Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
For nearly ten years, the public has been outraged at the decadent spending of MPs on bar tariffs, snuff boxes and rowdy gatherings. Beyond the worry that those displaying this irresponsible behaviour make big decisions for our country, there’s also the fact that we’re expected to pay for it. Why is this acceptable?
Taxation in most cases is something I can support. Paying a certain amount of money each month to ensure everyone has access to free healthcare and to enable those in poverty to survive whilst they try to get back on their feet seems entirely fair to me. To an extent, I suppose it’s also reasonable that some of our taxes go into the running of the government and its various employees. Something I cannot get behind, however, is the MP subsidy for bars.
A 2013 survey by charity Alcohol Concern reported that 26% of the MPs surveyed felt that Parliament had an ‘unhealthy drinking culture’. That same year, MP Eric Joyce was arrested over an alcohol-fuelled fight and banned from buying alcoholic drinks in Parliament establishments. However, 5 years on, has anything been done to tackle this issue? I would argue that the situation hasn’t got any better. If anything, it has deteriorated.
A 2017 investigation by The Sun found that 11 canteens, pubs and restaurants in the House of Commons all sold alcoholic beverages at notoriously cheap prices. According to this investigation, the vast majority of drinks were under £3. Yet, that same year, minimum unit pricing became legal in Scotland and Wales because presumably the more expensive alcohol is, the less likely one is to binge drink. A similar provision for England received royal assent in August this year.
It baffles me that MPs voted for this law whilst continuing to enjoy dangerously cheap drinks in their own private bars. Why don’t they practice what they preach? If they truly believed in what they were voting for surely they would be against such cheap drinks in their own private bars. Do they think that due to their position the rules for us normal folk don’t apply to them? Surely they must do, since they are also permitted to bring their non-politician friends along to these places whilst expecting taxpayers to foot the bill.
All the while, the rowdy behaviour that was flagged up in 2013 shows no signs of slowing down. A former House of Lords bar manager accused up to 30 MPs of drunken sexual harassment in 2017, as she described how many would ‘booze all day’ and then make unwelcome advances towards her, assuming she wouldn’t mind because ‘they are very important people’. Less than a month later, the notorious Sports and Social Bar was temporarily closed down due to a ‘glassing’ incident.
In 2017, the MPs ran up a bill of £2.7 million in their private bars. This cost was an 8% increase on the previous year for taxpayers and, if recent events are anything to go by, 2o18 isn’t looking too optimistic. A source told The Sunday Times that cleaners are made to tidy up after MP’s partying lifestyles, with vomit and used condoms being a common find in their private offices.
‘It’s the type of behaviour you would expect from students enjoying freshers’ week, not MPs and their staff’, the source said.
The only thing more worrying than the expectation of us to pay for this is the fact that these are the people running our country.