Hypocrisy; there’s a lot of it about. I’ll bet there are a large number of people receiving benefits in kind that are completely unrelated to their job. Whether it’s a subsidised canteen or gym membership, being able to claim for a television is no different - it’s just a little more expensive.
The current MPs’ expenses scandal has rightly provoked anger on the issue of "flipped" homes and the dubious methods for avoiding capital gains tax. However this fury has impaired the critical faculties of many to the point that any unusual payment is seen as suspect. If televisions and furniture are part of your remuneration then you have every right to make a claim; whilst unusual, they are an inevitable result of paying our elected representatives such a comparatively low wage.
The basic salary for an MP is £64,766, if we allow for a ‘London weighting’ this equates to a little over £56,000 outside the capital. It’s a lot of money but is it enough? This is the salary of a middle ranking bank manager, not one for a person who represents the interests of over 68,000 people; someone responsible for policy that affects every part of our lives and those of our children.
The UK has a first-past-the-post electoral system. Technically we vote for the individual we wish to represent us, not the political party to which they may belong. A Member of Parliament however is still subject to two often competing forces; those of the electorate and those of his or her party. This situation is aggravated by the large number of junior ministerial positions available that naturally carry an additional salary.
If we want people who truly represent us then we should be prepared to pay enough such that politics is more than a vocational choice for the well off. If we want people who think of their electorate first then we should pay enough such that any threat to withdraw party privileges has relatively little financial impact. If we want a simple and more transparent expenses system then we should be prepared to pay the going rate.
But if we’re only prepared to pay peanuts, we shouldn’t be surprised at the result.