Thursday, 12 November 2009

Poetry corner - in memoriam, Tom Levitt MP*

So. Farewell
Then Tom Levitt.

So I think
You made
Right decision.

You were
That if Mr Kelly's proposals were implemented
You would not get a good

So indeed
Probably time to get out!

E Jarvis Thribb (age 17 ½)

*we're very pleased that an avid reader of this blog sent in a pastiche of the well known Poetry Corner poems that regularly appear in Private Eye.

How much is Levitt's 'Golden Parachute'?

We thought we'd do some research about how much Tom Levitt is likely to cash in when he stands down at the next election.

Aside from a final salary pension scheme and lump sum payment (about which we have no details at present), there's the controversial so-called "golden parachute" payment (aka Resettlement Grant), which is officially paid to "assist with the costs of adjusting to non-parliamentary life".

It is calculated on the basis of the MP's age and length of service. So, by the time Levitt stands down next May, he will be 56, and will have served as an MP for 13 years. Using the ready-reckoner on this page (Table A), we can see that means he will qualify for a lump sum payment of 84% of his annual salary - based on the current MPs salary this will be £54,403. The first £30,000 of this is tax-free.

But that's not all. MPs are also entitled to a "winding up" allowance, which is supposed to pay for office costs and staff redundancy. Of course, this means that Tom will be able to make payments to the family members he has employed. This allowance can be up to £42,068. It is an aptly named allowance, but it is not a wind-up.

Don't believe Levitt's crocodile tears about this whole episode. The weakness of the local Labour Party in not moving to deselect him as an MP sooner means that he is laughing all the way to the bank. For the local newspapers that have chosen to regurgitate Levitt's press release for their 'exclusive story', this is the bit they are missing, deliberately in our view. The gravy train continues to roll on to the final destination.

Breaking news: Levitt to stand down at the next election

The Glossop Advertiser and Buxton Advertiser are reporting the news that Tom Levitt has issued a statement informing the world that he plans to stand down as an MP at the next General Election. The statement from his website* is below:
“I have informed the Labour Party that I shall not be a candidate at the next general election. After the current Parliament I would like to spend more time with my wife, our children and grandchildren. I would also like to do something different in the work environment. Between now and the election I will work as hard as ever, both to support my constituents and help secure a fourth term for Labour in government.

“The last six months have been torrid. Rightly, MPs have suffered collective as well as individual criticism for the scandalous mess of parliamentary allowances. Steps are now being taken to stop MPs deciding on our own expenses, pay and conditions ever again. This is the right thing to do. We need to demonstrate that a line has been drawn. New levels of transparency, compliance and enforcement can restore confidence in Parliament and the democratic system.

“I am proud to serve the people of High Peak in Parliament and I have done my best to be diligent on behalf of constituents. I have also been committed to legislation which, I believe, has improved life for ordinary people in High Peak and elsewhere. There is still much which needs to be done and I will continue to work for the people of High Peak until this Parliament is dissolved.

“I thank so many people in communities across High Peak for their support, indulgence and friendship over 20 years. This group extends beyond my natural political allies. My proudest memories will be the acquisition of the Devonshire Royal site for the University of Derby and the central role of High Peak in the pursuit of the historic right to roam.”
No doubt that because local Labour Party members were so miffed at being unable to deselect Levitt at the last meeting 2 weeks ago, that more and more pressure was piled upon him to step down. Without wanting to sound too boastful, the work of this blog has contributed to that, whereas the role of the local press in High Peak has been to give Levitt an easy time.

What is less than surprising is that Levitt has chosen to stay on in his well-paid and well-upholstered job for another few months rather than resign now, forcing a by-election. One can imagine that the local Labour Party want time to select and campaign for a new candidate, which is not surprising. But it also means that Levitt gets a very generous 'golden handshake', once more at our expense. We may be back with details of what that is likely to be in due course.

In the meantime, we're running a new poll - should Levitt stay until the election, or just go now?

*when this link no longer works, try this screen grab

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Gunpowder, treason and plot

We feel it's highly appropriate to mark the end of a further burst of activity for this blog with a hat-tip to its inspiration: V for Vendetta. Whilst the graphic novel is far superior in political terms to the recent film adaptation, the finale is a timely reminder to all politicians how hated and despised they are, and how fragile is the membrane of consent that exists which allows them to do what they do to the rest of us.

With Tom Levitt seemingly safe until the next election, and with much of the Kelly Report's recommendations no doubt destined for fudge, we may well pop back with more news at some point over the next few months. Until then, enjoy the fireworks!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Kelly's Report is no surprise - and Levitt survives (for now)

Today was the official launch of the report by Sir Christopher Kelly into MPs' expenses. After the leaks last week, there are few surprises from what we already knew.

What has been clarified is that the changes will be phased in over the next five years. So they will only affect Tom (& Teresa) Levitt if Tom manages to retain his seat at the next election - something which we imagine not even he will be banking on (if you pardon the pun).

In addition, there is some clarity regarding capital gains tax. In future, any gains have to be refunded to the exchequer - so Levitt at last learns about that which he had sought clarification back in May in Parliament. Whatever profit Levitt has made through his 'legal tax dodge', he gets to keep.

Back in his constituency, we understand Levitt faced more anger and discontent at last Friday's Constituency Labour Party meeting. Despite the rising discontent, we understand that Labour Party rules do not allow the local Party to deselect Levitt as the candidate in the next election due to the proximity of the General Election.

Whether or not anyone in the local Party will campaign for him next year is another matter.