Friday, June 26, 2009

Fuss and Feathers

click photo to enlarge
The brouhaha over English Members' of Parliament (MPs) expenses claims has consumed much of the time and energy of Britain's media reporters and commentators over the past month. That a very few were on the fiddle is undoubtedly true, and it's good that they have been exposed. That many others, quite legitimately, were milking a fairly lax system is also true, and if the recent fuss results in a tighter rein on allowable claims we should all be happy. But, there was a group of people who got lost in all of this, namely those MPs of integrity who made very modest and reasonable claims. Unfortunately, a large mass of the public (and press) in England is only interested in politics when it involves tittle tattle, and so for many our politicians are now "all the same", and "only out to feather their own nests." This widely held view simply isn't true. Of course, the focus on this scandal is like manna from heaven for bankers and financiers who have had the spotlight taken off their much greater greed and incompetence, and they are quietly trying to slip back into their bad old ways of paying themselves far too much, for doing too little, badly.

The system of MPs' expenses is currently under review, and into this discussion has been thrown the issue of MPs having a job at the same time that they sit as a representative of the people. There are those who say it's a good thing that MPs know about the "real world" through a second job. But, for many of our politicians that involves earning a lot for advising a financial institution that inhabits a world that few people would recognise as anything approaching "real." Others say that MPs should earn their pay by devoting all their energies to Parliament and their constituents. My view is that if you say that the duties of an MP allow time to do a second job, then you're accepting that it's a part time job and the remuneration should be downwardly adjusted accordingly. Moreover, those who are drawing two salaries are unlikely to be representing the people well, and would seem to be undeserving of their pay from the state. However, if MPs salaries were reduced substantially to take account of the "part-time" nature of their work it would penalise those who scrupulously devote all their energies to their parliamentary work. Consequently, here's a suggestion. Firstly, all those putting themselves forward for election to Parliament should have to declare whether they will hold a second job if elected: that would concentrate a few minds and also be a consideration that peope could take into account when deciding who should receive their vote. Secondly, an MP's salary and expenses from the state should be withdrawn if they have a second job. That would send a clear message of disapproval of the practice, and reinforce the message that constituents deserve all their representative's time and attention.

All of which has not a thing to do with the subject of today's photograph. It shows The Feathers Hotel in Ludlow, Shropshire, a very ornate, timber-framed building of 1603. The whole facade has been constructed with an eye to decorative effect; even the asymmetry caused by positioning the entrance slightly off-centre, with two projecting bays to the left and one to the right. The Feathers began life as a private house, but was converted to an inn around 1670. It's one of a number of "black and white" buildings in this market town in the Welsh Marches, but the most embellished by far, and is considered an exemplar of its architectural style.

I didn't catch this building at the best time for a photograph, with the sun just brushing the facade and most of it in shadow, so exposure and processing proved "challenging".

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 55mm (110mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On