This week it was revealed that British MPs have recently spent £250,000 of tax payers’ money on commissioning paintings of themselves. Not just the usual fat Tory pigs either, but also old school lefties like Tony Benn who might be hoped and expected to know better, and to guess how badly it would sit with the public and the media when it inevitably came out. Unlike many of the people who’ve already held forth on this subject, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong or absurd about a politician commissioning an artist to paint their portrait. We all know artists need all the work they can get, too. Also unlike many commentators who were frankly just showing their ignorance, I’m not going to express incredulity that a portrait of Diane Abbott (for example) cost £11, 750. That’s how much a commissioned painting costs. At least. As Whistler famously said during his libel case against Ruskin in 1877, an artist doesn’t ask two hundred guineas (or whatever) for the work of two days, but for the knowledge they have gained in the work of a lifetime.
However, according to http://www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-lords/members/pay-mps “The basic annual salary for an MP from 1 April 2013 is £66,396. MPs also receive expenses to cover the costs of running an office, employing staff, having somewhere to live in London and in their constituency, and travelling between Parliament and their constituency.” MPs can and should pay for their own bloody paintings. George Osborne repeated his absurd “we’re all in it together” mantra this week, too, but I haven’t noticed myself, my pensioner mother, my disabled or elderly neighbours, or all the people I see working all hours for minimum wage getting their portraits painted and paid for by the state. Or earning £66K, usually having other sources of income, and on top of it all our expenses paid for living in at least two homes, for that matter. There must be some mistake, George. Can I write to the Treasury and get this sorted out?
I did, however, notice two things about the portraits themselves.