Saturday, 16 May 2009

Shortchanging the Serfs

Although it's a topic I love to rant about with fervour and joi de vivre, I've read so many opinion pieces and articles on politician's expense claims that I wasn't sure what fresh ideas I could bring to the table. I mean, there's really only one way of looking at it, isn't there? They stole from the country, they let down the country, and therefore they cannot be trusted to run the country. I'd say that's a pretty succinct snapshot into the opinions of the entire British population, wouldn't you agree? I never usually attempt to speak for anybody other than myself - why should I? You've all got your own ideas, and mine are usually full of air bubbles and bits of old lottery tickets anyway. In this case however, I'm going to arrogantly presume that everyone's just as unimpressed but slightly confused about this whole debacle as I am. I mean, you're all curious and intelligent, right?

The Telegraph has extensively covered these expense claims with all the enthusiasm of a toddler hell bent on poking EVERY plug socket in the house with a screwdriver they just found in the "no" drawer. On the paper's official website, you can see a somewhat trivialised breakdown of the expenses (one for snacks, one for other items), who claimed what, and various articles on how this happened and who exactly is resigning because of it. There's also quite a good feature which collects all the best quotes from politicians who got found out by the mean nasty press man and had to pay back all the moneys - my favourite being a confused mini-rant from former Conservative Cabinet Minister Douglas Hogg: "I have never claimed for the moat, or for the piano tuning - the allegation that I did is incorrect. I never claimed for these and I never received any money." likening him rather unfetchingly as a bewildered old man who was just roused from a post-Sunday lunch nap. What with all that money worry, at least he can rest assured that the Black Knight can't get into his castle unless he forgetfully leaves his drawbridge down.

The extent of this coverage is mind-boggling; every paper in the land has leapt out declaring moral outrage on behalf of the people who read them. You can't turn on the news channels or walk past a newsagents without getting ambushed with the indignant and emotionally wounded headlines of a country being led by greedy bastards. "It's been going on for ages!" they wail, bashing their tiny fists on the floor. "They've been taking ad-fucking-vantage!" Well yes, they have. But how did you fail to notice before? Hm? A few weeks ago a brilliant and inspired TV show called Newswipe was broadcast on BBC4 (yep, brilliant, funny, clever, bit of an immature man-boy; that Charlie Brooker's got it all. Yeah? Yeah?) and Peter Oborne was interviewed on it giving his view on crooked politicians and their relationships with the press. Now, I love Peter Oborne. I think he's a cast iron legend. Anybody who can sit in a chair with a slightly dishevelled tie and just emminate resentment, dissolution and despair to that amazing level deserves to be feared and respected. I'd love to go for a pint with him and just listen to him rant. I'd make a book about the best ones, and if this was the world I actually want to live in, everybody would have a copy of it on their coffee tables. He could have a menacing cover photo, with him just staring down the lens at you, like a very angry political rhinoceros.

Potential publishing deal aside, what Peter had to say was very interesting, especially when he touched upon money in parliament. He described attacking each other's expenses as "using an area weapon", which would take out members from all sides, because everybody was abusing the system. Perhaps that's an exaggeration - not everybody was abusing the system, but certainly some politicians were. And this has ruined it for the rest of them who managed to scrape by on their meagre parliamentary wages alone. The country now wants blood - Hazel Blears (Hazel Blears, only drinks vampire tears, it's Hazel Blears) yes, Hazel Blears may have waved a cheque about to prove she was paying back her taxes, and others may be following suit and repaying the money that they knew they shouldn't really have taken but it was in the past now so can't we all just get on with it and pretend like it never happened, okay? Okay? Well, no. Not really. In some of the more scheming tax-avoidance house-flipping scandals, that's what known in this country (under something called the "law" which I'm sure they might know a little bit about, being that they help make them up) as Fraud. People who do that type of thing generally end up with a criminal record and at least one uncomfortable memory of an overly-close cellmate with little regard for personal space and personal hygiene. A cheque might not bring back our faith in the governmental system.

So what might? Personally, I'd like them all to get on a big stage, call another G20 meeting perhaps, get all the world mates around. Put them all on a nice big stage, and get them to apologise. State what they did wrong, why they thought they could get away with it, and what they are going to do to rectify it. It'd be great, all the world leaders can sit in the audience watching them apologise, and then there'd be a big knees-up for the entire country at the end, paid for by the fraudulent parties, by way of a fine. Obama could heckle wittily from the sidelines, and Burlusconi could get drunk and take his trousers off. Then I want the whole expenses thing to be scrapped, because I think that if I had to pay all my travelling and accommodation while I was on my placements, I don't see why people who are getting paid to do a job should be given money to do it too. That's what pay is for, surely. The most interesting thing I've learned from the whole scandal is that people are genuinely interested in politics. I hear them talk about it when I'm working, where normally they'd be chatting about football, or something they saw on the telly. These people know the politicians' names, and they know what money they've siphoned off and what they've spent it on. What's intriguing is that they don't usually know what these politicians do in parliament. "Ed Balls? Him and his wife flipped 3 houses in two years, didn't they? What does he do again?" I heard that conversation. The guys discussing it decided he was the minister for transport. What does this say about they way politics is reported?

Blaming Mister Speaker for letting these things carry on is all very well, I'm sure he could have put a stop to it if he wanted, but the truth is, if something's going well in your favour, you're probably going to keep quiet about it. Like that time that barwoman gave you a fiver too much in your change because she thought you gave her a twenty. The thing is, these people are meant to be in charge. They should know better. We should all know better. Greediness is a vile personality trait, but it's hard to stamp it out if the people you're reprimanding can say, "But everybody else was doing it."


mr bear said...

have you seen this? (sorry for the poor clip)

sums up the whole thing to a t

PS: i had to type in "ponatt" below as a security measure, and i believe this is a made up word, sort this out please.

peterRepeater said...

Very good! Your idioms are coming along in leaps and bounds - very Brooker-esque!

P.S. I had to type in 'cantaxie' in the Captcha security box. This is also not a real word; sort it out.

peterRepeater said...

P.P.S. The next word to appear was 'nasta', which you may or may not recognise as the National Student Television Association (NaSTA). Quite pertinent to your field I would imagine!

Katie said...

I think I should start being less like a Brooker copyist though, or I'll never get famous, ya know?

(I do like the baby and the "no" drawer though)

As for Captcha, I have to sway over this upsettingly nonsensical addition to my blog. Sorry guys.

M ooseOnTheRoof said...

Stumbled over here through a haze of weird and wonderful blogspots.

Couldn't agree with you more. I find blanket coverage ludicrious. Seems like the media are hellbent in eeking every last tiny drip out of the story.
I am shocked, but not at all surprised by the whole thing. Everyone knew some MPs were dodgy anyway. Telegraph should publish one massive supplement and then leave it all to us to bicker about it.

Katie said...

That's it, isn't it? They've found a story that everyone, no matter their political standpoint, can get equally indignant about. Everyone can be as angry as each other, and therefore it's a complete win for the press because they can just carry on printing new "revelations" and people will lap it up because we LOVE moaning about stuff. Especially those fat cat politician bankers ...oh wait.

It's all ridiculous. Yes, it's awful, disgraceful, disgusting, but are we really that surprised? And is anything going to change? I'm happy people are feeling more interested in politics, but can we please use this new found energy to bicker about osmething more useful?

the_man_in_the_middle said...

I always suspected this to be going on. Gordon earns something in the region of 190k as commander and chief and to be honest, that's a pittance in comparison to what he could be earning in the private sector. Just look at Tony. I think given the mindset of a politician this kind of behavior is expected. They need to get a little extra luxury to keep them sweet, otherwise they might get all tetchy and invade Pakistan or something. Anyway, what's the real damage? We're not talking private jets here! I've been avoiding the whole story and think it's had far too much coverage.

Richard Vivmeister Hirst said...


I think I'm possibly the only person in the country who quite liked that that guy had used expenses to pay to get his moat cleaned. You've got to admire his sheer brass knackers - that's a proper Tory. He could have been the new Alan Clark.

Katie said...

I did love that - he seems so riled by it too. "Harrumph harrumph harrumph! But my moat and several mazes need to be kept in check! This is a completely rational request!" haha

mkb said...

Do you think I can use you as an academic reference now? :P (K. Taylor, Shiny Biscuit, 2009)

Katie said...

Fucking go for it, I'd bloody love it if you had me in your essay lol

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