Thursday, 1 March 2012

Chruis Huhne and his £17 000 severance pay.

It would be churlish to be too critical of Chris Huhne's acceptance of £17 207 (tax free, I think) severance pay after voluntarily resigning from his cabinet post. Probably, faced with outrageous lawyers' fees to defend him in court he feels that money from any source is welcome.

What I think will stick in the craw of most electors is the fact that cabinet ministers grant themselves such generous conditions. What other walk of life gives such a generous pay off when voluntarily leaving a job after less than two years? That £17 000 is the equivalent of Job Seeker's Allowance for over five years (except that you can claim JSA for only six months). Why are our masters so cut of from the reality of the lives of a substantial part of the population that they seem indifferent to the contrast between the lavish rewards thy arrange for themselves and the conditions of the people they are elected to serve?

Many will also question why ministers require such a massive salary (about £68 000 a year) on top of the parliamentary salary of over £60 000 which they already receive, and which Huhne continues to receive. There is, after all, no shortage of MPs wanting, indeed desperately anxious, to become ministers. It is interesting that, though the monetarist are in charge and believe that "the market rules, OK," they don't apply market rules to their own pay and conditions, where supply and demand would hardly determine such largesse.

Columnist Gabby Hinsliff claimed in yesterday's Guardian (29 February) that "the decision of Stephen Hester, the RBS boss, to relinquish his bonus in order to avoid becoming , as he put it, a 'social pariah', was a crucial signal to his City peer group that public opinion has consequences."

If Chris Huhne really is a multi-millionaire, as I have seen claimed, maybe he could have afforded to consider the effect of his decision on public opinion and the reputation of his and our party, and the consequences for Liberal Democrats seeking to retain or win council seats in a couple of months' time. The present publicity reinforces the impression , which in spite of everything I still believe to be erroneous, the all politicians are "in it for what they can get", and that the Liberal Democrats are no exception.

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