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Caroline Lucas MEP: Green Party Fat Cat

lolucasThe Green Party are campaigning hard as the transparent, sleaze-free, squeaky-clean, anti-expenses party. Their anti-fat cat leaflet caught my eye (see below), so I went off to check out the expenses of my Green MEP (and the Green’s leader), Caroline Lucas.

To quote a Green Party leaflet I received this week:“We offer a positive alternative for everyone who is angry about the expenses scandals in Westminster and Brussels.”

Caroline Lucas MEP’s Salary and Expenses for 2008*

Salary: £64,766
Secretarial Allowance: £145,068
General Allowance: £35,839
Travel Allowance: (€28,069) £25,605
Personal Travel Allowance:** (€4,000) £3,505
Daily allowance: (€35,157) £30,806
Caroline Lucas’s 2008 Total: £305,589

All figures from Caroline Lucas’s website. Currency conversion xe.com.

Hurrah for transparency! Good old Greens. No more fat cats! Caroline Lucas MEP only cost us £300k in 2008! And she’s been our MEP for 10 years... you do the maths.

Let’s look a little harder. The Daily Allowance covers, according to Dr Lucas’s websiteaway from home expenses such as hotel rooms and/or flat rental, meals etc. No receipts are required as this is a lump-sum payment, made if they sign the official register or the attendance list at the official meeting.” All the emphases are hers. That’s right, no receipts are required. In March 2009, the Observer published a picture of her pretty smart looking three-storey family home in Brussels if you’re interested.

Regarding the Secretarial Allowance, Dr Lucas’s website is also keen to point out: There is no requirement to present full accounts. (Again, the emboldening of the text is her emphasis from her website.)

I first saw these costs today (29/05/09). They weren’t there when I looked at the page earlier in the week. Check out the cached page from May 25th here. Spot the differences? Yes, the difference is Caroline Lucas has only started disclosing her full expenses in the past few days. She didn’t start publishing them until people started asking!

Eddie Mair, as he introduced Lucas on Radio 4’s Any Questions 22/05/09 said: "there's a breakdown of all her spending on her website and an explanation of those MEP allowances that used to so annoy voters before they heard what MPs at Westminster were up to." (And Lucas didn’t object.) But last Friday, most of the costs I've quoted weren't there. The page in question is a discreet backwater of her website. Is she hoping noone will notice?

Caroline Lucas MEP: “I have long called for the introduction of an efficient, fair and transparent system for reimbursing members’ expenses.” I look forward to receipts and full accounts.

The Green Party propaganda is clear: the Greens are squeaky clean, glassy transparent and not on the Bisto Express. But doesn’t the new politics the Green Party offer us look rather like the old politics we all want to see the back of?

N.B. I’m no Lois Lane. I’m not even a journalist. If I’ve got my facts wrong, set me straight.

*I think this info is presented more transparently than on the website. Nice table, no?
**The website is unclear whether this fee was claimed in 2008. However, previously it has been used to fly (yes, on a plane) to Gaza. Yes, on one of those planes the Greens tell us we shouldn't fly on.

Disclosure: I’m a pretty pissed off rank and file member of the Labour Party. I hold no position or post in the party. And, frankly, I’d slap Hazel Blears if I met her in the street. I would.
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32 Responses to "Caroline Lucas MEP: Green Party Fat Cat"

    Lynne said:

    Sadly, IMHO, it is a sign of society’s total failure in terms of ethics and morals. Nobody feels the slightest compunction about claiming money they are not entitled to, unless they get caught.

    Then it is all someone else’s fault.

    Christi said:

    That’s a great post, Dan. It’s important for us all to remember that we can’t just vote for another party and say that we’ve dealt with the problem. The problem is systemic. The system sucks. The MPs and MEPs are merely behaving in the manner native to their species — i.e. they’re disingenuously pretending that they’ve all been trying to change the system all this time, because they know that’s what we want to hear. Really they’ve all been getting stinking rich and hoping none of us noticed. It’s our broken system, though, that allowed it to happen. So it’s our responsibility – as voters and citizens – to fix this. We can fix it. And if we don’t I really hate to think what will become of British democracy.

    Let’s start with transparency. If you’re in Parliament your tax forms should be public record. You got paid by us. You work for us. Let’s see what you’re up to. We have a right to know what we’re paying them.

    Lynne said:

    Christi, sadly it isn’t only MPs who behave like this. Society is rotten to the core.

    Company executives at all levels will put through expenses for anything and everything they can get away with.

    Too many ordinary people will also take what they can if they think it won’t be discovered. Too much change in the supermarket not returned, items found and not handed to the police to be reclaimed by the original owner, overpayment of tax not reported, etc. etc. People don’t stop and think that THEY are the people who will ultimately be paying for all of this.

    It is society that is wrong. Will our children grow up to think that they too should take what they can, the only moral obstacle being if they are likely to be caught out?

    How do we teach children morality when they are fed a diet of TV game shows and reality shows that seem to laud and reward cheating, backstabbing and lying?

    I have no answers, only questions :(

    Sue said:

    Looks like the figures for 2009 might be even more interesting: after the June elections, the current system whereby MEPs are paid the same as a member of their national parliament is being abolished, and MEPs’ salaries will all be €91,980, a pay increase for British MEPs of 27% (in the middle of a recession, when many people are taking pay cuts to keep their companies afloat…).

    Dr. Lucas’ website says

    From 2009, there will be a new Members’ Statute which will enable all Members to be paid the same [...] MEPs are currently waiting for a decision from the UK Government as to whether those representing the UK will be able to join the new system.

    I think this may need updating: Dr Lucas’ chum Jean Lambert MEP says “The UK Government has now decided that MEPs representing the UK will be able to join the new system”.

    At time of writing (as far as I can see), neither Lucas nor Lambert is citing the new salary amount on their website.

    dw said:

    So, Sue: MEPs are getting a pay rise? I’m ‘astonished of Brighton Pavilion’ here.

    Just looking over the numbers again on the website, it’s interesting to note that Lucas donates 15% of her salary to the Green Party coffers. Might she respectfully take a 15% pay cut in support of the British people instead?

    Nearly 24 hrs after I published this page, there is nothing refuting its validity and correctness.

    Sue said:

    The slightly good news about the pay change is that the travel allowance will no longer be just a lump sum, it’ll be a reimbursement of actual amounts paid out. Save those bus tickets, MEPs! Daily and general allowances, however, will be staying as flat rate payouts.

    I’m still trying to figure out the difference between “travel allowance” and “personal travel allowance”.

    dw said:

    Sue:

    Dr Lucas’s website is ever so helpful on this:

    “Personal Travel Allowance

    Each Member has a personal travel allowance of €4000 a year to enable them to accept invitations or make their own fact-finding journeys outside their own Member State. They can claim the real-costs by presenting the appropriate proofs and invitation if relevant. Caroline has used this money in the past to fund a fact-finding trip with other Parliamentarians to Israel and Gaza.”

    Richard Lawson said:

    Well well well, this is a damning indictment and no mistake. Except that it is a political attack on one MEP, and does not mention how Caroline compares with the other 784 MEPs. That would take a lot of work. Luckily for the electorate, Open Europe have
    in fact done all that work. Go to http://www.openeurope.org.uk/

    They have produced a league table of MEP’s based on their commitment to promoting transparency and reform. Caroline along with an SNP and Independent MEP came top of the UK MEP list and joint 10th out of Europe’s 785 MEP’s.

    “Open Europe’s league table is based on 20 different categories relating to transparency, accountability, democracy, and waste” .

    So, let us derive an index figure by dividing the ranking score (1=best, 785 = worst) of two parties by the number of MEPs belonging to that party

    The most important comparison is between Greens and Ukip, since they are the smaller parties that stand to benefit from the voters who are going to shun the main parties because of the expenses scandal.

    UK Greens score = 10+92 = 102, divide by 2 = 51.
    Ukip score = 2378, divide between 8 MEPs = 297.

    So. Greens are most certainly cleaner than Ukip.

    We have much more information available, but I hope this should be enough to be going on with.

    Thanks for raising it. It is a pity that the corporate media are ignoring Open Europe’s vitally important data.

    cp said:

    Personally, I don’t care how much politicians earn, as what ever it is, is but a small fraction of that and bonuses earned (or not) by corporate and bank directors etc whose deliberate short term greed has bankrupted everybody’s future, companies than Dan Wilson has worked for. We are not told the reason why Ms Lucas has her hand raised, it is certainly not in answer to the question suggested in the caption. Perhaps she was actually voting for measures to benefit ordinary people rather than big business. Dishonesty appears in many guises, sadly this blog is one of them.

    matildasm said:

    If you actually read her notes which explain expenses it all seems rather more reasonable than the way you present it in a bare table like that to be interpreted as you wish. The ‘secretarial allowance’ employs three people on not overly ridiculous wages and the basic wage is actually set by our own government, not the EU. and as her own wage surely it’s hers to do as she wishes, be that donating it to the Green party or anything else?

    I would also be willing to bet her total expenses are lower or at least at a similar level to many other MEPs, you’ve not given any comparisons which makes it very easy to jump to conclusions.

    She and many other MEPs are against the regular trips between Strasbourg and Brussels which UKIP are so keen to complain about to. If they successfully move everything to Brussels that’s a hefty chunk of cash saved that is widely acknowledged to be wasted. She can’t help that she is obliged to go there as part of the parliament.

    I agree you have a fair point that it is a lot of money but then she gets a fair amount done for it and works incredibly hard from what I can see so it wouldn’t be right for her to take a pay cut or something like that. The EU has a lot of problems with bureacracy it needs to sort out and she is trying to rectify that as an MEP but she can’t be solely blamed for following the system in the meantime.

    dw said:

    cp:

    I have worked for a many companies on a freelance, contractual and permanent basis in my career. Like most ordinary people, my salary has always been less than £64k. Indeed, significantly less. Even with legitimate expenses, I’ve never spent anywhere close to Dr Lucas. Nowhere close! Let’s be honest, this is fat-cat level expenditure by an individual.

    The picture and caption on this post are obviously a joke. But a joke making a serious point. I think most ordinary people would appreciate that.

    Moreover, however a good job Dr Lucas is doing for ordinary folk, I am bewildered how it costs £305k annually. That’s why I’d like to see receipts and accounts and better commentary.

    If you think the facts I’m presenting are dishonest, you shoud be more specific.

    Dr Lucas calls for more transparency: she should practice what she preaches. Now.

    dw said:

    Richard Lawson:

    Useful link: thanks. I have seen it. If your argument is ‘we’re better than UKIP’ you really must be desperate.

    Your strange scientific comment misses my point. Caroline Lucas MEP is one of the MEPs representing my region. She’s soliciting my vote to be re-elected. She’s also the Green Westminster parliamentary candidate in the constituency in which I live.

    How she compares with an MEP in the Czech Republic or UKIP or anything else bothers me not. I’m saying: £305k is a bloody big sum… in anyone’s estimation.

    Caroline Lucas grins out from the leaflets put through my door condemning fatcats whilst trousering all this cash… is it a political attack? You bet it is!

    Let’s be clear: I’m saying Lucas is one of the fatcats.

    dw said:

    Matildasm:

    This post has 3 purposes:

    1) To present clearly what Caroline Lucas has claimed in salary an expenses in 2008. I don’t think her website does that, to be honest. You may not like the stark table, but it’s more than is provided on her website.

    2) To express my dismay at Caroline Lucas’s hypocrisy. The leaflet is clear: the Greens are against fat cats… but claiming £305k in salary and expenses in 2008 is surely fat-cattery?

    3) To question Caroline Lucas’s committment to transparency. Her 2008 expenses claims have been released quietly (as noted). I still can’t find information of her previous expenses claims.

    Does she do good work? I don’t know. Probably. Her leaflet, as per my post, is pretty clear. And that spurred me on to write this post.

    Richard Lawson said:

    I have done some more work on the OpenEurope data.
    MEPs were ranked using two main categories:
    ‘Transparency, openness and democracy’ and ‘Fighting waste and misuse of EU funds’.

    I have gone through the data for these UK parties – Green, Con, Lab, LibDem and UKIP and summated their scores.

    In the ranking,1 = best, and 785 = worst possible, so the lower the score the better.

    I used a ctrl+f search for Green, Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UK Independence, selecting only UK parties that came up. I noted their position on the ranking, summated those position scores and divided by the number of MEPs found. So the lower the score, the better the political group has performed in terms of the investigation.

    Here are the results :

    Greens – 51

    LibDem – 116

    Conservatives 152

    Labour 205

    Ukip 343

    This survey is vitally important for the electorate. People are understandably angry with the three Westminster parties, and at the moment, due to deficient information, UKIP is the main beneficiary of the disaffection, polling 10-16% at the moment. This research shows that voting UKIP in protest at MP expenses scandals is to jump from the Westminster frying pan into the Brussels fire.

    If you are sincerely concerned about expenses claims and related issues, the logical thing to do is vote Green.

    dw said:

    Richard,

    Thanks for crunching more numbers. But I don’t accept your premise: that because the Green Party is the best of a bad lot that they deserve our vote.

    Politics isn’t logical. It emotional, visceral. And this is where professional politicians, including Lucas, don’t really understand the very real public anger. We’re furious!

    In many ways for many people, in fact, the logical action is to not vote at all. Something I’m considering and I never imagined I’d feel that way.

    matildasm said:

    I think it does count for something that she is the best of a bad lot here, because of the beauracratic and pretty wasteful system they use at the moment. That’s out of her hands until the laws are changed, and no-one can deny that she has supported those law changes, just look at her voting record and the committees she’s a member of. Whether you believe her or not, she votes as she says she will.

    And there’s a huge amount of her expenses going on travelling, which gets pretty pricey nipping between the UK & Belgium all the time as they do. She can’t not go to parliament, it’s her job. You have to accept that expenses will be higher than that of a normal MP or similar. (or they should be, anyway…)

    I would also contest that her expenses aren’t anything but transparent. If you want to find out her expenses all you have to is go to her website, and make two clicks. Your information is all taken from there, you’ve not had to cross-reference 5 different reports or something. I don’t think we’re quite entitled to detailed reports of all politician’s expenses through the letterbox every month just yet. It also needs all the description given on the site so people don’t misinterpret the whole thing as her taking all this money and filling her boots with it, which people here have. She’s not stealing it and buying private jets with it! Hell, she even seems to be wearing exactly the same clothes in every TV/publication appearance I’ve seen. The money is spent on things necessary to her job, employing 7 staff, travelling, overheads and the like. Though I too would be interested to see exactly what her General and Daily Allowances go on, I’d be pretty surprised if it was anything particularly out of the ordinary.

    Caroline Lucas is not a fatcat. She has not spent the last 20 years refusing to compromise her policies and beliefs even at the expense of more mainstream support just so she can make a tidy sum off the public. She’s not made a tidy sum. She’s got a good salary, but she does an important job. If she wanted to get rich she could become a banker, she’s clearly smart enough.

    dw said:

    Matildasm,

    Re transparency: on the 25th May she had published only her expenditure on the General Allowance. She detailed no other spending. Several days later more info was provided. Regardless of comparison, I feel it’s shabby to preach transparency when you’re only practising disclosure 7 days in advance of a poll.

    We simply don’t know how she’s spending her Travel and Daily allowances. To cut the Travel money by 52, you see she’s spending circa £500 a week on travel. You can do a lot of travel on that.

    But again, we don’t know what’s that being spent on. We simply don’t know.

    Chit Chong said:

    I think one of the problems with this deluge of expenses from the Telegraph is that every MP and by extension politician is being given the “where there is smoke there must be fire” treatment.

    I’m not claiming for one instance that I have not been shocked by the pig in trough system that has operated in Westminster, especially about this “flipping” house malakie. However, all this noise means that headline figures like the £305K in Caroline’s case is seen as what she gets personally from the EU and the fact that nearly half is spent on secretarial support is lost. Similarly some of the expenseses brought out against many of the MPs have been clearly reasonable, but again puffed up by the noise.

    But I agree, the expenses system needs to be tightened up in Brussels and in the UK. For that to happen it needs people to stand up and be counted. For people to stand for election, especially the people who feel shocked by the expenses scandal.

    The reality is that politicians are not bred to be corrupt but are mostly ordinary people who want to change the way society works. So if you feel angry about the expenses scandal roll your sleeves up and get involved.

    Unlike Dan, I am fortunate to be still proud of the political party I am in (Green Party)and proud of what my party does. But there is still a job of work to do within the other parties. And of course you can stand for election as an independent.

    It will be hard and often thankless but more than the scandal and the gravy train, that is what politics is about.

    Chit

    dw said:

    Great comment Chit, why not join me (and you’re proud to be Green and proud to support Dr Lucas) in this call to all MEPS:

    “Every MEP should disclose their salary and expenses and provide receipts, full accounts and commentary for their 2008 claims for the scrutiny of their constituents. And that the same full disclosure should be the norm in the future.”

    Will you join me in making that demand?

    dw

    board_surfer said:

    Personally as one lot seems as morally bankrupt as the other on this subject, I cannot think of a single reason to vote for any of them.

    I suspect that apathy will reign supreme today.

    GabrielM said:

    If anyone making comments here cared to look at OTHER parts of Caroline’s website than salary and expenses, they might wonder — as I do — how she finds time to eat or sleep. Her output is prodigious, clearly needing all the secretarial staff she employs.

    More on performance? During her 10 years as MEP she has been twice voted “Best MEP of the Year” by her peers. Among her numerous campaigns she has campaigned both against the needless (travelling & other) expense of moving the entire European Parliament between Strasbourg and Brussels, and for greater transparency in expenses.

    While I too am staggered by the £305k total cost, remember that international travel is unavoidable for any MEP, with no time to do it except by air (or Eurotunnel); and only one-fifth of it is actual salary of which she has the right to donate whatever she wants to the Green Party she represents as its first leader.

    A fact-finding trip to Gaza? read about it in her blog. It’s painful stuff. Her sincerity? To be found on a freezing evening holding a placard outside Marks & Spencer in Brighton with a picket of the local Palestine Solidarity Campaign, asking shoppers to boycott Israeli produce. Few people knew who she was, but I wonder how many party leaders would be found doing that — before she rushed off to another meeting.

    Read also her complaining letters to the EU Commissioner that Israel is allowed to get away with impunity for breaking terms of a preferential trade agreement, and the brush-off reply.

    I voted for her today and look forward to her being elected her as Britain’s first Green MP. I doubt we could have a better one.

    dw said:

    GabrielM,

    You didn’t vote for Caroline Lucas today in the European Parliamentary Elections. That’s the most obvious error in your comment. You voted for the Green Party. That’s the nature of a party list system such as d’Hondt. We all voted for parties.

    But even if Caroline Lucas is the saint you think she is, I do have an objection:

    She will probably win the SE region MEP slot. So why is she so keen to ‘flip’ that for Westminster’s Brighton Pavilion constituency?

    I want an MEP totally committed to the job (and the money’s good!). But, and let’s be frank, she’d rather be an MP, ehhh. What’s ethical about that?

    As a Brighton Pavilion resident, I think it’s pretty shabby to stand for the European Parliament whilst seeking a westminster seat too.

    She’s 3-jobs Lucas. Green Leader. MEP. MP candidate. I think we Brightonians deserve rather more respect… and moreover, we’re bright enough to see through her flimsy relationship to our great city.

    GabrielM said:

    Why split hairs: I voted on Thursday for Caroline Lucas — top of a list of 10 Green Party candidates — by voting Green. Electing anyone further down the list, as well, would be a bonus!

    I wouldn’t associate any “saint” with politics, except perhaps Gandhi. I merely pointed out that Caroline works extremely hard, with relevant examples including twice being voted “best MEP of the year” in the estimation of other MEPs, having also read rather more of her website than anyone else seems to have done.

    Like her, I joined the Green Party nearly 25 years ago: within a couple of years she was national Press Officer, and that wouldn’t happen without ability and hard work. Encountering her recently in a campaigning situation which backed up her political work, it also showed she does more than vote or write letters. If a salary of £65k is earned by working 12 hours a day 7 days a week, she earns it.

    Yes, her length of association with Brighton is less than ideal, but you must be well aware that any British political party wants representation in a British parliament, not solely in a European parliament. Since being locally elected PPC for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline stays in Brighton while not in Brussels and takes part in local campaigns.

    As Britain’s anachronistic electoral system is stacked against her, why should we meanwhile lose a very good MEP? And it would be strange if we did not want her, as an MEP for 10 years and now a highly able leader of the Green Party, to become our first Green MP. Or perhaps you could recommend a better and faster way of getting there?

    Since Keith Taylor — second on the Green Party list of MEP candidates — got 22 percent in Brighton Pavilion in the last General Election (only 1.9 percent behind the Tories) there is every hope that he too will be elected MEP along with Caroline.

    GabrielM said:

    PS Forgot to mention I too write as a resident of Brighton Pavilion, for 30 years (not counting the boundary change when it used to be Kemptown). But to me, electing Britain’s first Green MP will be the best thing since sliced bread.

    dw said:

    http://www.brightonandhoveconservatives.com/news/61/

    Useful post from Brighton’s Tories on the same subject.

    Mark Potts said:

    I have just recieved a message on facebook on this and I live in Derbyshire ,after looking at Caroline’s duties and commitment to the job we will swop her for any of our lot anyday.You dont know how lucky you are we have never seen our MEP most people don’t no who it is. Dan your a jealous fool let’s see your expenses and have people leave comment’s

    dw said:

    Hi Mark,

    As a private citizen, I really don’t think my expenses are the issue here. But rest assured they are also exceptionally modest, tiny, miniscule compared to those of extravagant Dr Lucas.

    But a good idea: please, people of Derbyshire, you can have her! I can’t bear her holier than thou preaching and double standards a moment longer.

    Is Caroline Lucas on the Bus in Brighton? | Dan Wilson | eBay Expert, Online Community Specialist, Author and Blogger said:

    [...] already right! They should get that. Everyone can take a chill pill. It’s all on expenses anyway! £28k a year in travel expenses is like totally normal for people like me. You don’t claim expenses? You [...]

    Vulcan said:

    There is no way you can work within the political system without being corrupted by it; the whole system has to be cleansed of ponerologists.

    SimonLove said:

    Well, if she truly is holier than thou as she would have us believe, then it shouldn’t have any impact whatsoever on her campaign if some resourceful individual was to print off a loads of leaflets explaining Dr Lucas’ levels of remuneration and distribute them in Brighton now would it???

    Brian Huebner said:

    You’re article reeks of innuendo of misconduct, and actually, the expenditures that are lump sums are not Green Party politics. Her house is comfortable, but hardly ‘fat cat’ stuff. Ever heard of the Tories? or Goldman Sachs? She’s a decent and honest politician. The travel of the average MEP is staggering, but that’s across all party lines and comes with the job description. But you knew that already. Have you checked Nelson Mandela’s travel expenses? Scandalous!

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