Meanwhile, in the Strasbourg Village, it is being called a “huge scandal”, but Der Spiegel describes this huge scandal somewhat strangely:
The economic crisis has hit countless retirement funds, including that of members of the European parliament. They may take the controversial step this week to use taxpayers’ money to top up the pension fund.
I am sure that Der Spiegel did not mean to suggest that this will be the first splurge of taxpayers’ money ever to arrive in this pension fund. But, they rather do, don’t they? My guess is that the original pension fund is a pretty big scandal to start with.
And indeed it is:
The scheme was already in disrepute because MEPs’ contributions are taken automatically from their office expense allowance of €4,202 (£3,700) a month rather than their salary. MEPs are supposed to reimburse this account but there are no checks and it is accepted widely that many do not repay the money, potentially making the pension an entirely taxpayer-funded perk.
That was from the Times, last Friday. The same piece goes on:
Senior MEPs are proposing several changes to the second pension to reduce the deficit, such as increasing the retirement age from 60 to 63 and stopping early retirement at 50. But these are likely to be blocked after the fund chairman, the Conservative former MEP Richard Balfe – who now acts as David Cameron’s envoy to the trade unions – warned that such moves were “not permissible under European law”, in effect leaving the taxpayer with the entire bill.
So, who is this Richard Balfe? There’s been no mention of him here until now. It seems that in 2002 he stopped being a Labour MEP, in disgust, after having a fight with some other Labour people, and became a Conservative MEP instead.
Further googling got me to this Balfe-ism:
“You have got a situation now where the Conservative and Labour parties have overlapped so significantly that the ideological collapse of both parties must be mirrored in a new relationship with the unions, just as it is mirrored in a new relationship with business.”
Well, that is one way of looking at things. Balfe didn’t change. There is just so much ideological overlap between the big parties these days that Balfe could switch parties without himself moving his position. Another way of looking at it is to say that Balfe was a member of the politicians party, and that his allegiances are unchanged.