Soon-to-retire Tory grandee Sir Nicholas Winterton did no favours to MPs who survive the coming General Election. He’s been complaining that his fellow-politicians faced losing the right to first-class rail travel on expenses – that is, us taxpayers.
Winterton bad-mouthed second-class rail users and said pompously that many lesser mortals than MPs expected free first-class travel as a right.
His opinions were swiftly disowned by David Cameron and a deluge of critical comment and lampoon descended on his head.
Winterton is a leading member of the Westminster old duffers’ club and obviously cannot come to terms with the public’s continuing antipathy towards MPs, which followed the Daily Telegraph’s exposure of the expenses scandal.
MPs are still held in contempt by a large section of the public because of the extent of the greed that was revealed. Unfortunately as unlikeable as Winterton is, he does have a point.
Do we really want citizen MPs standing in train corridors while trying to catch up with constituency correspondence because there are no seats in second-class?
However much they remain despised, MPs are the bedrock of our democracy. Their office should be respected even though many have failed us as individuals.
Once we are through the General Election and the claims rules are tightened, MP-loathing has to end. Especially so as there will be a large transfusion of new blood untainted by what has gone before.
The consequence of continuing to give MPs a bashing is talented individuals will pursue other careers. The new austerity will require a substantial increase in MPs salaries – or else only the well-heeled will be able to enter Parliament.
The furore surrounding Winterton does highlight an altogether different point which is just how inadequate is second-class rail travel – and just how ridiculously expensive is first-class.