Following the revelations contained within Alistair Darling’s memoirs, and given his lack of parliamentary activity over the last year, it is surely time for Allie Wickham to ask whether Gordon Brown represents value for money for the taxpayer.
To those in the know, the Darling memoirs produced little in the way of new information concerning the chaotic leadership of the previous Labour government. But they do nonetheless have an important purpose: it is the first time a senior figure in the Brown cabinet has blown the whistle on record. We now have credible testimony, for example, that Mr. Brown deliberately lied to the public when he insisted that he had never sought to replace Mr. Darling as Chancellor in June 2009. A politician misleading his people is hardly a once-in-a-lifetime event, but rarely is there such damning evidence at hand. Is it right that the taxpayer pays the wages of a proven liar?
Honesty may not be Mr. Brown’s best feature, but perhaps he is an effective constituency MP? Unfortunately not. In the six months following his resignation as Prime Minister in May 2010, Mr. Brown attended just three votes in the House of Commons – all on the same day. His record in 2011 has been slightly better, but he still ranks in the bottom 50 MPs from the three main parties for parliamentary attendance. Hardly a glittering achievement for a man who said last year that he wanted to ‘serve his constituents in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath’ and take a ‘serious role in Parliament again’.
So what exactly has Mr. Brown been up to? In April it was revealed that the former Labour leader has earned hundreds of thousands of pounds making speeches abroad. He has been paid tens of thousands of pounds to speak in countries including China, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. He also accepted a donation of £4936 from Kenya Airways. Mr. Brown insists that he made no personal gain from this income and that all the money was used to pay for the maintenance of his office. Perhaps they have a lot of work to do while their boss makes friends in some of the more unsavoury places around the world.
The real issue arises when we look at how much Mr. Brown is charging the taxpayer for his services. As an MP, Mr. Brown earns £64,766 per year, plus expenses. While he waived his right to his prime ministerial pension, he nonetheless has an overall pension pot of £274,000, over ten times the private sector average. Considering Mr. Brown did so much to create the deficit the current government is having to cut, it is ironic that he is still managing to waste our money from the safety of a conference hall in a third-world dictatorship.
When Political Promise contacted Labour Party headquarters today, we were less than impressed with their response. First, they tried to put us off the scent by giving us contact details for someone who could apparently answer our questions. Those contact details turned out to be incorrect – or bogus, depending on how cynical you are. Then, when we politely informed them of that fact, they simply refused to respond.
In their manifesto for the last election the Conservatives said they would introduce the right for constituents to ‘sack their MP’ if they were found to be unfit for purpose. Gordon Brown seems to be the ideal candidate for such a policy. He probably wouldn’t mind anyway; after all, when asked for a comment by the BBC last week what did Mr. Brown say?
‘I am not getting into politics today’.