure is the perception that government actually works not for those who it should serve- the public- but for those who run it- politicians and civil servants. Government’s purpose is to serve the whole community and not merely those who work for it. If you establish that it doesn’t do that- that’s a very good reason for suggesting that government is a true burden for the rest of the economy and the population. This kind of action taken by MPs suggests that that perception is true- that government is something that ‘they’ run for ‘themselves’ and that ‘we’ ought to be in favour of reducing.

Lots of things are pragmatically bad ideas- some of them though are on principle good ideas- spending money on asylum seekers doesn’t get votes, but should be done anyway. But this is on principle a bad thing too. Its a bad thing because any leglislator ought to be in a position where they could be subject to the law that they pass. Obviously some laws few legislators will ever be subject to- one thinks of unemployment benefit for example- and some laws have to have exemptions for leglislators- laws say limiting access to particular buildings for security reasons. But in general the privileges of office ought to be minimised- MPs and others ought to bear the same costs in so far as is possible as ordinary citizens bear. There ought be no exempted groups when a law is passed- as such exemptions created legally privileged classes and undermine the principle that equality before the law is a vital component of modern democracy.

Sometimes its all too easy to dismiss Tory attacks on this present government as motivated by political advantage- and I’m sure often they are. But its worth remembering that as in this case, sometimes they can get at something- a principle and a pragmatic reality that liberals ought to be concerned with to. Exemptions for MPs for laws that they pass ultimately harms the arguments for government intervention in the lives of citizens and also is contrary to the general principles of a liberal state. Dizzy is right: ministers ought to withdraw this allowance- MPs like everyone else should pay their rubbish collection charges from their normal salaries.

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About the author
'Gracchi' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He started a blog last year which deals with culture and politics and history, where his interest lies. He is fascinated by all sorts of things including good films and books and undogmatic discussion of ideas. This seems like a good place to do the latter... Also at: Westminister Wisdom
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Reader comments


I can see where you are coming from in your article and I see the value of equality before the law. However, surely the argument in this case is that MPs representing non-London constituencies wouldn’t also have somewhere to live in London if it wasn’t for the job they are doing. If so, then they should be entitled to claim expenses for costs incidental to this. For example, in certain circusmtances, if people’s work requires them to go on business trips, the employer will pay for the cost of this and for expenses such as meals etc while they are aware. I don’ t see paying for the rubbish collection of properties that MPs are only living in as a result of their job as being a particularly outrageous thing.

Yet another article starting with references to Tory skullduggery…supported by a link to a bizarre and barely comprehensible page.
Are you lot incapable of getting to the point without making a petty partisan sideswipe first?

On the main topic I look forward to what MP’s decide on their own pay!!

This Dizzy guy – who seems quite entertaining – makes another more serious point in a later post.
MP’s allowances are to rise by more than 4% – in line with the Retail Price Index as opposed to the lower Consumer Price Index which Brown at al. try to convince us is where inflation “really” is.
Liars and rogues.

http://dizzythinks.net/2008/01/so-much-for-pay-discipline.html

Build non-London MPs a big hostel somewhere in London, and have regular bus services to the Commons. That would sort out a lot of the problems with claiming expenses on “necessary” second homes.

What Andrew said. It could be quite a nice hostel…

If they get an allowance for having to live in London, said allowance presumably also covers Council Tax. Rubbish charges will effectively be a top up to Council Tax. So where’s the (new) story?

On the other hand I rather like the idea of a hostel – somewhere like Wormwood Scrubs perhaps…

“some of them though are on principle good ideas- spending money on asylum seekers doesn’t get votes, but should be done anyway. ”

Could you unpack this a lilttle – why is it a good idea to spend public money on asylum seekers, when it does not benefit, but only costs the “we” who are governed and pay for the privelidge thereof ?

7. Asylum seekers/immigrants, potatoes/potatoh’s, whatever you call them the benefits to the country are clear.

Lee – please spell out these “clear” benefits.
Of course the economy grows, as it would if population grew for any reason, not just immigration.
But do the incomes of the existing population grow any faster?
What happens, not to GDP, but to GDP per head?

Not much I believe…

http://www.migrationwatchuk.com/Briefingpapers/economic/Migrants_economic_benefit.asp

I read Dizzy.

Of all the non-libertarian Tory bloggers, Dizzy is one I have a lot of time for.

We’ve had our run-ins though…

BTW – Casting the net is running late

Ahhh, Migrationwatch, the epitome of an unbiased source! [/heavy sarcasm]

9. The skills that immigrants of any kind can bring into the country for a start, though obviously this isn’t a “constant”, also the diversifying nature of their existence which is essential for enlightening the population, the fact many of them are adults and thus start paying taxes *after* the initial burden on the NHS has already cleared…you can talk about economic prosperity in GDP but this completely ignores the contribution to the government that ultimately helps to subsidise “from birth” residents of the UK’s healthcare and public needs. Apparently immigration that is bringing in jobs also helps keep inflation down compared to situations where jobs aren’t getting done.

Largely the disadvantages of immigration come not from the immigrants themselves but from the lack of opportunities this Government lets them have. Polish people take to our culture very easily and readily, yet people such as Somalians tend to be economically inactive. Somali’s tend to be claiming more benefit, have lesser performance in education and sit in council housing more often than not. Obviously these are asylum seekers mostly and so I’ll concede that asylum seekers aren’t necessarily a positive impact on the country as normal migrants are…however I don’t believe that to be the problem with the asylum seekers, but more a problem with the politics of asylum seekers. We choose to put them in deprived areas and this government has chosen to rescind almost all chances of free and proper education on something as simple as the English language. They are treated like outsiders by the national media and the right wing and culturally this only cultivates the situation that surrounds them.

If this country were to engage with asylum seekers rather than see them as a drain on society, and thus self-perpetuate the problem when we treat them as we do. Check out http://www.dfes.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/RTP01-03.pdf as a statement of just how these cycles can be perpetuated when it comes to developing the economic impact of ethnic groups in deprived areas.

Government’s purpose is to serve the whole community and not merely those who work for it. If you establish that it doesn’t do that- that’s a very good reason for suggesting that government is a true burden for the rest of the economy and the population.

Government is a burden, regardless of who it serves. When it serves us, it is a burden we are willing to bear.

I’ll concede that asylum seekers aren’t necessarily a positive impact on the country as normal migrants are

Given that asylum seekers aren’t allowed to seek paid work, I think anyone would have to concede that.

15. Quite, I had forgotten that, for shame!

Jennie

Now you’ve dissed the source, perhaps you would care to address the argument…or is that too difficult for you?

Quite, I had forgotten that, for shame!

No shame on you, but shame on the system.

Unless of course someone can explain why it is a good idea to ‘punish’ people who play by the rules…

7. Asylum seekers/immigrants, potatoes/potatoh’s, whatever you call them the benefits to the country are clear.

Clear to who ? You are falling for the rhetoric that equates “good for the economy” with “good for society”. The benefits of economic growth are not evenly spread through society, neither are the disadvantages of large conentrations of migrants.
The two are polar oppposites, with the largest economic benficiaries of migration (capitalists and some sections of the middle class) having only a passing acqaintance with the group who suffer the most from their negative impact (the urban poor and the white worjing class). Showing economic growth does not prove that migration is “good for the economy” anyway, the same growth could probably be acheived by forcing the economically inactive into work, or engineering a baby boom.

The only problem with immigrants are the problems that the current residents of the country bring. Immigrants don’t do anything negative to our society, lack of appropriate treatment of them by the government and racist/xenophobic elements bring out the negative aspects. The problems with younger immigrants (second generation) if they exist are indicative of problems with socio-economic factors that also mean problems from non-immigrants.

The main negative points that I’ve ever heard about “immigrants” are actually problems they have with asylum seekers, whom are usually only in that situation given that the government doesn’t let them become productive members of society, largely on the back of…yep, that’s right… xenophobic residents.

Housing an issue? Well that’s an issue with housing strategies in this country and not more people coming here. If everyone currently living here decided to keep having twice as many babies we’d have problems, but no-one hypothesises about anything like that, and no-one would expect the government to ban babies before changing housing strategies.

We can’t argue that because *we* are the ones that cause social problems because of our stigma about immigrants, that they shouldn’t be allowed to come here. Please name, 19, what specifically it is you think that they do that actually disadvantages this country, and which group(s) you’re talking about?


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