Sunday, May 10, 2009


"It's like Africa!"

So spoke Professor Calculus's son Scandens, who is visiting him from southern Africa.

We were, of course, discussing the scandal involving MPs' fees that has been evolving into a car-crash over the last week. What Scandens was getting at was that while foreign observers coming to monitor political procedure in Africa - eg elections - was so usual it wasn't even worth remarking on, the level of corruption in Westminster had shaken the faith of many people in the Mother of Parliaments, in his corner of the continent, at least.

I don't see the point of posting links that evidence MPs' disingenuous profligacy, because if you manage to avoid news of it you're doing a good job.

It's hard to know what is worse: the claims upon taxpayers for bath-plugs and sponges, or the "flipping" of designation of one residence, where ministerial-rank MPs live so far from London that they have to maintain a second home in the capital's vicinity, so that both homes can be redecorated and sometimes sold at a large profit at the taxpayers' expense.

Tory (Conservative) MP John Redwood refers to a campaign designed to throw blame for the exposition of Labour spending onto a "Tory dirty tricks" campaign, and there certainly does seem to be a concerted effort in e-media to disseminate this impression, presumably in the hope that the Mainstream Media will pick up on it. However, as Redwood says:
Why would any wellwisher of the Tories leak these documents, when doubtless they include some claims from Conservatives which will also prove to be embarrassing, reflecting claims for items which may well be within the rules but will be thought wrong by the electorate?
There will indeed be revelations in tomorrow's Daily Telegraph about expenses claimed by Conservative MPs. And I sincerely hope that those who have violated ethical practice will get a monumental bollocking, to restore faith that the Conservative Party operates on lines that are informed by what is right and what is wrong, not merely what is legitimate within the rules and what one had hoped could be covered up or even protest was "stolen" (like Immigration Minister Phil Woolas' claim for nail polish and feminine hygeine products).

Something positive has actually come out of all this. It had been suspected that civil servants who were in charge of deciding upon MPs' expenses had been handpicked by the Labour Party. Perhaps they had been - but they are taxpayers too, and the documents that have been leaked to the Telegraph show frustration at the mendacity of their masters. But you don't need to go to such exalted levels as the high reaches of the service to see how exasperated people are - the Telegraph's political correspondent, Rosa Prince, reports that the gardener for David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, left him a note saying "Please let me know if you would like pots making up at front and back this year, given the relatively short time you’ll be here".

I will find some uncomfortable reading in tomorrow's Telegraph. But if Labour Party MPs attempt to defend their prodigality in terms of "we do it because the people we defeated in three elections do it", then I pity them, because their biggest threat will not be from us but from the members of their own party who are aware of why the Labour Party adopted socialism in 1919, in an experiment which now lies butchered on Government benches.

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