Sunday, 17 May 2009

Living by the rules

They say the best cure for depression is vigorous physical activity. The way I feel at the moment, the best physical activity I can imagine would be packing all our belongings and moving to a bedsit in the south of France. Leaving Britain. I would have liked to say leaving England, but in a lot of eyes, the words England and English are a pejorative – mostly Scottish, Irish, Welsh and, of course, Robert Mugabe’s eyes. Strange then that we have a Scottish PM and Scottish speaker who have presided over the one thing that has sickened everyone in the bit of Britain east of Wales and south of Scotland.

As yet more of our “Honourable” members are revealed to be anything but, I feel like most of the electorate. I would hazard a safe guess that if asked, virtually all of us normal mortals – the ones who go out to work the longest hours in the whole of Europe, pay increasing amounts of tax for decreasing amounts of services and try to be honest – we would say with one accord that we all feel cheated. Not one journalist in any of the bulletins I have heard, watched or read, has asked if we are surprised. I would hazard another safe guess that the answer would be a resounding no. Revealing, don’t you think?

Does all this furore have a silver lining, or, like the ‘cash for honours’ scandal when even the then PM was questioned by police, will it be swept under the Westminster carpet? It must be bloody mucky under that shag pile by now. Well, I suppose one good thing is that, once again, we are showing the “Dunkirk spirit” and beginning to pull together.

There are a few questions I would like answered, though. Has any MP claimed for a mirror, or are they all too ashamed to look into one? Why was a now retired MP allowed to claim £7000 odd (reduced, I believe from £13,000 odd) for bookshelves, when I have managed to house my hundreds of books in shelves from MFI which cost about £40 each? How many of the 16 sheets was the MP in the one-bedroomed flat using at a time, or had he forgotten to claim for a washing machine? Could somebody also explain which part of the pipe repair under the tennis court was furthering parliamentary duties? Was he having his electorate round for tennis parties, perhaps?

How come they can all pay these “mistakes” back so readily? Did they have the money all the time? And, most important of all, how can anyone not know they have paid their mortgage off? Apart from any other paperwork received from the financial institution who lent the money, you have to say what you want doing with the deeds to the property you now own outright, don’t you? Or are we meant to believe that not only are our politicians too busy to oversee their own expenses claims, they also pay large sums – just look at the tables of expenses for staff – to people who are as financially inept as they are. Any ordinary person who was caught – not volunteering are they, we have to catch them – doing this would have been not just instantly dismissed, but looking at the inside of a prison cell. Anyone want to join me hazarding another guess that nobody will go to jail?

The second homes thing has to go. What I believe is that there should be two huge Salvation Army type hostels built adjacent to each other in London, one for male MPs and the other for female MPs. No money changes hands. Bedding, security etc is paid for by the taxpayer, but we don’t pay for food or cleaning. I have to pay for my food and if I want a cleaner, I have to pay for that, too. So can they. The taxpayer can also pay for shuttle buses to take them to and from Westminster. They can work in their offices and sleep in their bedsits, like millions of normal people have to. Their pride – and ours – has to be because they are serving their country, just like the thousands of poorly paid soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, except that the MPs don’t get shot at on a regular basis.

For years, I have said that anyone wanting to be a politician is, by that very declaration, not fit to be one. A two-edged sword. Nice to be proved right, but the depression at what their fraudulent antics – and I believe it is fraud – have done to our already tarnished reputation makes me ashamed to say that I am English. When the mother of parliaments starts shafting her children, perhaps it is time we all left home.

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