Mr. Austin Mitchell MP has been a Member of the UK Parliament representing Great Grimsby in the House of Commons since 1977. It is a pleasure to interview Mr. Mitchell MP on The Global Townhall to discuss his colorful life, the Parliament expenses scandal, British pomp and ceremony, American healthcare, global warming, politics and advice on what is most important in life.
Gabrielle Reilly: It appears the media and public are the same all around the world... there is always a political witch hunt for someone. Sometimes it's justified and sometimes it is just tragic to see a hard working public servant and their family get annihilated in the most humiliating and traumatic manner. How has the British Parliament expenses scandal affected you and your family? Justified, not justified?
Austin Mitchell MP: The expenses scandal has been damaging to Parliament and miserable for me. The concern was justified but it`s snowballed out of all proportion. The Additional Costs Allowance was open to abuse and the Fees Office administered it all badly. The only solution is to pay us more and give out of town MPs a London allowance.
Gabrielle Reilly: I noticed when I was in The House of Lords on Trafalgar Day there was a bit of thing about what color the carpet was (whether it was red or not) and then of course where the Queen can walk and talk. How do many of the MP's in the House of Commons view this nowadays. is it perceived as tradition or elitism?
Austin Mitchell MP: Parliamentary tradition is old fashioned and fuddy-duddy. It`s designed to awe people when we should be open and equal. However, I don`t mind it and am happy to let those who like it have it.
Gabrielle Reilly: You have had a very colorful life from stories you've covered as a journalist in hot pants to temporarily changing your name to "Haddock" in honor of protecting the fish. What makes you so fearless to step outside the box? Any words you would like to share to inspire others to not live life boxed in by the opinions of others?
Austin Mitchell MP: An MP has to think for himself and also to have other interests. Politics should be more fun.
Gabrielle Reilly: It's a little confusing for Americans trying to follow British and Australian politics considering some of the words have the complete opposite meaning like "Liberal". "Liberal" in the Commonwealth came from the word "liberty" and is the equivalent of the American Republican Party. as opposed to the American word "liberal" meaning "left," particularly on social issues. Could you clarify your ideology?
Austin Mitchell MP : I started out on the right of the Labour Party - the last surviving Gaitskellite. Since then the Party has moved so far to the right behind me that I now find myself on the left. I`m liberal in the American sense and in social attitudes but not in the European sense.
Gabrielle Reilly: After spending much time in the 60's in New Zealand and writing several books on the country and politics what were the greatest lessons you learnt from the country's political swing over several decades?
Austin Mitchell MP : The political lesson I learned there was that "time for a change" hits all governments, however good, that triennial elections are a good thing because they keep power close to the voters and, most of all, that an equal society is a good society.
Gabrielle Reilly: If you were going to overhaul America's healthcare system what system would you put in place and how would you implement it?
Austin Mitchell MP: If I was going to overhaul America`s health care I`d start from scratch and have a single state provider system like the NHS, though there would be a much higher opt out into private medicine.
Gabrielle Reilly: What are your thoughts on global warming and what policies do you think needs to be implemented or maintained?
Austin Mitchell MP: I`m not one hundred percent convinced. Something needs to be done but I`m not going to get into hysterical deadlines and targets.
Gabrielle Reilly: What would be some of the best advice you could pass on to your children/grandchildren to navigate this new world?
Austin Mitchell MP: Advice to my kids is that family is the most important thing. Cleave to it.