September 7, 2011 by Nash Riggins
Times must be tough indeed when David Cameron finds himself able to take five holidays in one summer – including two in August, which was needless to say London’s busiest couple of weeks since 7/7. Yet not only was the Prime Minister absent from his burning city when the riots began, but so were his Chancellor of the Exchequer, his Home Secretary and the Mayor of London. In fact, nearly 100 MPs were abroad when violence erupted – and it is apparently your responsibility to pay for their ruined holidays.
On average, a typical English MP takes more holidays per year than you or I should ever hope to take in a lifetime – and if they’ve got the money for it, they’re entitled to enjoy every single minute of that private Tuscan villa. However, if taxpayers are going to be expected to pay for their MP’s return plane ticket – as well as reimburse politicians for missing out on the last two days of their Italian getaway – every time that a few windows get smashed in inner-city London, the global recession is going to start hitting Britain a hell-of-a-lot harder than it already has.
In order to stage a – more or less – ceremonial debate, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has begun the process of shelling out tens of thousands of pounds to politicians after Parliament was recalled following the riots. Yet even then, MPs were hesitant to return to London. Perhaps Lib Dem Steven Williams best-worded politicians’ lack of want to go back to work by asking the public ‘what use 200 MPs sitting in Westminster would do for the country.’
What use indeed. An MP from Newcastle or Yorkshire does not need to be rushed back from Aruba to debate a riot that did not affect their constituency. And should money be taken out of Scottish citizens’ hard-earned paychecks so that David Cameron can be reimbursed for the three days he missed out on in Tuscany? For whatever reason, Westminter believes the answer to that question is a resounding ‘yes.’
In fact, Mr Cameron thinks he’s entitled to even more. He jokingly demanded for international ‘peace and quiet’ last week when he was forced to return early from his ‘emergency holiday’ in Cornwall in order to discuss NATO’s progress in Libya.
‘Of course we recognise the urgency of tackling the multitude of national and international crises, but I’ve just bought The Da Vinci Code and an extra-large bottle of Piz Buin, so let’s maintain some perspective,’ Cameron said last week. ‘I’ve been meaning to read some Dan Brown for years, and I’d look pretty silly using my new lilo at home in the bath, like George Osborne does.’
The man’s humour is completely lost on me. If the Prime Minister wants to stay away from his country when its people are in need guidance, that’s one thing – but if he wants taxpayers to foot the bill every time his newest holiday gets ‘spoiled’ by his job, perhaps he should seek a new one. Honestly, did David Cameron really feel that he had done so well handling the civil unrest in England that he deserved another holiday the following week? His people seem to disagree, as many are already labeling the London riots ‘Cameron’s Katrina.’
Furthermore, the man gets paid to travel all over the world to exotic locations and meet famed leaders and public figures – how many holidays does he need? Granted he holds a high-stress position, but Barack Obama rarely takes as many holidays per year as Mr Cameron has taken this August alone.
One would assume that high-ranking government officials such as the PM and the Mayor of London might attempt to set examples of fiscal discipline during a time of economic decline – clearly that is not the case, and what’s more they’re expecting taxpayers to split the difference on their over-priced getaways. Really? If anything, David Cameron should reimburse Britain for his absences, not taxpayers.
As for the rest of Parliament, there’s slightly more room for sympathy. It’s one thing for an MP like Heidi Alexander to complain about her emergency return to London – she was on the first day of her Honeymoon when the Prime Minister recalled Parliament. Yet did she complain when she arranged her own flight home? No, she simply stated that her partner would understand, and her constituency was where she belonged. Clearly rioters didn’t agree with her, as she returned to find her office had been looted and destroyed.
Once the violence finally receded, Cameron’s emergency recall for a Parliamentary debate seemed to cover only a few topics, such as why it is positive to hand out less-than-merciful sentences to single mothers-of-two and whether it would be legal for the government to shut off people’s access to social media and texting during times of civil unrest.
So taking into account that none of these returning Mps were greatly helpful in stopping violence in their constituencies, and the fact that they only returned from holiday to discuss committing human rights violations, perhaps the country would have been better off if they’d all stayed on holiday. At least the Treasury wouldn’t be looking quite so empty.