Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Monday, 30 March 2009

We Rely On The Press To Police Our Masters

If I file an expenses claim at work I expect it to be scrutinised – vigorously. I’m allowed to have a reasonable meal if I’m staying in a hotel, and I’m permitted the odd phone call. If I was away from home for weeks at a time I’d probably be allowed to watch a film in my room from time-to-time but my company would draw the line at porn. Perhaps at other firms it might be seen as permissible. The point is, though, I am policed.

For public sector organisations the scrutiny should be closer still. After all, shareholders have a right to withdraw their funds at any time. As taxpayers, we have no such privilege; we are coerced into funding the State’s activities whether we like it or not. Therefore the State has a duty to ensure that its money is spent properly and that abuse is rooted out. The latest headline-storm surrounding Jacqui Smith shows that this is not happening.

What is most galling about this latest scandal is not the behaviour of the Home Secretary’s husband, nor even the carefree attitude to spending of public money it demonstrates within the ruling class. It is that it takes a Sunday newspaper to find out about it. It’s bad enough that the rules on MPs’ expenses are as lax as they are – so lax that it actually be doubted whether or not Tony McNulty has broken them in claiming for having two homes in London – but when it takes the Sunday Express to get them enforced, you know things can’t go much lower. To be clear, had they not intervened, Jacqui Smith would not have been found out for claiming inappropriate expenses and her husband would still be getting his rocks off at our cost.

Politicians often complain about having their lives poured over by the media, but by going to huge lengths to surround themselves and their conduct with a “help yourself” expenses culture supposedly watched over by regulatory authorities which are, to all intents and purposes, toothless, they invite ridicule, contempt and external scrutiny in equal measure. They reap what they sow.

There is a somewhat delicious irony that the woman who is going to seemingly inordinate lengths to find out every little detail of our private lives should have her own dirty linen washed so publicly. I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall when she confronted her husband, just as much as she seems to want to be a fly on the wall of every living room in Britain. For what it’s worth I don’t think she should have to resign over this, but at the same time she can have no complaints about Tory moles in the House of Commons fees office. She is only enduring the embarrassment she deserves.

By the way, much has been written in the last week, in the wake of the Daniel Hannan’s rise to fame via the Internet, about the advance of the new media at the expense of the “dead tree press”. It is true that the electronic age is catching up with traditional newspaper reporting in many ways. But, and it’s a big “but”, if you want investigative journalism done properly, “Fleet Street” is still your best bet. We owe the Sunday Express and their competitors a debt of gratitude; for devoting significant resources to finding ways in which our leaders are taking us for a ride, and for exposing our them when they do.


Andrew Allison said...

We do owe them a debt of gratitude. As you rightly assert, Jacqui Smith wants to intrude in our personal life, so it is poetic justice she is found out in this way.

The serious question that needs to be addressed is why MPs are allowed to claim expenses for pay-per-view TV in their second homes. I imagine most MPs would never think of charging this sort of thing to their expense account, but the real scandal is that Smith's husband can watch films and charge them to his wife's expenses. There is something severely wrong with the system and changes have to be made now.

Mrs Smallprint said...

I know I've got my blog/life balance wrong again........

I will try harder in future, the trouble is I get so mad about the greedy bunch of shysters pretending to run our country that I am reduced to grabbing a bottle of wine and babbling incoherently in the corner.

Keep up the good work.

Mrs S.

it's either banned or compulsory said...

So nice to know that as I go about my daily work my taxes are to be spent by the spouse of a miseraberlist minister in sin and degradation.