Thursday, 11 March 2010

Levitt - the ruling class must travel by first class

In complete contradiction to his more recent attempts at remorse, Tom Levitt is once again doing his damnedest to preserve the completely OTT perks of his job, despite all of he furore over MPs expenses, and despite the fact he will no longer be an MP for much longer.

The Sunday Times reported last week how many MPs were in opposition to the proposals of the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) which had produced a consultation document about the future expenses regime. The Sunday Times homed in on one particular aspect of the responses to the consultation by MPs - that surrounding first class travel on trains, which IPSA proposed to limit to 'exceptional circumstances'. This was presumably because of the remarks of the vile Tory MP for Macclesfield Nicholas Winterton, where he made it clear that he travelled first class to avoid working class people.

Amongst other publications that picked up the story was the Telegraph, quoting Levitt as follows:
"I invariably work on the train, something I can only do in a first class carriage for three reasons: that I have a table, space and privacy to work there; that I have a seat (as the standard class carriages between Manchester and London are often standing room only); and that (as I am over six feet tall) I have the leg room for comfort."
Now we're sure there are some people who want to work on the train (or indeed have to), but given that Levitt travels to and from London once a week, he spends 4 hours on a train a week - that's a week, not a day. So what is it that is so crucial for him to complete in this time? Travelling in Standard ('second') class does not prevent someone from reading, nor from making telephone calls (which are no more private in first class), and if Levitt needs a table, he could surely block-book his seat in advance, and save money too.

Levitt's protestations stretch credibility, and it seems they amount to little more than Winterton's. One part of Levitt's response that has been omitted is the following very revealing comment:
"... MPs who benefit from conversation together in a relaxed atmosphere on the London train will find they have to travel in different carriages" (i.e. under the new proposals)
In other words, Levitt prefers the company of his fellow members of the ruling class to that of the unwashed. Why should he have to stand up like the rest of us, on overcrowded trains? He's better than us, and surely doesn't deserve such indignities.

But now, Levitt is back to contradictory statements. In today's Buxton Advertiser, he's quoted as follows:
"The current system is far better than what went before — which was typified by ambiguous rules, inconsistent application and some blatant exploitation."
In a future post, we'll show you how hollow these words are.

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