There are two things I will always remember about Alex Salmond, who has just announced that he’s stepping down as leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland.
One of them is that on 20th May 2008, as MP for Banff and Buchan, he paid one of his rare visits to the Commons to vote for forcing women who need abortions after 20 weeks to have to leave the UK by making abortion illegal for them to access in the UK.
Most abortions after 20 weeks are either for medical reasons (read personal stories from women in Ireland who were in that situation) or because a young woman delayed getting help out of confusion, ignorance, fear – or sometimes malice on the part of prolife medical personnel: or because it took them so much time to save up the fare from Ireland and the cost of an abortion here.
When asked to explain his position on abortion as an MP by a Banff and Buchan constituent, Alex Salmond wrote back to her on First Minister notepaper to say that abortion was a reserved issue.
The other thing I shall always remember about Alex Salmond is that he routinely claimed £400 a month for food on MP expenses – the maximum amount an MP can claim for food without having to show receipts. He claimed £400 for food essential to do his duties as an MP, even during the two months when Westminster was in recess.
Between March 2007 and 1st April 2008, the Banff and Buchan MP voted on only six days in the House of Commons – but he claimed £1751.50 for food. In total that financial year, Salmond claimed £116,000 for his “expenses” – the majority of it for staffing his Westminster office, £31,336 for his own personal expenses, or just over £5000 per vote.
So that’s what I’ll always remember about Alex Salmond.
You can donate here to the Abortion Support Network, which helps women in Ireland out of the situation Alex Salmond voted to establish in the UK.
Chris Huhne in the Guardian yesterday:
First, none of this would have been possible without my own mistakes. I am no saint (but nor did I claim to be).
Chris Huhne was one of the Tory/LibDem Cabinet’s millionaires. He was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change: he is now European manager of Zilkha Biomass Energy, a transition from government minister to employee in the same field that is now so familiar its corruption wouldn’t make the headlines – except that Huhne spent some time in between in court and in jail.
Besides his wealth from his pre-Parliament career as a City of London economist, Huhne owned seven houses: the one he officially lived in, in London: his official second home, in Eastleigh: and five more rental properties.
As revealed in the MP expenses scandal in 2009:
He owns his second home in his Eastleigh constituency in Hampshire outright but regularly claims for its renovation. In August 2006 he was reimbursed for a £5,066 builder’s invoice that included having two coats of “red rustic timber care” applied to garden items, and two coats of green preservative for fences. On another occasion Mr Huhne submitted a handyman’s bill for £77.31, covering odd jobs such as “replacing rope on swinging chair”. Continue reading
Michael Gove talked about people living beyond their means, and Labour spending too much on welfare, and claimed this justified the Tory/LibDem cuts cuts cuts workfare cuts.
Michael Gove used to work for Rupert Murdoch as a journalist at The Times, until he was selected as the new Conservative candidate for the safe seat of Surrey Heath in the 2005 election.
Gove and his wife Sarah Vine, had bought a nice house in Kensington for £430,000 in 2002.
Between December 2005 and April 2006, Michael Gove used the Additional Costs Allowance (meant for an MP to claim for their second home) to claim more than £7000 for furnishing this house:
Around a third of the money was spent at Oka, an upmarket interior design company established by Lady Annabel Astor, Mr Cameron’s mother-in-law.
A universal welfare state is the essential bedrock of a civilised country. A civilised country ensures that no one goes without healthcare because they can’t afford it, no one is treated as if worthless because they cannot work, and that anyone who loses their job needn’t fear destitution for themselves or for their family if they don’t find another job instantly. A civilised country ensures that no one needs to work when they are too young or too old or too disabled or too ill. This is not a system that can be replaced by random acts of charity: to become civilised, we pay taxes and national insurance and we all benefit.
Iain Duncan Smith became Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in May 2010 – a role he has held ever since, despite efforts by David Cameron to unseat him in the 2012 reshuffle. He has virtually no further-education qualifications and spent several months on the dole after leaving the Scots Guards in the recession of 1981. But the next year he married a very wealthy woman, the daughter of a very wealthy man, and he and his wife and four children still live in a house rented from his father-in-law on his wife’s father’s estate: he became an MP in 1992, inheriting Norman Tebbit’s safe constituency of Chingford. Whatever Iain Duncan Smith’s experience of unemployment thirty-two years ago, it’s safe to say that in thirty years he hasn’t had money worries – except when he became Leader of the Opposition and it was discovered he’d given his wife one of those plum “assistant” jobs which used to be a bonus for the spouse or child of an MP.
Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, Conservative MP for Fareham, announces in the Daily Telegraph that from Monday 21st October “there will be clear and escalating levels of penalties” for being poor:
For failing to do something required by a Jobcentre Plus adviser, the claimant will lose their benefits for four weeks. Every time it happens subsequently, they will lose their benefits for three months.
For the most serious rule-breaking, such as refusing to accept a reasonable job offer, or walking out of a job without good reason, they will lose their benefits for three months. If they do it a second time, they will lose their benefits for six months.
A third failure, at this level, is simply not acceptable and we will impose a three year penalty.
Today, George Osborne got into a first-class carriage in a train to Euston, with a standard-class ticket.
Everybody knows what’s happened to the trains since they were licensed to private companies: impenetrable rules, incomprehensible fares, crazy fees if you have to make a short-notice decision. It has nothing to do with any “true price” for the journey, only the vast amounts they can get away with if you have no choice. Let’s be honest, it’s extortion. A medieval landlord could name his own tithes if people had nowhere else to go and East Midlands Trains is clearly inspired by those happy days. – Victoria Coren
Unfortunately for him, Rachel Townsend, Granada Reports Correspondent, was on the train with an iPhone and not afraid to use it:
Very interesting train journey to Euston Chancellor George Osborne just got on at Wilmslow with a STANDARD ticket and he has sat in FIRST CLASS. His aide tells ticket collector he cannot possibly move and sit with the likes of us in standard class and requests he is allowed to remain in First Class. Ticket collector refuses #standoff – Digital Spy
George Osborne earns £134,565 a year as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Which member of the Privy Council is best qualified to be Chancellor of the Exchequer? It is not, obviously, George Osborne, who famously doesn’t even have O-grade maths and who is driving the UK into double-dip recession because he has no notion about economics beyond “tax cuts for the rich=GOOD”.
Oddly enough in a Tory Cabinet, it’s actually a comprehensive-school kid from Wales.
Maria Lewis went to Brynteg Comprehensive School/Ysgol Gyfun Brynteg in Bridgend and took a BSc in Economics at the LSE. (When she married Iain Miller in 1990 she took his surname and has stood for election as Maria Miller ever since.) She isn’t a crony of Cameron from the Bullingdon Club (they don’t let girls in), she didn’t go to Oxbridge, she wasn’t privately educated, and she didn’t marry into the web of privilege: she will never be one of the Secret Seven. I imagine as a member of the Conservative Party since she was 19 she’s got used to that kind of thing.
Maria Miller has been MP for Basingstoke since 2005. As she was born in 1964 she’ll be aware that to David Cameron (born 1966), she has a useful life only to 2018, even if the Tories scrape a win in 2015: Caroline Spelman was sacked in the reshuffle for being too old at 54.