British MPs draw flak for defying austerity measures

Monday, January 3, 2011

LONDON - Senior MPs in Britain have come under fire for celebrating the New Year with lavish holidays or by sipping champagne at an exclusive Commons fireworks party.

The lawmakers, including Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne who defied austerity Britain by taking a luxury break at Prince Charles’s favourite ski resort in Switzerland, were accused of “highly insensitive conduct”, the Daily Mail reported.

Ironically, it was Osborne who coined the phrase “Were all in this together” when calling for massive cuts to get the country out of the red at the 2009 Tory party conference.

Zac Goldsmith, the MP from Richmond, was reportedly sunning himself at a 8,000 pounds-a-week villa in the Caribbean over the New Year - in contrast to David Cameron, who scrapped plans for an expensive holiday in Thailand for fear of sending the wrong message to voters.

And in London, Speaker John Bercow hosted a star-studded champagne New Years Eve party on the Commons riverside terrace, giving MPs a prime view of the capitals impressive fireworks display.

Among the revellers was Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt, an embarrassment in light of the fact that at the same time a riot was brewing at Ford Open Prison in Sussex, the report said.

John OConnell of the TaxPayers Alliance Monday slammed the celebrations. “With hikes in VAT and fuel duty, it wont be a very happy New Year for many taxpayers, so some will see this as highly insensitive given their own circumstances,” he said.

“The new taxes that politicians are putting in place will make it that bit harder for ordinary families to enjoy little luxuries and holidays.”

Osborne defied the economic gloom by taking his family on holiday to one of Switzerlands most exclusive ski resorts.

His office said he was staying in Davos, known for its annual World Economic Forum. However, a friend of Prince Charles with well established connections in Klosters insisted the chancellor was staying in that resort - the worlds most expensive, where chalets can cost up to 10,000 pounds a night.

Osbornes official spokesman refused to comment further on his travel arrangements, but a source close to the chancellor said: “George has flown out for a few days to be with his family. He will be back at his desk this week when the country goes back to work.”

It is not Osbornes first ski trip to the area. In the past he has stayed at the five-star Fluela Hotel in Davos, where a large double room costs up to 500 pounds a night. Prince Charles has been a regular visitor to Klosters for the past 40 years.

Meanwhile, Goldsmith - who inherited a 300 million pound fortune from his late father, financier Sir James Goldsmith - is understood to have welcomed in 2011 in a palatial three-bedroom mansion on the island of Barbados.

The daily was told the MP and environmentalist made the 4,000-mile journey to the Caribbean last week where he has rented a 1,200 pounds-a-night colonial-style mansion. It is thought he stayed there with his family, including his partner, heiress Alice Rothschild.

More than 400 people including MPs, their families and guests, saw in the New Year from the riverside terrace beneath the Speakers palatial official Commons apartment.

Although 250,000 members of the public waited for hours in a crush on Londons embankment to see what was hailed as Britains best ever firework display, there was enough room at the Palace of Westminster for Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke to get down on one knee to propose to his girlfriend Susan Spencer as midnight approached.

The MPs defended the 22 pounds-a-head party, saying half the proceeds went to charity and the rest covered the cost of paying Commons staff.

Filed under: Economy

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