Millionaire Sir Alan Duncan, Rutland and Melton MP condescendingly dismissed people who ‘aren’t millionaires’ as ‘low achievers’ on Monday 11 April. I am not a millionaire. He also said during his defence of David Cameron on Monday that David Cameron’s tax critics, of whom I am one, ‘hate anyone with a hint of wealth.’ That is how I became a low achiever in 24 hours when I read the words of Sir Alan on Tuesday. Conversely, I don’t think that privilege and income from questionable moral sources makes a ‘high achiever’.
Sir Alan, a privately educated Oxford graduate, is a former oil trader. He entered politics as a multimillionaire and oversaw the Tory party’s policy on MPs’ expenses. His expenses included £5,000 for gardening. Measures were introduced to kerb grossly inflated expenses claims, Sir Alan, who received an annual salary of £64,766 at the time, said that MPs were treated as ‘sh*t’ and having to ‘live on rations’. Interestingly, according to IPSA data, he increased his office expenditure claims over five years by 24.4% to £162k. The taxpayers met these expenses.
Sir Alan was able to purchase a large property mortgage free. Twelve years later he secured a mortgage against the property for which he claimed MP expenses of £1,400 a month for his mortgage interest. In six years he had claimed £127,658 under the second home allowance just £126 short of the maximum.
Sir Alan lent his elderly next door neighbour the money to buy his 18th century Westminster council house under the Tory right-to-buy scheme. The neighbour received a significant discount, at tax payers expense. Three years later, Sir Alan bought the house from his neighbour and combined the properties into one.
There is no suggestion that Sir Alan had done anything illegal but is it moral? Slavery was once legal but that did not make it right. Tax avoidance is legal but that does not make it morally right and only our politicians, of which he is one, can change it.
I would question whether Sir Alan’s privilege makes him a ‘high achiever’. He knows the price of everything and clearly has an eye for an opportunity. Where we see hypocrisy and an absence of moral standards in our legislators we have a duty to speak out and insults should not deter us from our duty. If that makes me a low achiever, I can live with it as long as my morality is intact.
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