Millennium’s Credit Crunch Diary… May: Not Just Moral Bankruptcy

General Motors, the World’s biggest car company, responsible for the world’s biggest cars, became the World’s biggest BANKRUPT.

As the economic output of Great Britain fell by a confirmed 1.9% in the first quarter, with the biggest fall in consumer spending since 1980, and while inflation was marginally better at a manageable-if-still-above-the chancellor’s-target-band rate of 2.3%, High Street sales fell back after an unexpected rise in April (possibly down to a late Easter), so the worsening recession continued to hold the attention of the news meeja…

…Oh, who am I kidding! There has only been ONE news story this month: Britain’s Got Till-raiders; the only popularity contest where the public are NOT going to get a vote.

The political firestorm over MPs’ expensives has not come out of nowhere. Looking back over my diary for the year so far I can see that we have been tracking it building and building and another building declared as a second home for the expensives but as a first home for the capital gains tax man. It started with February’s story about the soon-to-be-ex Second-Home Secretary, Ms Jacqui Spliff. Then March saw it spreading like contagion to those London MPs claiming second home allowances; people like Minister McNumpty, Hard Labour Whip Ms Dawn Butler or the self-pickling Conservatory Mr Pickles. April arrived and with it, Mr Frown, the Prime Monster’s gurning appearance on HootTube, lampooned by soon-to-be-ex Cabinet colleague Ms Hazel Smears, which had him saying he would sort it all out. Which he then didn’t. And Parliament then voted to fail to set its House in order. Again.

So on the whole you can hardly be surprised that The Daily Tell-lie-Graph (thank you Auntie Jennie!) saw the golden opportunity to go NUCLEAR.

Not that they have been TOTALLY HONEST about the information that they have put out. Such has been the TORRENT of revelations (and for any viewers of Mr Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle – imagine that the MPs have tuned in to More4… you get the picture), such has been the TORRENT that the Tell-lie-graph have been able to HOSE plenty of muck about, and under the circumstances they haven’t had to be too scrupulous about whether it was TRUE or NOT.

For example, the Newsnight Show had one of their focus groups thingies on and, between sharpening their pitchforks and gathering firewood, they said how they felt about the crisis. Are you angry? was the not-at-all-leading question. Yes! How angry? Very! What made you MOST angry?

One of the things listed as “making them most angry” was “buying make-up”. Except, of course, WE know that that was totally fiction, a dirty smear that the Tell-lie-Graph was able to smuggle out under cover of all the rest.

Not ALL MPs are guilty. But ENOUGH of them are. And that means that ALL of them are tarred with the brush. It means that almost WHATEVER claim the Tell-lie-graph comes up with will quickly enter the public consciousness and become a known “fact” regardless of whether it is actually TRUE.

The ONGOING failure of the Parliamentary authorities – from the soon-to-be-ex Mr Speaker on downwards – to make all the records available to the public has PLAYED INTO the Tell-lie-Graph ‘s hands, letting the Newspaper set the agenda day after day after day, and allowing them to put their own choice of SPIN on each poisonous nugget they choose to release.

Mr Frown has come off the WORST from this. Not PERSONALLY; he managed to brush off the silly complaint that he had shared cleaning costs with his brother. But he has presided over the whole sorry system, accepted his backbenchers blocking reforms, allowed his ministers to vote against Freedom of Information and tolerated a Cabinet team who have behaved, in his own words, totally unacceptably. How much more to blame does he HAVE to be?

Mr Balloon, on the other fluffy foot, sprayed himself down with industrial-strength dirt-repellent “Mr Clean” (warning: toxic) and came up smelling of roses. (Though NOT like he was standing in Horse Manure – also available on expensives.) There WAS some HYSTERIA about his WISTERIA, but he’s avoided the REALLY sticky questions about his property portfolio. (But remember: HE can’t remember how many houses he owns!)

Borrowing £350,000 paid for by the taxpayer and then paying off his personal mortgage saved him money at our expense. His defence of “I was paying more interest than I was claiming back!” and “I didn’t claim for other expanses” would ring less HOLLOW if his “restraint” hadn’t simply been a case of having MAXED OUT his allowance already – it’s not “limiting” your claims to “just mortgage interest and bills” if you’re still claiming more than the total allowed!

Funny too that Mr Balloon MUST have a large family home in Oxfordshire to match his large family home in London but a Liberal Democrat MP allowing his daughter to stay in the spare room of the London flat provokes all that shrieking about his allowances. (Worse still, he’s paid for a third of the flat HIMSELF; so she’s actually staying in the bit that hasn’t cost the taxpayer a PENNY.) But remember: Mr Balloon says it is important for HIS family to be together. (How else could his kids appear on Webcameron, after all? Er.)

Will Mr Balloon match Captain Clegg’s promise to return any profit he might make on his taxpayer-funded house to the taxpayer? Well, ummm, he prevaricates, let’s wait and see what the Kelly Commission comes up with. VERY leading by example, I do not think.

Captain Clegg’s team of Liberal Democrats appear – so far – to have come out of this cleaner that most. We’ve managed to look SILLIER as well, of course, but that’s because our mistakes have been TRIVIAL: Sir Mr the Merciless’ scatter cushions of doom; or Mr Huhney-Monster’s trouser press. I think that these mistakes fall into the “understandable” category. Redecorating your flat once in ten years is actually GOOD VALUE over ten years, and wouldn’t you rather an MP spent his time scrutinising legislation and rather than picking out curtains and throws? But spent all at once it LOOKS wrong. And a trouser press LOOKS like a bit of a luxury to most folks, but you can perhaps understand how a busy MP who needs to appear sharply-suited at all hours might not see it the same way. So that’s him making a MISTAKE. But not a mistake in the “good lord, you say I’ve already paid that mortgage off?” league.

Typically, Liberal Democrats have claimed when they SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER; Conservatories have claimed because they think they deserve SPECIAL PRIVILAGES; and Hard Labour MPs have claimed in order to make VAST PROFITS on their PROPERTY PORTFOLIOS. Stares hard at not just Ms Hazel Smears but also Leader of the House, Mr Geoff “Buff” Hoon, and soon-to-be-ex Minister for having Work and a Pension, Mr James Pimpernel.

But the party that comes off WORST is public service as a whole.

MPs of ALL parties are now vilified as a matter of course. Extremist wing-nuts seek to profit from the public’s unfocussed anger; those arch-hypocrites from UKPNuts – at the last count, one in six of their MEPs arrested for fraud – try to portray themselves as the “clean” party while their leader, Mr Nigel Farrago, boasts of pocketing two million pounds in allowances.

So, how much of YOUR money has been spent on MPs expensives?

The TOTAL for “staying away from home” allowance for 2007/08 was eleven and a half million pounds (inclusive of moat cleaning, but not inclusive of duck island because that was disallowed). The Government’s TOTAL spending for 2007/08 was five hundred and eighty-two point seven BILLION pounds. So MPs’ expensives were 0.002% of Government spending.

Which means for an average taxpayer that’s, er, about 12p.

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