The comments of Nicholas Winterton this week certainly wound a few people up for various reasons.Â For once I find myself in total agreement with the official Tory party line that this represents “the out-of-touch views of a soon-to-retire backbench MP”, although I do wonder it it also represents the out-of-touch views of some MPs who are not retiring. One thing in particular irked me, it was when he said:
They want to stop members of parliament travelling first class. That puts us below local councillors and officers of local government. They all travel first class.
Do they really?Â When I was a local councillor I travelled standard class every time and mostly at my own expense, although I did claim one fare to Wales I think.Â I would be surprised if any of my colleagues travelled first class.Â I have also travelled on business quite a lot, always in standard class rail or economy class if I was flying.Â Normally I am sleeping or reading rather than working, but I have been known to work on the train, and whatever I am doing I am normally surrounded by lots of other people working away.
I do have some sympathy for Winterton though.Â My reasons for travelling standard are very similar to his reasons for travelling first class – I don’t like to travel first class because you find yourself sharing the carriage with a “totally different type of people” – people like Nicholas Winterton.
The end of his little episode was quite telling too.Â He said:
The people who increasingly dominate this House are people who are intelligent, but they go from school to university, university to researcher, researcher to adviser, then to candidate.Â They have no experience of life outside. Have they ever paid wages at the end of the week?Â Have they ever been through negotiations over a business deal?Â Have they been in the law? No.
Very telling.Â Note that real-life experience is not being paid wages at the end of the week but paying somebody else.Â How many people do actually pay somebody else and negotiate business deals?Â A very small proportion I am guessing.Â It is another way of saying that you need to be from management to be in parliament – forget about being an ex-teacher or something like that.
Just out of interest, I checked Nicholas Winterton’s biography on Wikipedia to see what his experience of real life is and found:
- Prep school
- Rugby school
- National service (an officer in the 14th/20th Kings Hussars)
- Trainee sales executive at Shell-Mex and BP
- Sales & general manager of a construction machinery company
I don’t know how long the traineeship lasted, but the national service was from 1957-59 and the sales & general manager job started in 1960 so it could be anything from a few weeks to an absolute maximum of nearly two years.Â Maybe things were different in those days, but it seems like a very easy path through life.