Tuesday, July 07, 2009

How Can a Politician Possibly Argue Against Transparency?

Paul Waugh has a statement from London Assembly Member Brian Coleman, who, it seems, is refusing to comply with the edict to publish itemised expenses. Mr Coleman has come in for some criticism for his taxi bills, but doesn't seem to understand that since the taxpayer is paying for his taxis they have a right to know where he has been. He justifies his stance in the following way...
I won’t do it voluntarily. It’s none of the public’s business. They have coped well without knowing this kind of detail for more that 75 years. They are not entitled to drool over our personal lives. I’m not going to help the mad, bad and the sad, the bloggers on the internet. I’m not pandering to mob rule. It undermines democracy to suggest that all MPs, all politicians are the spawn of beelzebub. Nobody is going to go into public life if they think the minutiae of their grocery bills are going to be looked over.

Er, why should the public be paying for grocery bills? Mr Coleman is a character. A maverick. I like mavericks. But in this case he is wrong and has totally misjudged the public mood. Speaking as what he would call a sad internet blogger, may I suggest he discovers the merits of transparency before the Conservative Party is forced to re-educate him. He says his itemised expenses are none of the public's business. Wrong. If the public is paying for his taxi bill, then the public has a right to know where he went on those journeys and why. I have to justify every single penny I claim back in expenses from a company I am a majority shareholder in. Why should a politician, whoever he is and whatever office he holds, be any different? The public is, in effect, his majority shareholder. More from Paul Waugh...

When it is pointed out that fellow Tory Andrew Boff managed to pull on the hairiest of hair shirts with zero expense claims, Mr Coleman replies: “Politicians with lower expenses tend to be the politicians who do least work. Those with higher expenses are the ones who do most work.”
An astonishing assertion. Has he met Philip Hollobone MP?

Sometimes it is an admirable trait in a politician to go against the crowd. But that is not the case here. At best it is bloody minded. At worst it is a deliberate attempt to obstruct the forces of transparency.

33 comments:

rob's uncle said...

What does he have to hide, I wonder?

Barking Spider said...

All politicians ARE the spawn of Beelzebub!

Oliver Drew said...

A character and a maverick Iain? No. He's an idiot to be frank.

To suggest that the people who effectively pay his wage have no right to know what he claims on expenses is beyond stupid.

Keith Elliott said...

I'd like to know what his Conservative colleague Andrew Boff has to say about that statement.

I know from personal experience that he is easily one of the most committed and hard working activists/politicians I've ever known...and I say that as a Lib Dem voter.

Anonymous said...

Mr Coleman is a character. A maverick.

No, he isn't. We need to move beyond the simplistic idea that every bad-tempered incompetent with a sense of entitlement and a NIMBY attitude is a maverick.

Coleman is not a maverick. He is not independent. He is not brave. He is petulant, self-absorbed and entitled. He is greedy and selfish, arrogant and duplicitous, self-satisfied and stupid.

Politicians, for far too long, have laboured under the misapprehension that the public exists to serve the political classes rather than vice versa. Coleman is the very personification of that misapprehension - the spoilt prince who is outraged, offended and more than a little hurt that anyone could or should question his God-given right to do whatever the fuck he wants whenever the fuck he wants with however the fuck much of my money he wants.

The Purpleline said...

If I were his wife/ partner, I would be concerned by his actions. To me he would appear to be leading a double life, with Taxi trips to places, he does not wish to share with us.

In his defence, I do believe the witch- hunt has gone on to long and too far. I do believe in transparency, although I believe it would be better outsource the administration to an independent accountancy, with codes replacing names in case the accountant is politically inspired. Issue MP's and assembly members with a special credit card, where everything they spend on expenses is itemised. The accountants have to approve all payments monthly and a record kept in a suitable archive for reference, in case a complaint is made. I see no reason why the media should be judge, jury and detective. Monthly totals could be issued in the press.

peterY said...

http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=24061317432

This is the anti-brian coleman facebook group. The man is a disgrace and should be sacked from the conservative party

Matt Wardman said...

If I were Brian Coleman, I would probably be arguing against transparency...

Anonymous said...

Taxi bills are of course the ultimate "write your own expenses" wheeze.
Any taxi bill needs to be viewed with great caution.

Mark M said...

Love it. Once again a politician can't separate his personal salary (of which the public has no right to know it is spent) with his expenses (which are meant to reimburse genuine costs involved in doing your job and should therefore be public and pose no security risk in being public).

Could this perhaps be because politicians see expenses as additional income rather than reimbursement?

Violet said...

Would this be the same Brian Coleman AM who recently took a taxi to a City function and told it to wait outside until the function was over some four hours and several £100s later?

And what an idiot to slag off Andrew Boff AM, who takes his job and his Party responsibilities really seriously, and is loved by us all because of it.

Disco Biscuit said...

Is this a bad moment to mention giving spankings on Hampstead Heath?

I suppose if the taxis too him up to NW3 and back, it might raise a few eyebrows...

Tim said...

(subscribes)

Chris N said...

Iain,

May I ask how this squares with your (now clearly erroneous) post referring to Boris managing to get the Labour AMs to finally publish their itemised expenses.

Given that it has been made clear that the Labour-chaired BMAC instituted the itemised disclosure and that all AMs have published their expenses total since 2000, and given Mr Coleman's recent comments do you accept you were at best misled and at worst disingenuous?

DominicJ said...

"Nobody is going to go into public life if they think the minutiae of their grocery bills are going to be looked over."

I'm debating whether I should publish my PERSONAL credit card bills and bank statements after I'm elected, that I should publish.
My expenses, allowances and council paid costs are a given.

john miller said...

Indeed, I support his view.

What business is it of government what I earn? Why do they want to build a database containing every single fact about me? Why should I put up with camera cars cruising through my neighbourhood, filming my every move? Why should I need to present my passport to buy a mobile phone? Why should 243 unelected busybodies be able to enter my premises just because they want to and without a warrant? Why should the government be able to record all my telephone conversations? Why should the government be able to read all my emails? Why should I be asked my ethnicity be public bodies?

Oh, I remember now.

Because people like Mr Coleman wanted it to be so.

Mr Coleman can have intercourse with himself. If he has the right forms and sufficient authourisation, of course.

Elliot Kane said...

Democracy IS mob rule. That's the whole point of it. I wonder at any elected politician who doesn't realise this...

canvas said...

Sounds like the 'information' could cause a domestic of some sort?

I can only imagine how out of touch he must be with the real world to say his expenses are none of the taxpayers business...it's like he is begging the public to help him end his career as quickly as possible.

I guess he better start packing up his belongings...

Red Rag said...

At least he is being truthful, he is saying what his fellow Tories in the HoC have been thinking for months.

Keith Elliott said...

This tickled my fancy! From his New Statesmen blog.

"Brian Coleman bemoans what he argues is the passing of a tradition of service over salary in local government

When I was first elected to my local council the annual allowance payable to a councillor in suburban Barnet was £600 (less income tax). There was also a complicated attendance scheme that necessitated filling out a monthly form which most members, including me, couldn't be bothered with for the sake of a couple of quid.

Then along came the 2000 Local Government Act and the end of the century-old committee tradition of doing business. The replacement was executive government in councils.

The repeal of the 2000 Local Government Act, the ending of executive powers for councillors and a return to proper, accountable, local democracy would be a first step to ensuring that service rather than salary was the driving force for Local Councillors.

Political service should be a calling not a career!"


Quite!!

Paul Halsall said...

@Oliver.

I used to work as a faculty member in the University of Florida system. It took a bit of effort, but students after others were able to find my (pathetic) wages online under FL sunshine laws. I was a vert good teacher; I got excellent annual reviews, but I never could see why my stuff should be public when XXX at JaxUNI down the street have no such exposure because they were "private" - even though the school went after all state money available/

I do see Private Eye making good an fair use of such data, but reading PE and the rest of the press is like living in two different universes.

Anonymous said...

Please will the good Tories of Camden and Barnet deselect his embarrasing idiot and end his political career once and for all.

I can't afford to move there and become a member of any of the associations myself, so will somebody who is, please, please, please do this for the sake of Boris's re-election?

Coleman could be to Boris what Jasper was to Livingstone if you don't!

Mike Law said...

Conservatives should just off-load him... now! We've moved beyond allowing this sort of nonsense to go on unchecked.

Mike Law said...

Great comment by John Miller by the way!

Jimmy said...

It's rather presumptuous to assume he misjudges the public mood. He may simply believe they're wrong. Taxi receipts? Don't make me laugh. Let's see if one of them has the balls to inform the public when a cabbie gives him a fistful of blank receipts. I have no interest in poring over taxi receipts and those who do are by and large those who wish to undermine representative democracy in general, lack the intellectual equipment to engage in serious political argument or simply have too much time on their hands. The categories are not mutually exclusive. I lost what little interest I could muster in this issue some time ago. Give them a flat allowance and be done with it.

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DominicJ said...

"I have no interest in poring over taxi receipts and those who do are by and large those who wish to undermine representative democracy in general,"

Of course, its not the politicians commiting fraud thats bad, its the people who point this out.

If only those damned children would stop reporting they're being molested eh?

Jimmy said...

Yes Dominic, that's exactly the same. If only all criticism was as measured and proportionate as yours.

Oh wait, it is.

Anonymous said...

I'm appalled at the way so many of our MPs are ripping us off and laughing in our faces.

I'd like to be able to show my disgust at the ballot box but...

My MP is Philip Hollobone and he's a hard working decent man.

So I'll just have to content myself with venting my spleen on the web and encouraging those of you with less than honest MPs to keep harrying them

Anonymous said...

@Jimmy

Don't be a cretin. The analogy is exact: politicians are absolving themselves of responsibility for theft and fraud and are blaming the people who've pointed out and reported their crimes.

The political class is blaming the victims and refusing to acknowledge ita own wrongdoing. The problem, according to people like Coleman, is with the blabbermouths who won't shut up about corruption rather than with the corruption itself.

Anonymous said...

Violet said..."Would this be the same Brian Coleman AM who recently took a taxi to a City function and told it to wait outside until the function was over some four hours and several £100s later?"

That cost £412.50.

From the Metro:

"When Metro contacted the Conservative car enthusiast he dismissed claims that he even used taxis.
His most prolific taxi bill was for the 12 months to July 2007 when he spent £10,000 compared with an average of £845 for GLA members."

In one period he claimed more on taxis than did all the other GLA members put together.

Jimmy said...

"politicians are absolving themselves of responsibility for theft and fraud and are blaming the people who've pointed out and reported their crimes."

And what crime do you say Mr. Coleman has committed? Obviously one comparable to child molestation but be more specific.

Anonymous said...

Coleman, disgraceful

Anonymous, that's very funny. You want to make a protest but your MP is the hardest-working cleanest ever. Oh dear.

maybe send your post to Telegraph Letters Ed asking, on behalf of all voters for Mr Hollobone, for ideas as to how to proceed with your protest?!