Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Would You Adam And Eve It?

Sorry to go on about this dodgy expenses claim thingy, but go on I must as long as this unsavoury episode continues. Now our Home Secretary’s husband has been dragged out of the house to explain himself to the media and apologise for what he’s done - viewing films which he subsequently (and stupidly) charged to the wife’s expenses, two of which were of the, ahem, "adult entertainment" kind.

She appeared to be absolutely furious but no more furious than we, the poor suckers who paid for them, have every right to be. What concerns me is that she seems to be far more cross with him for his taste in films and for embarrassing her rather than being truly regretful that the taxpayer was asked to foot the bill for something of such a personal nature.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t care if he was viewing adult films, among others. Good luck to him, if that’s his bag then let him get on with it. What he does in the privacy of his own home is entirely up to him. The bit I find more shocking is that he claimed for any of the films at all, regardless of their subject matter. To me the fact that they were paid for on expenses is the truly offensive thing here, not the content of a couple of them.

So what's the next episode in the sorry saga of the Home Secretary, Her Expenses and the Husband Who Will Be Sleeping On The Sofa? Are we soon to be treated to more insights of how the other half live, at our expense?

If recent events are anything to go by, my guess is that having funded the films for a cosy night in front of the TV, Joe Public will be getting the bill for the Chinese takeaway any time now.

With tip, no doubt.

Monday, 23 March 2009

My Other Home's on Expenses

For those of you living without any form of media stimulus because you can't afford newspapers any more, or if your television has been repossessed along with your home, recent news regarding the clever personal accounting of some of our MPs must have come as a bit of a nasty shock. We have learned that it’s apparently a widely accepted practice amongst our elected representatives to claim expenses for whichever of their several residences yields the most dosh, and it doesn't seem to matter whether it's the constituency home of the MP, or where Mum and Dad live, or a sister's house in London as long as there's money to be made from it. By performing this devious switcheroo, some MPs are taking huge amounts of cash from the public purse to which they are not morally entitled. It appears that the lax guidelines (I won't call them "rules" as there obviously aren't any) allow claims regardless of the true validity or necessity of that claim as long as the criteria is loosely met. We are told by the newspapers that it's actually possible to charge for alternative accomodation in London when an MP's actual home is itself only eight miles away, something which must really piss off thousands of rail commuters who strap-hang every day on sweaty overcrowded trains for many more miles than that and pay a large chunk of their salary for the privilege of doing it.

For us ordinary people who have to pay our own bills (no John Lewis list for us, unfortunately) and are trying to survive the current financial balls-up (or "down-turn" as it is quaintly known) imposed upon us by a sleep-walking government and a criminally greedy financial sector, news that some of our very own public officials are apparently shafting us via their expenses claim forms is, putting it mildly, a bit sick-making. For the thousands of people facing eviction from their homes having been lured into borrowing more money than they could ever hope to pay back should the financial climate change, as it has, learning that some of our own political masters are allegedly raking it in by means of some very nifty financial footwork is somewhat galling, to say the least. If only they could have managed our economy as efficiently as they've managed to line their own pockets, we wouldn't be in the monetary mire that we currently find ourselves splashing around in. It really pisses me off to think of our student children racking up massive debts in order to get an education which many of these public servants got for free, yet with tuition fees set to rise again those self same government officials are still receiving way more than their rightful share of public funding. It just doesn’t seem fair. How can they take this unearned money when it is so badly needed in very many more deserving areas? Hospitals, schools, pensions? Impoverished public services? Many people in this country can't even afford to see a dentist, let alone run a second home to make going to work a bit easier. It makes my blood boil. But even more seriously, my heart breaks for every young service man or woman sent to war on our behalf, ill-equipped and vulnerable and put at risk because of cost. Put into this context these expenses' fiddles become, quite frankly, obscene.

So far, outed MP’s say they’ve done nothing wrong when what I think they actually mean is that they haven't broken any laws or fallen foul of any party policy. However, there is a difference between being regulated by law or adhering to an expected code of decent behaviour, a distinction which is obviously not understood by some. As dear old Eric Morcambe used to say "they can't touch you for it", so this type of monetary manipulation has become common practice and is therefore deemed by some creative thinkers to be OK, simply because until now it has been allowed. A blind eye has been turned, thus giving credence to the scam. Worryingly, many more MPs than we know of are probably getting away with this sort of thing on a continuous basis and are legitimately, if immorally, helping themselves to public money - grabbing seats on the UK gravy train even as it runs out of steam, dipping their bread into the fat of the land which is oozing out of Great Britain plc as we, the tax-paying public, face the most serious financial roasting of our time.

Now the excrement has hit the rotating blades and the newspapers have got hold of the story, is anyone going to stop this dodge? Can these people be shamed? And, if not, within a self-regulating system who is going to stop them? We are told there’s going to be a full review, but I for one won’t hold my breath to see if this legalized pocket-picking is going to end any time soon.

One thing's for certain. I'd really like to ask any of the guilty parties to stop pretending that this abuse of position is all right when it definitely is not OK. I'd like to say "C'mon chaps, do the decent thing." I'd like to feel that elected Members of Parliament know the difference between right and wrong and that the trust put in them by their electorate wasn't misplaced.

And I'd like them to stop taking the piss.

That's it. Rant over.