The House of Commons is, in principle, a workplace. MPs turn up, debate, assemble on committees and propose motions. This isn’t regular work, but it is their work and it is important. It’s for this reason that it’s worth questioning why MPs have access to subsidised alcohol and 8 bars.
These bars differ in character, from the bawdy sports and social club to the more reserved Stranger’s bar. Nevertheless, they are coupled by two elements. They are the cheapest place to booze in Central London and they would be improper in virtually any other workplace.
A pint of Stella Artois will cost you £3.70 in the Stranger’s Bar, across the road it would cost you like £4.60 for a 330ml bottle. If you fancy Ales then you can find one of the guest ales for as little as £2.80, across the road this would be £4.50.
Gin is half the price it is across the road and wine is about a third.
All of this is conceivable because we are financing our MPs food and drink to the tune of about £6 million a year. This was the total for 2014. More current figures imply MPs have decreased their expenditure, spending only £3.7 million of taxpayers’ money.
This is money that is allegedly spent getting drunk at work, something that most of us would get fired over.
It does better describe a bit of the culture inside Westminster. In the dodgy dossier, various MPs who are affirmed to have drink difficulties and the recently discredited Michael Fallon has been associated with a few alcohol-fuelled eruptions.
The unfortunate demise of Charles Kennedy declined to change the commons association with alcohol. The actual measure of the dilemma is further difficult to know given that the Speaker, John Bercow, quashed a report into the dilemma.
This does not imply we should have no compassion for people with drink problems, guidance must be made accessible, but we should be outraged at the culture that’s been permitted to develop and various women journalists have made comparable points.
They have demonstrated that the hard-boozing practice in Westminster is a dilemma and an obstacle that permits the degradation of women.
When you have characters like Michael Fabricant using drink as a reason, and an insignia in one bar emphasizing that “what happens here stays here” it’s difficult not to scrutinise our MPs. They have decided to waste our money licensing their immoral habits.
Whilst Michael Fabricant has been scrutinised and the insignia has been removed, development is achingly sluggish. MPs must acknowledge that the House of Commons has a drinking problem, a dilemma that feeds an astonishingly lethal lad culture.
When a number of MPs are implicated in sexual rape and lurk behind the alcohol when David Davis can supposedly rape Dianne Abbot and laugh it off, and when a much-respected ex-soldier like Kennedy is annihilated by drink, it’s time to ask serious questions.
Would we allow it in our workplace? Would we permit bars in our office? Would we advocate boozing at work?
Of course not and Westminster must change.