Thursday, February 18, 2010

When in a Hole... Part 94: Sir Nicholas Winterton

I've been in Bradford all morning so I have just caught up with the Sir Nicholas Winterton row. My colleague at Total Politics, Amber Elliott, has written a brilliant feature for next month's issue, in which she has interviewed about a dozen MPs who are retiring at the next election. Among those she talked to was Sir Nicholas. I must admit, when I read his words during the proofing process I slightly gasped. This is what he actually said...
And now they want to stop members of Parliament travelling first class. That puts us below local councillors and officers of local government. They all travel first class. Majors in the army travel first class. So we are supposed to stand when there are no seats. And why are we going to waste our time when we can work on the train as we do. I’m sorry. It infuriates me.

I shall remind Amber about what she said to me on Tuesday: "I'm not sure there's very many newsworthy stories in this issue. Famous last words.

This might have remained a diary story at best if Sir Nicholas hadn't had the bad judgement to go up against my friend Stephen Nolan on 5 Live this morning. I have only heard clips so far, but it really is a car crash interview, and hugely damaging. Click HERE and scroll down the page to listen to a four minute excerpt. The curious things

In the full interview Sir Nicholas says something that in my view is far more entertaining...
Once when I was on a visit overseas – it was a particular place on the edge of the Caribbean – somebody mixed me a Mickey Finn. I was sure that one of my legs was longer than the other. Particularly when you are walking on a surface that isn’t entirely even. I won’t go into detail because that will certainly be picked up by the press – ‘Members on a debauchery holiday.’
Sadly for Sir Nicholas, it was the other story which was picked up by the press.

More evidence of Total Politics' Tory bias. Haha.


Jules Wright said...

as luck would have it, winterton is one of an unpalatable breed of deluded dinosaur tory parasites who will, quite literally, be dying out in the not too distant future.

a disgrace to his party; disgrace to his constituents; disgrace to the taxpayer; disgrace to himself. even more unforgivable in an MP who once, long ago, actually had a proper job in the real business world.

get thee gone you malodorous man.

that is what this particular paid-up, under-45 member of the tory party thinks of you.

Sean said...

Speaking as a very minor local councillor, I have never travelled first class at taxpayer expense. I hope and expect that's true of my fellow councillors, too.

Just to put the record straight.

John Copplestone said...


I've never agreed with Nicholas Winterton before but do on this occasion, at least partially.

Agreed MPs should travel standard class on shorter and non-official journeys

But the weekly trip to and from the constituency is different. MPs have to do constituency or parliamentary work on the train and they should certainly travel 1st and book a single seat, for reasons of privacy and confidentiality.

There's a lot of inverted snobbery about 1st class on the train. Maybe they should rename it business class or something similar.

And if booked in advance (as MPs can presumably do for routine return trips to their constituencies) 1st can be cheaper than standard!

Dave H said...

When Sir Anthony Grant (my MP before Andrew Lansley) was close to retiring, he made a speech to the Cambridge Evening News in which he condemned efforts to widen the social background Judges are drawn from.

He said that people wanted to be judged by their social superiors, and:

'Certainly, I wouldn't want to be tried by an oik.'

I'm afraid there is a certain kind of traditional Tory MP that reveal themselves as very snobbish when they become demob-happy. Mind you, it's only the flip side of all the social prejudices that traditional Labour MPs have.

Winterton did have a valid point about people in senior positions being able to work while they travel. He just ruined it by being insufferably stuck up.

Fenrir said...

What a comlete and utter arsehole that idiot is. WE shall be well rid of the greedy pair of troughers come the next election. It is just a pity they cannot be stripped of the assets they have accumulated through their time in parliament.

Bird said...

Yes it is damaging, or at least embarrasing for the Conservatives, so I can't see why you're so pleased Iain. The idiot is God's gift to the Labour Party and he'll be lunped in with the Tory Toff narrative.
Speaking of which, Hilary Benn (the son of Lord Stansgate) is trying to make a fuss about the possible return of hunting under the Tories. I expect he's doing it at Mandleson's bidding. He's too dozy to think of it himself.

Unknown said...

I listened to the Nolan show this morning and Nick Winterton controlled the show and interview. He made great sense and will be sadly missed! The BBC are now in the process of misrepresentation of the statements made. He was not asked onto the programme to discuss MP financial arrangement, but the Falklands issue. Nolan tried to hijack Winterton but met more than his match. Shame that more of the Conservative Party have lost their convictions.

True Belle said...

There are so many men like Sir Nicholas Winterton .

I was at a meeting the other day where the discussion was rather lively re rural exception sites , housing for local people in villages.

A well known Tory suggested a scale of housing to fit local needs . He suggested that NON BREEDING PAIRS should be confined to one bedroomed properties!

Make of that what you want, but we were all ashamed by association!

Anonymous said...

This is the bit that I loved the most!

""So we are supposed to stand when there are no seats... I'm sorry, it infuriates me."

Later, he told the BBC: "If I was in standard class I would not do work because people would be looking over your shoulder the entire time, there would be noise, there would be distraction."

He added: "They are a totally different type of people. "They have a different outlook on life."

Sir Nicholas, who has been in the Commons for 39 years, said he was now "looking forward" to standing down as an MP at the coming election."

OMG what planet is he from?! hahahaaaa,

To use the new DC catchphrase > RIP Dinosaurs!!!

Anonymous said...

Iain, what's interesting about Winteron's words, general outlook and attitude is that this is exactly what most people expect a Tory to say and think and be like... i.e. vile

Maybe in a funny way this whole sorry episode actually highlights the vast mountain David Cameron has to climb - and also - credit due where credit is due - DC is actually doing a good job in getting rid of the Tory Old Guard...slowly but surely they are all drifting away...

So, a big congratulations to DC for making his party more egalitarian...

I'm still voting LibDem...

Janner said...

Despite the attempts at misrepresentation he has made a valid point

Chippy Ulsterman Nolan (I wonder what class he travels on BBC expenses?) was trying hard to portray him as a snob he deliberately did not mention class

It is self evident that people travelling in standard are a different type of person - they are generally younger, not normally travelling on business and often withg children, and seem to be addicted to MP3 players playing at volumes that permit a steady beat and hiss to escape from their (probably damaged) ears - that's when they are not inanely shouting into their mobile phones

Still the BBC are busy making the most of it - they don't have much material these days

Glyn H said...

It is not so much what he said - he may have a point - but it shows that if he did once have a brain its has long since been addled by the decades of troughing.

Firstly having been exposed for the gross abuse of the expenses system in which he and his wife have indulged themselves they should have resigned in shame immediately. Having hung on like barnacles at least he should have had the sense to keep his trap clamped firmly shut. He had Cameron’s words to Steen to give him a steer.

And even without that he should have understood that his words would sound ludicrous to the wider public.

Seems to me we should restrict PM’s to two terms – think of the splendour of regard Mrs T would reside in had she left in 1988 or 89. And that MP’s should have to pass common sense tests after three parliaments.

Finally he draws attention to the scandal of local councillors who have been bought by New Labour with ludicrous payments and expenses. Locally we have justly got rid of a local worthy Lib Dem who, despite a full public sector pension was exposed for scrounging above £30K a year as District and County councillor.

Unknown said...

I don't really have an issue with 1st class travel for MPs.

However I do object to their blatant throughing - from the Telegraph:

"Sir Nicholas Winterton and his wife Ann claimed more than £80,000 for a London flat owned by a trust controlled by their children."

Claiming a large wodge of tax-payers money for something their family already owns... sounds like fraud to me. Any chance of a prosecution... and a jail sentence... let's get him banged up in a small cell with some other miscreants and he can experience how real-world criminals have to live.

Stephen Folan said...


Winterton is an an appalling windbag and is treated with amusement by many other MPs. I have observed this directly in Westminster.

You know this very well and I bet you knew that he could not be interviewed without some dreadful nonsense being spouted.

Furthermore, I have a client near Manchester and travel up for meetings regularly in Standard class. People are using their laptops all the time without demur.

Roll on the next election

bewick said...

Some 20 years ago only very senior Local Government staff were entitled to travel 1st class. Have things changed so that ALL can do so? Winterton seems to think so.

Actually we were asked to forgo the entitlement for budget reasons. They didn't need to ask me - I already shunned 1st class in the interests of the ratepayer. Councillors were entitled as well and I know that the Labour ones in particular used that facility budget problesm or not.

As for working on the train. Well it is perfectly possible in 2nd class if one has the real inclination. I know I did it regularly on a 3 hour journey from the North East to London and saw many others doing exactly the same.
Then again I travelled at the most expensive times which tended to preclude families.

DespairingLiberal said...

Right message. Wrong messenger. Badly put.

It actually is quite astonishing that many local government and nearly all central government civil servants above the footsoldier ranks travel first class on the taxpayer. So in his cackhanded way, Winterton reminds us that this is the case.

Unfortunately, given that he and his wife thought that it was fine for the taxpayer to fund their child's flat, he is the least good person to be telling us this.

Personally I do think MPs should travel first-class and that most civil servants currently travelling 1st on the taxpayer should not.

Alan Douglas said...

"They are a totally different type of people."

Quite right, Old Nick, they are people who pay their OWN fares out of heavily TAXED income. Totally different to you ....

Alan Douglas

DespairingLiberal said...

Canvas, wasn't it in fact the Daily Telegraph that saw off the Wintertons and their ilk? Nothing much to do with Cameron. Despite their superior, troughing attitude, I actually quite liked Old Man Winterton's individual, outspoken approach - he rarely trod the party line on things.

Does anyone else go along with the theory that the Telegraph campaign, when it zeroed in on Tory MPs, focused on those who were either pro-Europe or unlikely to be easily pushed and prodded by the new Ashcroft-funded intake? It's very noticeable that it tended to be the older MPs that the BarclaySheet probed.

New MPs from marginals are so much easier for the whips to control than old hands from safe seats.

Colin said...

I listened to the whole show.

Nolan came across as a complete muppet. I've gone 180 on him. I now know why he's normally kept off the day time airwaves.

Nicholas Winterton was brilliant! I almost can't believe I've written that. But he stood his ground, whilst being personally insulted. I don't totally agree with some of his justifications, but his comments about standard class rail were spot on. On most routes it's like a f*cking zoo.

As if a fat, useless troughing bbc parasite would know what standard class rail in this day and age is really like. Nolan was a poor substitute for the usual parasite.

Sir Nicholas should have asked him what the f*ck a bbc techie is doing spending £650 plus a day on chauffeured limos in vegas. That's the real story.

The halfwits who phoned in were the best adverts I've come across for denying some people the vote.

Joe Public said...

Of course MPs should travel 1st class.

Us taxpayers stump up for the basic cost, and MPs can dip into their own pocket for an upgrade, if they want.

Will the present set of Troughers ever "get it"?

Anonymous said...

@ Canvas, "wasn't it in fact the Daily Telegraph that saw off the Wintertons and their ilk?" Yes, they certainly got the bsll rolling - but - I do believe it's always been DC's intention to clear out the old guard. How else can he modernise his god awful party?!

However, the local Conservative Associations could take another decade to change their ways. They're awful people!

As I've said before, I like DC a lot but I'll be voting LibDem...fingers crossed for a hung parliament!

Sean said...

Millions of people work in economy every day. It's often not pleasant but why should MP's be different? These people manage to do confidential work: if he's particularly worried, privacy screens for laptops are readily available.

And if MPs work as long hours as they say, they won't very likely be travelling in rush hour anyway.

There is rarely any need for a councillor, council officer, civil servant or MP to travel in 1st, other than assuage their ego.

Newmania said...

He could have put it a great deal better I like Sir Nick`s attitude .By the “British people , he means “ the inchoate tabloid populist superficial fad of the moment , not the will of the People which is expressed though Parliament .
Nicholas Winterton is our representative .If you want our democratic representatives to live as despised middle managers whilst bankers and journalists get all the goodies well fine ,I do not .I would, like there to be less MPs but the ones we have I would like to see visibly deserving of respect.
Once Vicars lived in houses built for Gentleman and that showed they mattered to the community . As the Church and all it stands for was attacked by secular society and socialist materialism the vicarages we were sold and the Vicars lived in dull little Semis.
Some people think this is a step forward , but who bought the Vicarages ? Bankers , stockbrokers ., media wastrels and the slew of somewhat less edifying people our society values today . Privilege did not disappear it was simply transferred from a position associated with the Common weal to others who were not

Nicholas Winterton was telling the media and its rules to sod off , not the people . As our elected representative , he is "is" the people.

M. Hristov said...

I held an official position where I could travel first class and take black cabs ( and claim them on expenses), not something I would do in everyday life. On my first journey on first class I was exposed to the delights of fast train first class travel. There were muffins and newspapers and hideously uncomfortable seats which caught you in the back. I never travelled first class again. I went back to second class and worked away happily on comfortable seats. If someone disturbed me then I simply moved to the carriages set aside for quiet. I was once roundly told off for making a noise myself in second class (I am a very heavy typist and was using my laptop). The guy was very rude but a regular commuter. We became friends, after a few journeys, as I made a point of talking to him.

I got tired of black cabs after a while, particularly the wait in Waterloo Station for one and started taking the bus again, which was a short walk to Waterloo Bridge.

As for the Manchester bound pendolinos, they have plugs in second class for your laptop. That is luxury. My friends were horrified by my attitude, as many bought first class seats to avoid the crowds. They could not understand that I preferred second class.

MP's like Sir Nicholas are seriously out of touch. Labour are obviously as bad. No wonder so many ridiculous laws have come out of parliament over the years.

S.B.S said...

I do go first class when I can book far enough in advance, or the cost is not justified.
Last time on the way back from london to Carlisle was sitting, next to some fat slapper who ate all the way from London to Carlisle, well till I got off, and part of her flab rested on me, and the seat I had paid for, I agree with Winterton, sodding plebs and fat slappers, and football supporters, Oasis concert goers,never been on a journey with such low life.

Osama the Nazarene said...

DL, worryingly, I find myself agreeing with you about Winterton's message. Its scandalous that local and other government employees should travel 1st class at taxpayers expense (why is it first when the second class is standard? New labour newspeak again.).

What is truly disgraceful though is the way 5 -live went on to treat this item as the most important news item for most of the day. Your mate Nolan even managed to get a Mandelsonian troll labour MP to pronounce that Winterton's attitude was typical of a large proportion of the Tory party and 5 live then kept this as the first news item for the next few hours.

OldSlaughter said...

I think all ex-soldiers should be entitled to first class travel anyway. I think others should have to give up their seats for them.


Said it before and I think it bears repeating.

I want world class work performed by my MPs. I am perfectly happy to pay for them to sit somewhere quieter with a guaranteed table if it helps.

This wish to see them flagellate themselves and do the whole prolier than thou routine helps nobody.

The guy works his backside off and has to spend all that time on regularly covering half the country.

If that time was to be spent working then let's get him the proper conditions.

As for all this talk of his apparent scummary. I would hope that comes from others who have also volunteered and served in our military. Now THAT is public service.

James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

At least we know what Winterton will do if he finds an Asian man in his seat on the train.

francis said...

My wife is a local government officer who sometimes has to do longish rail journeys. At no time would she expect to travel first class on these, despite using the time to work, and she spends time and effort researching the cheapest fare possible to save her employer's (ie local council tex payers') money. So please don't put people like her in the same category as 'fat cats'!