Saturday, February 20, 2010

Trying to be fair to Nicholas Winterton

I don't have a political axe to grind here, but I've sat down to carefully look at what Nicholas Winterton MP has had to say on first class travel and other things on Radio 5 yesterday. Thanks to political blogger Matt Wardman the full interview is here, but not the phone-in that followed.

I feel a need for balance when I read Marina Hyde in the Guardian today describing him and his wife as being of "such luminous repugnance".

I'll start with the points I think he was trying to make, which are fair. MPs are being told they can't travel first class on trains. He feels that as business people and public servants do, then so should elected members of parliament. It's a matter of status, I think he was saying.

He also said it's hard to get confidential work done on a train. He's right.

Also, he was ambushed by Radio 5. He was asked to come on and talk about the Falkland Islands, but they had the bear trap waiting for him on this. They also quoted two wildly different prices for first class travel and standard class, in order to make him look worse. I've checked, if you want to go from Euston to Macclesfield on a Thursday night - when he said he often drives at night - then you can do it for as little as £34 in first class. Not £361 and the standard ticket being £65. But that wouldn't have suited the argument and it's a diversion anyway.

Where he loses the plot is in getting into this ludicrous discussion about the type of people you might meet on a train. At 10 minutes in he refers to Standard Class passengers as having "a different outlook". You can't defend that.

But then there are some more quotes from him here on the Total Politics site.

Like this one: "You get free tickets to quite a lot of things because you are a member of Parliament. And you are always expected to have a go on a raffle or tombola. All the summer fairs, where you are expected to spend money. I reckon I’ve probably spend £3,000 a year on tickets, raffle tickets and you know. It is like many members of Parliament, not without justification, to claim for instance for the wreath that they lay. I have never done so myself and I wouldn’t because I am a member of the Royal British Legion. But all these things have to be taken into account. You can’t claim tax on any of that. You actually have a lot more expenditure than people realise."

So, on balance, he's a bit of arse isn't he?

1 comment:

Nigel Barlow said...

Quite simply Michael,although I would agree with a lot of what Sir Nicholas says about train travel,he simply portrays the true face of Conservative party.

I doubt that he would have made the comments if he wasn't standing down in May