Friday, 6 January 2012

Sorry is really such a costly word for the starving

IF you have to say sorry, probably the best bet you have is to say it early, and then sound sincere. There really should be books written about it, and whole communications courses taught about the best ways to say sorry.

Oh, wait a minute there are already are all of the above! Which does make us wonder why Alasdair ‘Starvation Wage’ McDonnell hasn’t read any of the books or taken the advice of those in his party who have been on the courses or done the degrees?

Dr ‘MLAs will starve’ McDonnell currently, as an MLA, has to publish a register of his ‘interests’. In this, the enlightened will learn that he is an MP, with a salary of around £65,000. He also owns a ‘small’ 24-acre farm. And, this is the bit we love…as leader of an ostensibly left leaning socialist party Mr McDonnell is a property tycoon. Okay, not exactly Donald Trump, but this gentleman farmer, former GP, owns rental property in Belfast, London, and Glenariffe, not to mention a share in a heath centre on Belfast’s Ormeau Road.

Now, we actually think that our MLAs could possibly be deserving of a pay rise. Leaving aside the Sinn Féin representatives who hand back a wedge to their party, there is an argument that with better remuneration there might, just might be better candidates for public service. And, as Alasdair ‘spare us a tenner’ McDonnell, might have been trying to point out, MLAs have to seek their job backs every few years or so (although seeing as a large number of the same old faces our returned after every poll, perhaps we, the electors might want to be more stringent in the interview process).

Ousted, outgoing and retiring MLAs do, however, get a parachute payment much like a relegated Premiership football team. They also get a pension, which uses a figure better than the pension formula applied to almost all of the public sector and better than the private sector whose pensions have been screwed by the banking collapse.

So, the point raised by Alasdair ‘where’s my expenses cheque’ McDonnell is sort of halfway close to being possibly valid in a strange space time continuum where MLAs make decisions and don’t partake in bickering on radio shows.

‘Starvation wages’? Leaving aside the double-jobbing property owning SDLP leader, the average MLA gets £43,000+ once elected. If they’re lucky to be a post holder they get more money, which goes up and up once they chair a committee or attain the heady heights of being a minister. Plus they get up to £75,000 to spend on stuff like computers. And they get paid expenses to travel to their place of work. Think on that as you count the last pennies to afford a weekly bus or train ticket or put fuel in your motor the week before you collect your salary.

Alasdair ‘I have claimed £130 for hotel expenses in London’ McDonnell perhaps should not have been surprised when voices of dissent were raised; after all almost half of his party didn’t elect him as leader, and they represent areas where starvation wages means getting an emergency loan off the dole to make sure your children have food and clean clothes for school.

Rather than hold his hands up almost right away and offer the usual ‘it was taken out of context’ Alasdair ‘I make no profit from my partnership in a travel agency’ McDonnell initially went public to slag off a party member. Later when even his deputy was sounding increasingly nervous about their leader’s comments, Alasdair ‘I’m a shareholder in a medical company’ McDonnell went on the BBC to say sorry.

It’s a fairly easy word to pronounce. Children from the age of three can manage the most convincing pronouncing of the word, with sad eyes.

But did the man branded by the US Consul (we know this thanks to Wikileaks…) as a “bull-in-a-china-shop” give us the sad eyes, the wistful smile and the gracious nod as he said sorry? Well if you saw the slip up, sorry we meant interview, you can make up your own mind!

In the meantime Dr McDonnell should perhaps be considering a tour round party colleagues and constituency branches to bring them a healthy dose of his humble pie.

We wonder if he can claim that on expenses?